I am an anthropologist and linguist, and an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. For academic year 2019-2020, I am a Wall Scholar at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at UBC.
From 2014-2018, I served as Chair of the First Nations and Endangered Languages Program and from 2016-2018, as Acting Co-Director of the University’s new Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies. I am Co-Lead of the UBC Himalaya Program, an Associate Member of the Department of Asian Studies and Affiliated Faculty at the Institute of Asian Research. I also hold an ongoing 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.
My research interests are language endangerment, documentation, conservation and reclamation/revitalization; language policies and politics; orality, archives, digital tools and technology, Indigenous methodologies and decolonial practice, and cultural heritage broadly conceived. 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 Language Mobilization Partnership in which UBC is a founding member.
I direct two international research initiatives, Digital Himalaya and the World Oral Literature Project, and I edit the Oral Literature Series with the Open Book Publishers. Together with Sienna Craig, from 2013-2017, I edited Himalaya, the longest running, open access, interdisciplinary and peer-reviewed journal of Himalayan studies. I have had the privilege to design and present 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 was one of three principal investigators on a five-year collaborative research project supported by the Arcadia Fund to document and protect Bhutan’s oral traditions, and am an active 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. I also serve as 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 am honoured to support UBC Language Sciences as a member of the Steering Committee and I served on the first Advisory Board of SAPIENS until the end of 2018.