Magnus Pharao Hansen

anthropologist – linguist

Blogpost on Aztec Writing

On the Nawatl Scholar blog, I published an analysis of the two main interpretations of the Aztec writing system. Aztec writing combined logograms (word signs that can be read in any language) with phonetic signs (that spell a specific language), but scholars are discussing whether the phonetic signs were strictly syllabic or whether they could be more complex. I weigh in with my own evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the two interpretations.


Page 99 challenge

My dissertation’s page 99 was featured at the Camp Anthropology Blog of Indiana University’s anthropology department. Here is a quote from page 99 of my 2016 dissertation “NAHUATL NATION: LANGUAGE REVITALIZATION AND INDIGENOUS RESURGENCE IN 21ST CENTURY MEXICO”.

“Expropriation of indigenous resources has been, and continues to be, a basic element policy of Mexican national development (Coria and Encinas 2015). Expropriation is a process of conquest that masquerades as liberal business, and which superficially carries the trappings of a quid pro quo, positive-sum, win-win arrangement. However, on further inspection, at least when taking on the viewpoint of those from whom resources are expropriated, it invariably turns out to be a predatory process in which the state exploits is citizens, and justifies the exploitation by reference to a greater good. Today, as national culture increasingly values indigenous cultural production, the expropriationary process has turned to exploiting the semiotic resources of indigenous peoples. What has changed is not the nature of the process, which continues to be expropriationary, but that the resources that are subject to expropriation are no longer only material, but also symbolic. This is not entirely new, after all the national period saw the large scale nationalization of the indigenous past through the institutionalization of archeology and history, but what is new is that the current phase of expropriation also aims to incorporate the living fields of indigenous cultural production into the national economy. Where previous phases of symbolic expropriation separated indigenous communities from their pasts in order to enshrine it as National History, the current phase sees the indigenous communities itself as a deposit of resources to be exploited. Another difference is that where expropriated resources in the nationalist period stayed in the national field of cultural production for local consumption, in this period it is specifically marketed to a public of international consumers, where the symbolic resources are used as a part of Mexico’s brand.”

Article out in JLA

My article “The Difference Language Makes: The Life-History of Nahuatl in Two mexican Families” is out in Journal of Linguistic Anthropology this month.

The article describes how speaking or not speaking an indigenous languages is both the result of the specific life trajectories of individuals, and what roles the language takes in the individual lifeprojects.

Magnus Pharao Hansen. 2016. The Difference Language Makes: The Life-History of Nahuatl in Two Mexican Families. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology Volume 26, Issue 1, Pages 81–97

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