HAR is pleased to announce a recent release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article (in French) on the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL).
Capredon, Élise & Thomas Grillot, 2022. “Une anthropologie au service de l’évangélisation : histoire(s) du Summer Institute of Linguistics”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Founded in the United States in 1934 by William Cameron Townsend (1896-1982), the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) is an evangelical missionary organization. It was founded in the context of the expansion of Protestant missionary evangelism to Latin America. The SIL specializes in translating the Bible into indigenous languages. The interest of the SIL’s missionary-translators in indigenous peoples and the work of translation led them to call upon anthropology and linguistics. For a long time, the SIL was led by the linguist Kenneth Pike (1912–2000), president from 1942 to 1978. After the Second World War, it expanded in Latin America (contemporary with the Indigenist moment), but also in Asia and Africa. The strategy of erasing the missionaryism behind the scientific objectives was essential to this success. From the 1970s onwards, the SIL was the object of virulent criticism which led to the expulsion of the organization from Brazil, Mexico, etc. Far from disappearing, it restructured itself, enhancing the higher education of its members in its International Linguistic Center, affiliated to the University of Texas in Dallas. Due to the number of its missionaries and the extension of its network, it occupies a central place in the Christian missionary movement. In spite of its descriptive aspect, Capredon and Grillot point out that the work of cataloguing and teaching languages proposed by SIL linguists is still essential today.
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