Marilyn Merritt

Marilyn Merritt
Professorial Lecturer in Anthropology
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

Language and media in public places and spaces; creativity, interdisciplinary, and social change; situated discourse analysis; ritual and civility; education and visual literacies; cross-cultural understanding and scientific collaboration.

Dr. Merritt is a linguistic anthropologist whose interests include situated discourse analysis, sociolinguistics, literacy and education, and ethnographic approaches to cross-cultural understanding and changing media. She has lived several years outside the United States, in India, Kenya, Niger, and Senegal.

Current Research

Dr. Merritt is engaged in integrating findings from Africa, North America, and India about the role of expressive and interactive modalities in learning, literacy, leadership, and creativity. This builds on her work on service encounters, classroom discourse, women's identities, and international development. Also, memorial tributes honoring mentors and other colleagues are being shared, as well as invited reflections on professionally relevant observations and experiences.


Ph.D. 1976, University of Pennsylvania
M.A. 1966, Washington University in St. Louis
B.A. 1963, Northwestern University and Washington University in St. Louis


Merritt Marilyn, 2018. « An Interdisciplinary Anthropologist at Work : A Focused Intellectual Biography of Erving Goffman » in Bérose, Encyclopédie en ligne sur l’histoire de l’anthropologie et des savoirs ethnographiques, Paris, Lahic-iiac, UMR 8177.  Slightly revised and reprinted with permission from Dmitri Shalin (Ed.) The Erving Goffman Archives, section on Critical Assessments, under the title,”Erving Goffman, An Interdisciplinary Anthropologist at Work: the case of his contribution to notions of “situatedness” and “identity” in contemporary ethnographic research (especially in educational and public settings), 2015 (2011)

2017  Merritt, M. “Imagine This — A philosopher places creativity in evolutionary context,” Cognitive Science Book Review of Stephen T. Asma's  2017 The Evolution of Imagination (University of Chicago Press, 337 pp). Science magazine, Vol. 356, Issue 6344, p. 1240.  (American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)).

2015  Merritt, M. “Service Encounters in the Natural World: Bringing Children Along,” chapter 9, 191-210. In A Multidisciplinary Approach to Service Encounters, Vol 14, Studies in Pragmatics 14  Edited by Maria de la O Hernandez-Lopez and Lucia Fernandez-Amaya:  Leiden and Boston: BRILL/

2014  “Learning from Being There:  poetic and photographic images of Africa.” One of ten contributions to the Inaugural (September  2013) AAAS Symposium on Visualizing Science in 20/20 Format, Using Art to explore Science Policy.  Published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Policy Fellowships  on you tube, May 6, 2014.. (Directed and introduced by Olga Francois of AAAS (8.23 minutes total).  

2008  Merritt, M. "Identities:  Looking back over forty years as a woman, mother and social scientist."  In Emily Monosson (ed.) Motherhood, the Elephant in the Laboratory:  Women Scientists Speak Out (pp. 41-50).  Ithaca, NY:  Cornell University Press.  Paperback edition 2010.

1998 Merritt, M. "Of ritual matters to master: Structure and improvisation in language development in primary classrooms." In Hoyle, S.M., and C.T. Adger, eds. Kids Talk: Strategies of Language Use among Older Children. New York: Oxford University Press.

1994 Merritt, M. Advancing Education and Literacy in Niger: Observations, Reflections, and Recommendations. Niamey: UNICEF-Niger.

1992 Merritt, M., A. Cleghorn, J. Abagi, and G. Bunyi. "Socialising multilingualism — Determinants of code-switching in Kenyan primary classrooms," Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 13(1-2): 103-121.

1988 Merritt, M., and M.H. Abdulaziz. "Swahili as a national language in East Africa." In F. Coulmas, ed., With Forked Tongues: What Are National Languages Good For? Ann Arbor: Karoma Publishers.

1976 Merritt, M. "On questions following questions in service encounters," Language and Society 5: 315-357. Doi:10.1017/S0047404500007168

Classes Taught

To see syllabi, click on the course title.

Anth 1004 (old 004): Language in Culture and Society
Anth 3602 (162): Ethnographic Analysis of Speech
Anth 3691 (169): Topics: Language and the Social Construction of Identities
Anth 3991 (196): Topics: Women and Language


Last updated March 25, 2014