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Voices of Play

Miskitu Children’s Speech and Song on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua

Amanda Minks

Publication Year: 2013

While indigenous languages have become prominent in global political and educational discourses, limited attention has been given to indigenous children’s everyday communication. Voices of Play is a study of multilingual play and performance among Miskitu children growing up on Corn Island, part of a multi-ethnic autonomous region on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua.
Corn Island is historically home to Afro-Caribbean Creole people, but increasing numbers of Miskitu people began moving there from the mainland during the Contra War, and many Spanish-speaking mestizos from western Nicaragua have also settled there. Miskitu kids on Corn Island often gain some competence speaking Miskitu, Spanish, and Kriol English. As the children of migrants and the first generation of their families to grow up with television, they develop creative forms of expression that combine languages and genres, shaping intercultural senses of belonging.
Voices of Play
is the first ethnography to focus on the interaction between music and language in children’s discourse. Minks skillfully weaves together Latin American, North American, and European theories of culture and communication, creating a transdisciplinary dialogue that moves across intellectual geographies. Her analysis shows how music and language involve a wide range of communicative resources that create new forms of belonging and enable dialogue across differences. Miskitu children’s voices reveal the intertwining of speech and song, the emergence of “self” and “other,” and the centrality of aesthetics to social struggle.
While indigenous languages have become prominent in global political and educational discourses, limited attention has been given to indigenous children’s everyday communication. Voices of Play is a study of multilingual play and performance among Miskitu children growing up on Corn Island, part of a multi-ethnic autonomous region on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua.
Corn Island is historically home to Afro-Caribbean Creole people, but increasing numbers of Miskitu people began moving there from the mainland during the Contra War, and many Spanish-speaking mestizos from western Nicaragua have also settled there. Miskitu kids on Corn Island often gain some competence speaking Miskitu, Spanish, and Kriol English. As the children of migrants and the first generation of their families to grow up with television, they develop creative forms of expression that combine languages and genres, shaping intercultural senses of belonging.

Voices of Play
is the first ethnography to focus on the interaction between music and language in children’s discourse. Minks skillfully weaves together Latin American, North American, and European theories of culture and communication, creating a transdisciplinary dialogue that moves across intellectual geographies. Her analysis shows how music and language involve a wide range of communicative resources that create new forms of belonging and enable dialogue across differences. Miskitu children’s voices reveal the intertwining of speech and song, the emergence of “self” and “other,” and the centrality of aesthetics to social struggle.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

Contents

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pp. 8-9

Figures

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pp. ix-11

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Preface: Listening to Language in a Contact Zone

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pp. xi-xiv

Many ways of speaking have been heard over time along the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua,1 including indigenous languages of the Caribbean and Central America, Europe an languages imported from abroad, and regional varieties of western Caribbean Creole English. The three languages that are most relevant for Corn Island, the site of study in this book, are Miskitu ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-xviii

The deepest debt of gratitude I have accumulated in this project is to the families who opened their homes and lives to me on Corn Island, as well as other residents of Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast who helped me carry out this research. I cannot mention by name the participants in the study for reasons of confidentiality, but they are continually in my mind and heart. ...

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1. Voices of Play

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pp. 1-21

One March afternoon in 2003, I stopped by the home of some Miskitu kids on Corn Island, some fifty-two miles off the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua.1 After five months of research, my presence in Miskitu children’s play groups on the island had become relatively normal, and the kids knew I was interested in studying their speech, song, and play. Their family was from ...

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2. Histories and Contexts of Communication

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pp. 22-45

Coral and China, ages seven and nine, were closely related and had been raised as sisters. Their parents, originally from the northern mainland region of the Atlantic Coast, identified as Miskitu, and when they were raising their older kids, they spoke mostly Miskitu to them. But when Coral and China were ...

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3. Vocal Play in Multilingual Speech and Song

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pp. 46-77

I met Leyla during one of my early visits to Corn Island before starting fieldwork. After the Sunday ser vice at the Moravian church, there was a community meeting outside to talk about land problems that Miskitu people were facing on the island, and I found a shady spot to stand at the edge of the crowd. A tall, slender girl with a beautiful dimpled smile ...

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4. Performing Gender in Song Games

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pp. 78-104

One June afternoon, when there was a break in the rainy weather, some kids between the ages of seven and eleven were playing marbles in an open space between their houses. It was determined that Coral and Ruby had won the game, but there was an argument about the number of punishments that should be infl icted on the losers. The punishments were ...

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5. Power and Intertextuality in Pretend Play

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pp. 105-136

When I appeared at the houses of young Miskitu friends on Corn Island, they often called out “Kaia pulaia!” (Let’s play!) and took advantage of my interests to engage in some pleas ur able activity— song games, marbles, doll play, chasing games. These were the kinds of activities they had names for, activities whose repeated forms had crystallized into recognizable ...

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6. Subjectivity and Citizenship in Institutional Performances

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pp. 137-165

These verses of Nicaragua’s national anthem are intoned by schoolchildren across Nicaragua at least once a week. On an island fifty-two miles away from the mainland, in the margins of an autonomous region that has always been a contested zone among nation-states, children’s patriotic perfor mances may be especially important ...

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7. Intercultural Voices, Political Transformations

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pp. 166-181

In August of 2008, I attended the fi fth annual Sihkru Tara (Big Sihkru) in Bilwi, the capital of the North Atlantic Autonomous Region on Nicaragua’s Atlantic Coast. The sihkru was once an indigenous ritual event that had both spiritual and social significance for Miskitu people, but it was condemned by missionarie ...

Notes

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pp. 183-194

References

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pp. 195-211

Index

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pp. 213-218

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About the Author

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pp. 219-240

Amanda Minks is an assistant professor in the Honors College of the University of Oklahoma, where she is affi liated with sociocultural anthropology, Native American studies, and women’s and gender studies programs. ...


E-ISBN-13: 9780816599844
E-ISBN-10: 081659984X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816513154
Print-ISBN-10: 0816513155

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 16 illus., 2 maps, 6 tables
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: First Peoples: New Directions in Indigen

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Miskito children -- Games -- Nicaragua -- Corn Island.
  • MIskito children -- Nicaragua -- Corn Island -- Songs and music.
  • MIskito children -- Nicaragua -- Corn Island -- Social life and customs.
  • Corn Island (Nicaragua) -- Social life and customs.
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