I am an anthropologist, linguist and occasional radio presenter; an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Chair of the First Nations and Endangered Languages Program and Acting Co-Director of the University’s new Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies. I also hold an appointment as Visiting Associate Professor at the Yale School Forestry & Environmental Studies and served as the Founding Program Director of the Yale Himalaya Initiative from 2011-2014. Together with Sienna Craig, I edit Himalaya, the longest running, open access, interdisciplinary and peer-reviewed journal of Himalayan studies.
My research interests are language endangerment, documentation, conservation and revitalization; orality, archives and cultural heritage. For over twenty years, my regional focus has been the Himalayan region (particularly Nepal, northern India and Bhutan), and more recently, the Pacific Northwest. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to work in collaborative partnership with members of the Thangmi-speaking communities of eastern Nepal and Darjeeling district in India since 1996, and since 2014 with members of the Heiltsuk First Nation through a Híɫzaqv Language Mobilization Partnership in which UBC is a member.
I direct two international research initiatives, Digital Himalaya and the World Oral Literature Project. I edit the Oral Literature Series with the Open Book Publishers. I have presented two BBC Radio series on language endangerment and policy: Our Language in Your Hands in 2012 and On Language Location in 2014. Both are freely available online. I am one of three principal investigators on a major five-year collaborative research project supported by the Arcadia Fund to document and protect Bhutan’s oral traditions, a Co-Investigator on Partnership Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada entitled First Nations Languages in the 21st Century: Looking Back, Looking Forward and a Co-Investigator on a NASA-funded grant on Urban growth, land-use change, and growing vulnerability in the Greater Himalaya mountain range.
I write about language policy, linguistic rights, digital technologies, cultural heritage and mother tongue instruction. I also focus on issues of access and ownership of anthropological materials from ethnographic museums when they circulate online or are returned to communities in digital form. As a firm advocate of collaborative research, I am committed to widening public engagement with anthropology and linguistics. To that end, I serve on the Advisory Board of SAPIENS.