Shalini Shankar’s new book, Beeline: What Spelling Bees Reveal about the New American Childhood (Basic Books), is based on qualitative research funded by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation. The project investigates how spelling bees have grown into a mass-mediated, sport-like spectacles, factors contributing to the South Asian American winning streak, and how this model of competition is proliferating worldwide. It is comprised of interviews and observations with spellers and their families, spelling bee officials, lexicographers, and media producers, as well as archival research on spelling competitions and their media broadcasting.
About the Author: Shalini Shankar is a sociocultural and linguistic anthropologist at Northwestern who has conducted ethnographic research with South Asian American youth and communities in Silicon Valley, with advertising agencies in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, and with spelling bee participants and producers in various US locations. Shankar's previous books are, Advertising Diversity: Ad Agencies and the Creation of Asian American Advertising (Duke University Press, 2015) and Desi Land: Teen Culture, Class, and Success in Silicon Valley (Duke University Press, 2008).