Lynnette Arnold



Affiliation: Brown University

Dissertation: Communicative care across borders: Language, materiality, and affect in transnational family life


Lynnette Arnold is a linguistic anthropologist who studies how language both produces and contests the political-economic marginalization of geographically mobile populations, in particular cross-border Latin American communities. Her book manuscript, “Communicating Care: Discourse, Materiality, and Affect in Transnational Salvadoran Families,” explores the role of everyday communication in the lives of multigenerational transnational families living stretched between El Salvador and the United States. She develops the concept of communicative care to highlight how these mundane conversations attend to both material and affective concerns, nurturing the relational ties upon which cross-border families depend. The book highlights how language can be creatively deployed in the pursuit of well-being at the margins of neoliberalism, even as it simultaneously produces forms of personhood and relationship that conform to neoliberal models. The contradictory effects of language as simultaneously both libratory and coercive emerges as a theme in her other research, which includes a study of migrants' accounts of their unauthorized journeys, analyzing how narrative representations of victimization both conform to and challenge gendered discourses of migrant agency. She has also explored socialization into a bilingual community bike-shop, demonstrating that participation practices both challenge and reinforce normative divisions along lines of expertise, language, race, and class. She combines this scholarship with activism for immigrant rights and against the detention and deportation regime, a perspective she incorporates in teaching courses that engage students with current struggles and local communities to work towards sociolinguistic justice.