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Discourse and Dimensions of Social Life

E. Summerson Carr (Editor), Michael Lempert (Editor)

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Paperback, 276 pages
ISBN: 9780520291799
August 2016
$34.95, £28.00
Other Formats Available:
A free ebook version of this title is available through Luminos, University of California Press’s Open Access publishing program for monographs. Visit to learn more.

Wherever we turn, we see diverse things scaled for us, from cities to economies, from history to love. We know scale by many names and through many familiar antinomies: local and global,micro and macroevents to name a few. Even the most critical among us often proceed with our analysis as if such scales were the ready-made platforms of social life, rather than asking how, why, and to what effect are scalar distinctions forged in the first place.
How do scalar distinctions help actors and analysts alike make sense of and navigate their social worlds? What do these distinctions reveal and what do they conceal? How are scales construed and what effects do they have on the way those who abide by them think and act? This pathbreaking volume attends to the practical labor of scale-making and the communicative practices this labor requires. From an ethnographic perspective, the authors demonstrate that scale is practice and process before it becomes product, whether in the work of projecting the commons, claiming access to the big picture, or scaling the seriousness of a crime.
List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Introduction: Pragmatics of Scale
E. Summerson Carr and Michael Lempert

1. Projecting Presence: Aura and Oratory in William Jennings Bryan’s Presidential Races Richard Bauman
2. Interaction Rescaled: How Buddhist Debate Became a Diasporic Pedagogy Michael Lempert
3. Shrinking Indigenous Language in the Yukon Barbra A. Meek

4. Scale-Making: Comparison and Perspective as Ideological Projects Susan Gal
5. Balancing the Scales of Justice in Tonga Susan U. Philips
6. Interscaling Awe, De-escalating Disaster E. Summerson Carr and Brooke Fisher

7. Scaling Red and the Horror of Trademark Constantine V. Nakassis
8. Semiotic Vinification and the Scaling of Taste Michael Silverstein
9. Going Upscale: Scales and Scale-Climbing as Ideological Projects Judith T. Irvine

References Cited
E. Summerson Carr is Associate Professor, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago. 

Michael Lempert is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Michigan.
“How shall we fathom the world, bringing its varied scales into analytic perspective? The authors collected in this bold and subtle volume slow down the question, arguing that ‘scale’ is made, not born, and that ‘perspectives’ are semiotic accomplishments and not stable points of anchor. Taking a pragmatic approach, Scale teaches readers to take the measure of the metaphors we use to name things global, local, and in-between.”—Stefan Helmreich, Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology, MIT

“E. Summerson Carr and Michael Lempert’s Scale will be a fundamental book for thinking about scalar processes and the pragmatics of scale-making in and beyond linguistic anthropology. Its engaging, readable chapters offer a range of theoretical considerations of how scales arise and work in a variety of social settings.”—Robert Oppenheim, author of Kyongju Things: Assembling Place

This highly original volume sheds new light on language and scale, building on the fact that both phenomena are constructed, dynamic, and situated. Ranging across a wide range of examples including wine connoisseurship, Buddhist debate, and political oratory, the authors show how the scalar aspects of language and the linguistic dimensions of scale work together to produce the social logic of extent.”—Arjun Appadurai, Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, New York University

"This groundbreaking collection of essays by leading linguistic anthropologists demonstrates the vital contribution of semiotics to the ongoing multidisciplinary theorizing of scale and scale-making."—Miyako Inoue, author of Vicarious Language: Gender and Linguistic Modernity in Japan 

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