“Hey there, Brian”: Voicing Mormon Cosmopolitanism in a College Apartment

Clayton Van Woerkom


In this paper, I discuss a humorous form of voicing called Brian Voice (BV) used by myself and my former roommates, all of whom are students at Brigham Young University and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Bringing the tools and methods of linguistic anthropology together with the anthropology of morality (especially ordinary ethics), I demonstrate the ways in which my roommates and I use this voicing to simultaneously inhabit the two seemingly contradictory identities of, on the one hand, a reverent Mormon and, on the other, a modern cosmopolitan. BV facilitates this identity by enabling speakers to voice both irreverence and anti- cosmopolitanism without incurring the normal social consequences associated with those stances. I contend that BV accomplishes this mitigation of negative consequences through indexing ridiculousness and absurdity. By situating BV within its Mormon context, I demonstrate that in distancing speakers from both hyper-reverence and irreverence, BV entails a practical engagement with the ethics, principles, and ideals of both Mormon morality and cosmopolitan morality, thus allowing speakers to inhabit a simultaneously Mormon and cosmopolitan self.


Mormonism; voicing; cosmopolitanism; irreverence; linguistic anthropology

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.15273/jue.v11i2.11040


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