Jenny L. Davis

Marc and Constance Jacobson's early gift established the endowed lectureship that has brought distinguished scholars, artists, writers, and even champions for human freedom to the Institute for the Humanities and the university. Jenny L. Davis will give this year's lecture, "‘In the Future, Robots will Speak Chickasaw’: Indigenous Language Futurism and the Temporalities of Language Reclamation." Davis is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where she is the director of the Native American and Indigenous Languages (NAIL) Lab and an affiliate faculty of American Indian Studies and Gender & Women’s Studies. She is the 2019-2021 Chancellor's Fellow of Indigenous Research & Ethics, and serves as the UIUC campus NAGPRA officer. 

The lecture takes place Wednesday, October 23, 4-5:30pm in the Michigan Room at the Michigan League. The event is free and open to the public.

About the lecture: The revitalization or reclamation of Indigenous and endangered languages is often driven or shaped by what Debenport (2015) calls ‘hopeful nostalgia,’ where if “read through the lens of nostalgia, language revitalization can be seen as both a symptom and a cure, a way to diagnose the amount of cultural loss and a way to reinstate what has gone missing, what has been taken, and what is seen to be vital to the health of the community." By definition then, language reclamation looks to the past in order to understand the present and to imagine radical linguistic futures. While the past is often privileged in discussions of language revitalization as an anchor of authenticity and cultural continuity, present day language use in revitalization contexts also utilizes comics, gaming, memes, and other creative and technological domains that position Native American languages as always simultaneously ‘once and future,’ quondam and futurus. In this talk, I consider the role of these Indigenous linguistic and cultural temporalities in understanding Indigenous language activism with particular interest in linguistic futurisms, or the imagining of Indigenous languages in Indigenous perspectives of the future.