Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Asif Agha


Of the indigenous languages of the Americas, Aymara counts among the few with more than one million speakers; yet, in the country with its greatest number of speakers, Bolivia, concerns of language shift to Spanish are widespread, making it the focus of varied political, linguistic, educational, and cultural interventions. This dissertation provides a comparative linguistic ethnographic account of three media platforms in Bolivia from which models of Aymara language emanate-a Jesuit radio station, a hip-hop collective, and the radio station of the Aymara Education Council--to address the following questions: In what ways do these centers of institutional authority advance or contest ideologies of language endangerment among contemporary Bolivian Aymara speakers? If an Aymara national culture exists within "plurinational" Bolivia, what are the discursive mechanisms by which it is maintained and reproduced? Do Aymara nationalist discourses impact Aymara language use? If yes, how? This study answers these questions through discourse analysis and ethnography, both addressing discourses of nationalism and language endangerment across the three sites as well as describing the linguistic and more broadly semiotic registers deployed therein, and the multilingual publics presupposed by them, through coordinated attention to both the content and form of their broadcasts. The discourse analysis of language use on these programs is both informed by poetic and semiotic approaches to verbal interaction and also embedded within ethnographic description of their institutional production and of the metadiscursive protocols that, to differing degrees, regiment linguistic practices at each of the three sites. The transmission of spoken discourse over the airwaves makes radio a key site for the dissemination of models of Aymara nationhood. This research goes beyond documentation of contemporary Aymara as it is spoken to examine the institutional and ideological embeddedness of linguistic behavior in Bolivian Aymara communities. Identifying relationships between the medium of transmission (contrasting linguistic registers) and the messages transmitted by them illuminate contemporary processes of identity formation and transformation unfolding in a period in Bolivia that scholars and Aymara community members alike characterize as a moment of heightened "decolonization."

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