My research addresses three thematic areas and the intersections between them: language and communication, ethics and morality, and the environment. I explore these issues primarily from the perspective of childhood and child socialization. For over a decade, I have been doing linguistic and ethnographic field research with the indigenous Aché communities in eastern Paraguay.

Linguistic and Ethnographic Research with the Aché

The Aché are a former nomadic hunter-gatherer society that was forced to settle on reservations in the 1960 and 70s because of deforestation, persecutions, and epidemics. Sedentarization led to dramatic changes, including language shift from their heritage language, Aché, to the Paraguayan national language Guaraní. I began my research with the Aché in 2008 to document their heritage language. Together with my colleagues Eva-Maria Rößler and Warren Thompson, I received two major grants from the Volkswagen Foundation, Germany: (1) a DOBES Documentation of Endangered Languages grant to document their heritage language; and (2) a DOBES research grant to study historical and contemporary transformations in language and culture. Language documentation primarily entailed recording songs, mythology, and narratives of elders. Within the second project, I carried out an in-depth, longitudinal language socialization study with the children of two Aché families to understand the mechanisms of language shift and the linguistic ecology in which children are growing up. This research led to my dissertation, entitled “Making Language: The Ideological and Interactional Constitution of Language in an Indigenous Aché Community in Eastern Paraguay,” in which I explore different aspects of language emergence. I am currently conducting new research on moral socialization in relation to environmental change as well as on human–nonhuman relations.

Language Emergence

My research on language is concerned with different facets of language emergence. I understand “emergence” in a broad way, encompassing historical processes of emergence as well as emergence in the sequential unfolding of talk in interaction. In my research among the Aché, I look specifically at four interrelated processes:

  • Emergence of the new indigenous mixed language, Guaraché, which children learn as their native language. Guaraché is composed of two indigenous languages that are themselves related, Aché and Guaraní.
  • Emergence of language as a discursive object. Through the contact of language ideologies after settlement, language endangerment, and language revitalization and activism, “language” has become an important sociocultural object among the Aché, an index of ethnic identity.
  • Children’s development of metalinguistic awareness of linguistic difference. Through schooling, activism, and contact with outsiders, children learn to differentiate in their repertoire of forms between those belonging to one language and those belonging to another.
  • Emergence of language as experiential or phenomenological object. By looking at what may be understood as codeswitching or language mixing through a conversation analytic lens, I explore how language is made salient and perceptually highlighted in everyday interaction, for example through repairs and substitutions.

Ontologies of Language and Linguistic Natures

My work with the Aché has also led me to explore broader questions of the ontological grounds of what language is from indigenous epistemological perspectives. As part of efforts at intellectual decolonization, and in dialogue with critical linguistic theory building from the Global South (e.g., Pennycook and Makoni 2019), together with my colleague Guilherme Heurich I have advanced the concept of “linguistic natures” as a challenge to Euro-American-derived understandings of language that still prevail in much research and theory. We have organized three conference panels and two workshops, exploring the philosophical and cosmological foundations of a variety of linguistic phenomena in different indigenous communities across the Americas. We have coedited a special issue in Language & Communciation (Hauck and Heurich 2018). I also gave an invited keynote on this topic at the “Critical Language Research: Applied Linguistic and Anthropological Approaches” workshop at Newcastle University (watch here).

Bilingualism in Paraguay and Cultural Integration

In 2005 I participated in a project investigating cultural integration along the border regions of the (then) four Mercosur countries, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. I co-edited the two ensuing volumes, one in German (Chiappini and Hauck 2007) and one bilingual in Spanish and Portuguese (Hauck, Chiappini, and Timm 2011). My own research within that project was concerned with the role of the indigenous language Guaraní for Paraguayan and regional identity politics. A resulting monograph Language Under Construction (Hauck 2009) looks at linguistic purism and hybridity in (Guaraní-Spanish) bilingual language planning while also analyzing the philosophical foundations that underlie conflicting policy proposals.

Narrative and the Construction of Self

As a contribution to ongoing efforts to bridge linguistic and psychological anthropology, I have also dedicated research to the role of narrative in the construction and transformation of self. For example, I have analyzed narratives of Aché elders about their experience of the encounter with white society, their suffering and the violence endured, and the radical changes that followed settlement on reservations. A paper discussing a narrative about these transformations and their ethical and ontological foundations is forthcoming in American Ethnologist.

I have also published a chapter co-authored with Teruko Mitsuhara in which we analyze the narrative structure of former US president Trump’s (non-)apology to the misogynist “Access Hollywood” tape. The paper demonstrates how he circumvents the display of an (apologetic) past self and manages to appear authentic and coherent.

Moral Socialization

My current British Academy-funded postdoctoral project at the London School of Economics continues and expands my ethnographic work with the Aché in a new project on moral socialization in relation to the environment. My primary focus is on moral socialization in relation to sociocultural change and different environments. I investigate how Aché children are socialized into different moral norms and expectations in two different environments, the forest and in the village. Since these are tied to past and present ways of life this research gives insights into ongoing sociocultural change. I approach this issue by closely analyzing the everyday activities through which children are socialized into the particular understandings of fairness and justice, rights and duties that they later come to take for granted.

The Making of Forest

As part of my project at LSE, I also explore how the objectification of language as cultural resource relates to the objectification of the environment (“nature”), specifically the forest. As former full-time hunter-gatherers, for the Aché the forest was the taken-for-granted environment in which all life was embedded. Yet after settlement and drastic deforestation, only few stretches of forest remain on the Aché reservations. But these have become increasingly important resources, economically and symbolically. Just as language, “forest” has thus become present to reflexive awareness at the very moment that it is on the verge of disappearance.

Human–Nonhuman Interaction

Combining my background in language socialization and micro-interactional studies of communication with my expertise in human–environment relations and indigenous ontologies, I also explore modes of human interactions with nonhumans (such as animals, plants, forests, landscapes, or nature). Close attention to the everyday practices of attending to and communicating with nonhumans (including language, gestures, as well as touch) can shed light on larger questions of nonhuman personhood and humans’ understandings and perceptions of “nature.” As in my other research, I am particular interested in the perspective of children. Research on how children are socialized into attending to nonhumans can give us crucial insights into how particular understandings of these emerge and the how ethical relations with these are developed. This research is particular timely in the current times marked by anthropogenic environmental disaster in which we have to develop new ways of relating to the nonhuman world.