African Cultural Studies

College of Letters & Science

Katrina Daly Thompson

Professor of African Cultural Studies

Director of the Program in African Languages
Core Faculty Member, Second Language Acquisition Doctoral Program
With faculty affiliation in African Studies,
Gender & Women's Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, and Religious Studies

Ph.D. (2004), African Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison
M.A. (1999), African Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin-Madison
B.A. (1997), English, Grinnell College

Professor Thompson is a cultural studies scholar with a primary interest in African discourse, and her research thus intersects with and draws on linguistic anthropology. As a linguistic ethnographer, Dr. Thompson takes a discourse-centered approach to African cultural studies and an interdisciplinary approach to language, culture, and society.  Her research explores the relationships between language, power, and identities in Tanzanian, Zimbabwean, and transnational Muslim discourse.

Her first monograph, Zimbabwe's Cinematic Arts: Language, Power, Identity  (Indiana University Press, 2012), uses critical discourse analysis to examine how cultural identity is produced, peformed, and negotiated in talk and texts about film and television in Zimbabwe. Her next book, Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean: Islam, Marriage, and Sexuality on the Swahili Coasta co-edited volume with Erin Stiles, recently came out from Ohio University Press. Her second monograph, Popobawa: Tanzanian Talk, Global Misreadings (forthcoming from Indiana University Press in March 2017),  concerns the transgression of discursive taboos and cultural boundaries of gender and sexuality in Swahili talk about the supernatural. One of her next projects is called Utani na Mizaha, a research project on Swahili humor. Read more and send her jokes here.

Research Reports

Selected recent publications

Review of Sabrina Billings's Language, globalization and the making of a Tanzanian beauty queen. In Language in Society 45 (2016).

“Secrets of a Swahili Marriage.” Contemporary Ethnographic Fiction. Ed. Kristen Ghodsee. Society for Humanistic Anthropology, 2015.

“Discreet Talk about Supernatural Sodomy, Transgressive Gender Performance, and Male Same-sex Desire in Zanzibar Town.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 21:4 (2015).

“Introducing Gender, Sexuality, and Marriage into the Study of Islam in the Western Indian Ocean.” (With Erin E. Stiles.) In Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean: Islam, Marriage, and Sexuality on the Swahili Coast, edited by Erin E. Stiles and Katrina Daly Thompson, 1–30. Indian Ocean Studies. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2015.

“Learning to Use Profanity and Sacred Speech: The Embodied Socialization of a Muslim Bride in Zanzibar.” In Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean: Islam, Marriage, and Sexuality on the Swahili Coast. Erin Stiles and Katrina Daly Thompson, eds. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2015.

Awards and Honors
First Prize in the 2016 Ethnographic Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Writing Competition, sponsored by the Society for Humanistic Anthropology, for the ethnographic fiction piece, “Secrets of a Swahili Marriage.”

Selected Courses
AFRICAN 500: Language in Society in Africa
AFRICAN 575: Methods of Teaching African Languages: Theory and Practice
AFRICAN 670: Theories and Methods of Learning a LCTL
AFRICAN 697: Monitored Self-Instruction of an African Language
AFRICAN 671: Multilanguage Seminar
AFRICAN 701: Critical Approaches to Multilingualism
AFRICAN 703: Topics in Teaching African Languages: Communicative Lesson Planning
AFRICAN 705: Teaching Portfolio
AFRICAN 925: Field Methods (Literary Ethnography)

Graduate Student Advising
Dr. Thompson works with students in our pedagogy track; and with students interested in conducting research in the areas of critical applied linguistics, cultural approaches to discourse,  discourse-centered approaches to culture, and in various uses of ethnography, especially linguistic ethnography, literary ethnography, and autoethnography. She has supervised recent theses and dissertations addressing the following topics:

  • language ideologies and multilingual practices in a Yoruba study abroad program
  • codeswitching in Indonesian popular texts
  • language socialization and discourses of sexuality, desire, and prevention in reproductive health instruction in Tanzania
  • language brokering among Arab immigrants in medical settings
  • utopian Swahili fiction

Learn more about Dr. Thompson: Read Kathryn Mara's interview with her.

Contact info
Office: Van Hise 1402
Phone: (608) 262-6537