Indigenous languages in Patagonia – A travelling exhibition

Indigenous languages in Patagonia – A travelling exhibition

Author: Sandra Murriello – National University of Río Negro, Argentina

Máximo Farro – Museo de La Plata, UNLP
Marisa Malvestitti – IIDYPCA, UNRN
Anahí­ Mariluán – IIDYPCA,UNRN

Patagonia, the southern region of Argentina and Chile, is the ancestral territory for several indigenous communities nearly lead to extinction in the last centuries. As a consequence, many of their languages almost disappeared and were replaced by Spanish tongue for communication purposes. In some cases, we only have as historical records written vocabularies -many of them never published- documented in their territories by colonial agents such as explorers, missionaries and state officials. Besides, in Argentinian museums and current exhibitions on indigenous people, their languages are rarely mentioned so nowadays they almost remain unknown for the occidental society. Nevertheless, the surviving indigenous communities, i.e. the Mapuches, still speak their original language, the Mapuzungun, and are trying to revitalize and refunctionalize it, a process also observable in other smaller speech communities of Tehuelche, Selk’nam or Qawesqar.

As part of a research programme lead by linguists, anthropologists, historians, musicians and science communicators, we are planning a travelling exhibition about these communities’ languages, in order to display their structures, sounds, meanings and relations, set up in a collaborative way. The aim of the exhibition is to make visible the process of documentation and communication of these languages in the foundational period of Argentina and Chile as nation-states, when the agents mentioned above played a central role, as well as some indigenous mediators and translators who helped them to record the languages. One of the project’s goals is to take this exhibition through the Patagonian museums, universities and cultural centres. In this communication, we describe our idea and present some records in order to discuss the strategies to communicate indigenous languages in a museum exhibition context and share the experiences that other colleagues and institutions may have.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Idea in progress
Theme: Science
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices