Don Brenneis


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Don Brenneis

Donald Brenneis   
    Title:  Professor of Anthropology
    Phone:  (831) 459-3855 Office
    Office:  Social Sciences 1, 349
    Office Hours:  On leave

Education History  
B.A., Stanford University
Ph.D., Harvard University

Research Focus  
Teaching Specialties: Language and culture, linguistic anthropology, law and society, discourse analysis, Oceania American institutions, performance and power.

Area of Research: Political and legal discourse; bureaucracies and bureaucratic language; social studies of science; verbal and musical performance.

Area of Fieldwork: Fiji Indian communities, Indian diaspora, Himalayas, US federal science bureaucracies.

Long Description  
The research and writing of Donald Brenneis focuses on the investigation of language and other communicative activities as social practice. Trained in both linguistic and social anthropology, Brenneis worked initially in Bhatgaon, a rural Indian diasporic community in Fiji. At the core of that research lay the complex relationships between talk and conflict. Specific topics have included such local performance genres as gossip, oratory, childrens' arguments, and insult. Communicative form and style, the interaction shape of particular types of events, and the social constraints and possibilities they implicate have been critical dimensions in his analysis. Brenneis' focus on the rhetorical aspects of language—that is, of speakers' intentions, verbal strategies, and resulting discourse—is complemented by a concern for its aesthetic dimensions: If such talk is to "work" politically, the audience and its expectations, understandings, and assumptions demand serious attention. In recent years he has pursued these underlying questions in a very different range of sites, focusing on the ethnography of federal social science funding panels and the cultural and communicative dimensions of peer review as a process.

Selected Publications  
"A partial view of contemporary anthropology: 2003 Presidential Address, American Anthropological Association," American Anthropologist 106: 580-588, 2004.

"Doing anthropology in sound: Steven Feld in conversation with Donald Brenneis" (with Steven Feld), American Ethnologist 31: 461-474, 2004.

Law and Empire in the Pacific: Fiji and Hawai'i (edited with Sally Engle Merry). Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 2004.

"New lexicon, old language: negotiating the 'global' at the National Science Foundation," in George E. Marcus (ed.), 1999. Critical Anthropology Now: Unexpected Contexts, Shifting Constituencies, Changing Agendas. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 123-146.

"Performing passions: aesthetics and politics in an occasionally egalitarian community," American Ethnologist 14: 236-250, 1987.