1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences


My research takes up questions of health, care, and personhood through the lens of linguistic anthropology. In my dissertation, “Pregnant Pauses: Communication and the Composition of Networks of Care in Southwestern Uganda,” I explore narratives and practices of maternal and child health.  Looking at the way pregnant women move from herbal treatments, to biomedical antenatal checkups, to ritual specialists – through participatory video, photo, and voice recordings – my research shows that maternal and child health-seeking is carried out not only through therapeutic interventions (like biomedicine or traditional healing), but moreover, through valued forms of talk and interaction, that are understood to be therapeutically efficacious and beneficial.

Attending to this relational, interactional work provides a new perspective on the relationship between language, health, and temporality. Whereas previous discussions have considered language to be largely epiphenomenal, my work shows that in the dispossession, uncertainty, and death of the postcolony, paths to belonging, wellbeing, and life are crucially mediated by contested forms of personal autonomy and interpersonal mutuality which unfold in real time as social actors read and respond to one another. Thus, I theorize how access to care comes to life in and through competing regimes of truth which differentially value sincerity, authenticity, and the felt sensations and outward appearance of the physical body.

In an earlier research project, I studied the racialized politics of memory and place in a post-industrial city in the mid-Atlantic US. I am currently planning my next project: a linguistic ethnography of the fast-growing professional counseling sector in Uganda. Across all of my work, a semiotic approach informs the way I think about the circulation, reformulation, or endurance of particular forms of social connection.

Ira Bashkow (co-chair)
China Scherz (co-chair)
Eve Danziger
Ellen Contini-Morava
Christopher C. Moore (external reader)


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P.O. Box 400120


PhD, University of Virginia, expected May 2020
MA, University of Virginia, 2015
BA, Lafayette College, 2013

Sub Discipline/s: 

Pregnancy, care, interdependence, connection, semiotics, language ideology, multimodal interactions; Uganda, Great Lakes Region of Africa, US

Selected Publications: 

Rebuilding Shattered Worlds: Creating Community by Voicing the Past.  Co-authored with Andrea Smith. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016.

Thoroughly Mixed yet Thoroughly Ethnic: Indexing Class with Ethnonyms.  Co-authored with Andrea Smith. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 2013, Volume 23(2): E1-E22. DOI: 10.1111/jola.12012 

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