A documentary project on Zapotec language and identity in Oaxaca, Mexico

In Summer 2018, five Haverford and Bryn Mawr College undergraduate DocuLab Fellows will spend eight weeks creating a documentary project centered on language and identity in one Zapotec community, San Jerónimo Tlacochahuaya, in Oaxaca, Mexico.  The Fellows will collaborate with professor of linguistics Brook Lillehaugen, Zapotec language activist Moisés García Guzmán, filmmakers Lucia Palmarini and Laura Deutch, and Production Coordinator Hilary Brashear to explore how language is interwoven with identity and with the vitality of the Zapotec community, including the relationship between language and traditional farming, knowledge of plants and their uses, cooking techniques, food, and health.

DocuLab 2018 Fellows

Sabea Evans ’18
Kathryn Goldberg ’18
Marcelo Jauregui-Volpe ’18
Edward Ogborn ’19
Katie Rodgers ’18

DocuLab 2018: Dizhsa Nabani – Living Language is designed in engagement with Brook Lillehaugen’s fieldwork with speakers of Zapotec languages, a family of indigenous languages spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico, and by diaspora populations in the United States, including large communities in Los Angeles, CA. Zapotec languages are considered threatened as they are being acquired as native languages by fewer and fewer people. Most Zapotec people today are bilingual, and under pressure from anti-indigenous discrimination, many choose to use Spanish in contexts that were previously reserved as Zapotec-language domains, including the home, the market, and town meetings.

Given this sociolinguistic context, speaking Zapotec can be seen as an act of resistance. Community and individual identity are entwined with language, especially in Mexico, where criteria for self-identifying as belonging to an indigenous community usually includes speaking the corresponding language. The goal of DocuLab 2018 is to explore this complex landscape of language, power, and identity in rural Oaxaca, through the production of a short documentary film and relevant ancillary materials.

About DocuLabs

DocuLabs is a donor-funded five-year program that will develop student-faculty documentary work in Haverford College’s new VCAM (Visual Culture, Arts, and Media) facility. Students will spend time both on campus and in the field developing documentary projects, working with faculty, visiting filmmakers, and technicians. Taking advantage of the new filmmaking spaces and equipment in VCAM, the initiative builds on the College’s successful Interdisciplinary Documentary Media Fellows Program (WAKE, Capitalish) and the Hurford Center’s Tuttle Summer Arts Lab (The Pool Movie Project).

Sponsored by VCAM and the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities at Haverford College. Special thanks to Visual Media Scholar Vicky Funari for her work in developing DocuLab 2018, to Digital Media Specialist Charles Woodard, to HCAH Associate Director/VCAM Operations Manager James Weissinger, and to HCAH Financial and Administrative Assistant Kerry Nelson.