Hallie Wells

Fellowship Recipient
Department: Anthropology
Fellowship Year(s): 2014
Project/Theme Title: Malagasy Slam Poetry at the Intersection of Politics, Performance, and Transnational Circulation
Abstracts: My research analyzes how understandings of democracy are shaped by the transnational circulation of slam poetry—a contemporary verbal art competition that merges poetry reading with rap battle—as it contends with centuries-old genres of public discourse. Slam has flourished around the world, but Madagascar is unique in its rich tradition of verbal art genres such as oratory (kabary), which was a foundational site for linguistic anthropological understandings of rhetoric, poetics, and politics. This project will show how slam poets and other verbal artists— including politicians—contest and reform norms of indirectness, notions of the private versus the public sphere, and evaluations of authority and competence. By leveraging the problematics that arise in discussions of global circulation, in combination with linguistic analysis of verbal art performances, my research will provide critical insight into how language ideologies form, contend with opposing ideologies, and impact the political and economic livelihoods of communities.
Fellowship Year(s): 2013
Project/Theme Title: Performance and Political Engagement in Malagasy Slam Poetry