Talk and Practical Epistemology

The social life of knowledge in a Caribbean community

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Drawing on the methods of conversation analysis and ethnography, this book sets out to examine the epistemological practices of Indo-Guyanese villagers as these are revealed in their talk and daily conduct. Based on over eighty-five hours of conversation recorded during twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork, the book describes both the social distribution of knowledge and the villagers' methods for distinguishing between fact and fancy, knowledge and belief through close analyses of particular encounters. The various chapters consider uncertainty and expertise in advice-giving, the cultivation of ignorance in an attempt to avoid scandal, and the organization of peer groups through the display of knowledge in the activity of reminiscing local history. An orienting chapter on questions and an appendix provide an introduction to conversation analysis. The book makes a contribution to linguistic anthropology, conversation analysis and cross-cultural pragmatics. The conclusion discusses the implications of the analysis for current understanding of practice, knowledge and social organization in anthropology and neighboring disciplines.

Subjects: Philosophy; English linguistics; Discourse studies; Semantics; Pragmatics; Germanic linguistics

  • Affiliations: 1: University of Toronto

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