Associate Professor -Linguistic and Sociocultural Anthropology
PhD 2007 (University of Arizona)
Office: Social Science Centre 3404
Tel: 519 661-2111 ext. 85098
My research explores how language plays an integral part in the processes of constructing individual and group identities. The focus of my current work is on personal names, particularly the experiences of people whose names do not fit into the legal, institutional and conventional frameworks for the structure, spelling and pronunciation of names in Canada. As symbols of identity, I investigate how names influence self-perception and the unequal treatment of others. Names are especially important in issues related to immigration, social integration and belonging. One aim of this research is to promote understanding and respect for everyone in a linguistically and culturally diverse society. See here to learn more about my research and for other interesting studies, news articles and videos about names.
My past work examines the multiple meanings of weather and climate forecasts in different sociocultural and environmental contexts, including Northeast Brazil and the Canadian Arctic. 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 personal names and weather predictions, other areas of research that interest me include: verbal art and performance, agriculture-related discourse, linguistic expressions of traditional knowledge, communication between scientists and the public, and vulnerability of rural and Arctic populations to weather-related hazards.
You can follow my work here:
Pennesi, Karen (2019) "Differential Responses to Constraints on Naming Agency among Indigenous Peoples and Immigrants in Canada." Language and Communication 64:91-103.
Pennesi, Karen (2016) “'They can learn to say my name': Redistributing Responsibility for Integrating Immigrants to Canada.” Anthropologica 58(1):46-59.
Pennesi, Karen (2016) “NameCoach: hear the name, say it right.” Names: A Journal of Onomastics 64(1): 58-62
Pennesi, Karen (2014) “Reading and Righting the Names at a Convocation Ceremony: Ideological Influences on Name Usage in an Institutional Interaction. Names: A Journal of Onomastics 62(1): 37-48.
Pennesi, Karen (2015) “Constructing 'Farmer' and 'State' Identities in Moral Discourses about Semi-subsistence Agriculture in Northeast Brazil”. Journal of Latin American Studies 47(4): 781-809.
Pennesi, Karen (2013) “Predictions as Lies in Ceará, Brazil: the intersection of two cultural models.” Anthropological Quarterly 86(3):759-790.
Spinney, Jennifer and Karen Pennesi (2013) “When the River Started underneath the Land: Social Constructions of a 'Severe' Weather Event in Pangirtung, Nunavut.” Polar Record 49(4):362-372.
Pennesi, Karen, Jadah Arokium and Gordon McBean (2012) “Integrating Local and Scientific Weather Knowledge as a Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Arctic.” Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 17(8):897-922.
Pennesi, Karen (2011) “Making Forecasts Meaningful: Explanations of Problematic Predictions in Northeast Brazil.” Weather, Climate and Society 3(2):90-105.
Pennesi, Karen (2011) “A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Forecast Communication.” In The Weather and Society*Integrated Studies Project Compendium (Vol. 1). Julie Demuth, Sheldon Drobot and Eve Gruntfest (eds.) Boulder, CO: National Center for Atmospheric Research. Pp. 2.1-2.14.
Undergraduate courses I regularly teach include the following:
- ANTH 1020 Many Ways of Being Human (Linguistic Anthropology unit)
- ANTH 2243 Applied Linguistics
- ANTH 2245 Anthropological Approaches to Language
- ANTH 2249 Discourse Analysis and Pragmatics
- ANTH 2250 Verbal Art, Performance and Speech Play
- ANTH 2252 Languages in Canada
Graduate courses I have taught include Language and Identity, Discourse and Society, and Research Methods in Sociocultural Anthropology.
I welcome inquiries from graduate students interested in the following research areas:
- Discourse analysis
- Expert discourses
- Indigenous cultures and languages
- Language and identity
- Language issues in Brazil
- Names and naming
- Narrative and storytelling
- Performance (verbal art)
- Prediction and prophecy
- Discourses about weather and society