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Linguistic Diversity and Social Justice

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Language Evolution: The Windows Approach

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Academic Paper


Title: Scientizing Bangladeshi psychiatry: Parallelism, enregisterment, and the cure for a magic complex
Author: James M. Wilce
Institution: Northern Arizona University
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Bengali
Abstract: This article combines textual, videotape, historical, and ethnographic evidence to describe the Bangla psychiatric register and its enregisterment. Enregisterment is a process “through which a linguistic repertoire becomes differentiable [and] … socially recognized” (Agha 2003:231). The emergence of psychiatric registers in Europe and, later, Bangladesh bore the particular burden of psychiatry's "magic complex" – its need to convince a skeptical public that its perceived associations with magic and religion were finished, vanquished in part by discursive measures, focused on a scientizing drive. Psychiatric Bangla appears to involve the sort of pervasive use of parallelism normally associated with ritual texts. This indicates a profound hybridity that may contribute to the psychiatric unease epitomized in the magic complex.

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This article appears IN Language in Society Vol. 37, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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