Daniel Everett Discusses “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes” at Grand River Forum

– Caleb Godin, staff

This year’s Grand River Forum gave Laurier Brantford students, as well as the Brantford community, insight into one man’s adventure in the Amazon.

The Grand River Forum, now in its second year, is a way for contemporary studies students in first year as well as upper years to connect with the interdisciplinary novel chosen for the year.

This year the coordinator of the event, professor Ian MacCrae, and his colleagues chose “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes”, an account of Dr. Daniel Everett’s time in the Amazon.

A major problem MacRae found is in finding such a book for this forum that represents a program that contains an array of disciplinary backgrounds, as Contemporary Studies does.

“It is hard to find a book with enough ‘meat’ to be an interdisciplinary text for multiple professors each with their own style,” says MacCrae.

The forum allows students a sneak peek at some of the more intimate reasons behind why an author chooses to write on a certain subject, and also to bring academic discussion to the Brantford community.

“The forum is a way of furthering interdisciplinary conversationally in the community,” MacRae adds.

Dr. Daniel Everett, 60, is the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University of Waltham, Massachusetts, and was here at Laurier Brantford’s Grand River Forum to speak at the Sanderson Center about his book, “Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes”.

Everett has spent decades researching and living with the Pirahas, an Amazon native tribe. He took his family and moved there to translate the Bible into the Pirahas’ language in order to convert the tribe, and in his many years of being there, was converted himself to Atheism.

Everett lectured to Laurier Brantford students about the diversity of human languages and how important it is for all languages to remain in existence.

“Not only would the world be a boring place; if we all looked and talked alike, but human survival would be at risk,” Everett said.

Everett further discussed how different words in language convey different messages to different people, and how grammar could influence a cultures take on the meaning of the word.

Everett closed by emphasizing the importance of culture, saying that, “our views of reality are shaped by culture.”

A day following Everett’s speech, Laurier Brantford professors had a chance to offer their own works and thoughts on the forum at the Grand River Forum panel.

Charles Wells and Dr. James Cairns presented papers to their Contemporary Studies peers, each with both indirect and direct connections to Everett’s book.

Wells took a linguistic approach, analyzing empty and master signifiers, while Cairns instead used the forum as a jumpoff to analyze the interdisciplinary Contemporary Studies program at Laurier Brantford.

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