Karen Pennesi
Department of Anthropology

The University of
Western Ontario

Rain clouds Quixada, Brazil

Rain Clouds, Quixada, Brazil
Karen Pennesi  
Office: SSC 3404

(519) 661-2111
Ext. 85098

Fax: (519) 661-2157
e-mail: pennesi@uwo.ca
Address: Department of Anthropology
University of Western Ontario
London, ON
N6A 5C2



Research Interests
My research explores how language plays an integral part in the processes of constructing individual and group identities. The newest direction for my work is in onomastics, the study of proper names. I am interested in the experiences newcomers to Canada have when their names do not fit into the legal, institutional and conventional frameworks for the composition, spelling and pronunciation of personal names. I am developing a new research program that will analyze stories about these experiences and the influence names have on the way individuals see themselves and others. See [here] for a possible opportunity to work as a graduate research assistant on this project.

Meanwhile, I continue to investigate the multiple meanings of weather and climate forecasts in different sociocultural contexts in rural communities of Northeast Brazil. Predictions are communicated and interpreted in particular ways that both reflect and challenge ideas about who is an expert, whose predictions are authentically traditional, and who is a “liar”. I integrate theoretical dimensions of linguistic and cultural anthropology in analyses of how weather-related communicative practices are tied to particular historical, social, environmental and epistemological contexts. An ethnographic and discourse-based perspective highlights communication issues emerging in these domains where science, local knowledge, culture and subjective experience intersect. In addition to discourse analysis of weather predictions, talk about agriculture and verbal expressions of traditional knowledge, other research areas that interest me include communication between science and the public, cultural aspects of natural resource management, and vulnerability of rural and Arctic populations to weather-related hazards. As an active member of Weather and Society Integrated Studies (WAS*IS), an interdisciplinary applied research group, I am working to improve the integration of social and natural sciences to benefit users of weather information in both the public and private sectors.