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Sound of Navajo CountryMusic, Language, and Diné Belonging$
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Kristina M. Jacobsen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469631868

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469631868.001.0001

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Generic Navajo

Generic Navajo

The Language Politics of Social Authenticity

(p.59) Chapter Two Generic Navajo
Sound of Navajo Country

Kristina M. Jacobsen

University of North Carolina Press

Chapter Two examines language and social authenticity as it relates to Navajo expressive culture. I argue that Diné language politics give us greater insight into the broader story of country music, belonging, and generational nostalgia, and I trace ethnographically how language—often portrayed as a key index of culture—is linked to a Navajo politics of difference through specific registers of speech and song. After an overview of Diné language politics, I turn to how a culturally intimate speech genre referred to as jaan or “jaan Navajo” is incorporated into Native band rehearsals and Navajo comedy, forming the bedrock onto which generational wordplay and humor are overlaid. I then interrogate the expectation that “full Navajos” should speak Navajo or need merely “activate” the Navajo language gene that resides within them. In these ways, perception of speaking the Navajo language shifts from being an index of Navajo identity to an icon of Navajoness itself.

Keywords:   Social authenticity, Diné expressive culture, generational nostalgia, politics of difference, “jaan Navajo”

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