Visiting scholar: Janet Connor

Janet Connor, PhD fellow at the University of Chicago, is currently visiting MultiLing. In her PhD project, Connor is looking at linguistic and semiotic interactions in Tøyen, and during her monthly stay at MultiLing, Connor will commence her dissertation fieldwork.


Tøyen (Photo: Janet Connor)

Why Tøyen?

Connor has lived in Tøyen for short periods every year since 2012, and says that she would always be amazed each time she came back by how much things had changed. This is what got her interested in the neighborhood in the first place. She tells us that as she spent more time there, she realized that it's a place where many large political issues all intersect, including ways of welcoming asylum seekers, how to integrate Norwegians with minority background, what the future of the Norwegian welfare state will look like, and the future of Oslo as a cosmopolitan, yet also Norwegian, city. In total, Connor’s fieldwork will go on for 18 months. During this time, she will be studying how all of these different issues and the anxieties around them come together, looking especially at how people talk about them and the different linguistic registers they use to do so.

Fieldwork in Tøyen

As she is primarily an anthropologist, Connor’s methods rely heavily on ethnographic participant observation, which consists of taking part in the everyday lives of people living and working in Tøyen, joining neighborhood organizations, attending meetings, and following community members around. She will also be recording spontaneous speech between people in these organizations to see the sorts of registers they use in different contexts.

Janet Connor (Photo: Christine Werme)

Most broadly, Connor’s research project is interested in the kinds of sociality and visions for the future that are emerging from Tøyen. In terms of language, she is asking whether forms of speaking are becoming enregistred as belonging to these different perspectives. In part, she is interested in how ways of speaking in Tøyen relate to other Norwegian language ideologies. For example, are resident activists in Tøyen using features associated with the Eastern Oslo sociolect or the more recent "multiethnolect" as a way of distinguishing themselves from the perhaps more conservative western side of Oslo? At the same time, she is also interested in how it seems like there are several different ideologies converging around the use of English: “Some see speaking English as a way to include everyone, while others, especially some older Norwegians, see English-language interactions as excluding them. At the same time, English can index hip cosmopolitanism for a lot of the people who spend time in the new cafes and restaurants around the neighborhood.”

Collaboration with MultiLing

Connor has never officially collaborated with MultiLing before, but there has been a lot of exchange between MultiLing and the two departments that she is a part of at the University of Chicago, anthropology and linguistics. She has gotten to know several MultiLing members while she has been a student there, and three of the professors that she works with in Chicago, Susan Gal, Michael Silverstein, and Lenore Grenoble, have visited MultiLing and/or collaborated with people here.

Connor tells us that she thinks the way MultiLing crosses disciplinary boundaries between sociolinguistics, education, and psycholinguistics is really interesting, and furthermore that Norwegian sociolinguistics focuses much more on policy than what she is used to in the U.S., and that it has been exciting to see the different kinds of influence linguists can have beyond academia.

Published Oct. 12, 2017 4:11 PM - Last modified Oct. 13, 2017 2:15 PM