K.D. Thompson

Credentials: UW-Madison

Position title: Evjue-Bascom Professor in the Humanities; Director, Doctoral Program in Second Language Acquisition; Professor of Religious Studies

Email: katrina.daly.thompson@wisc.edu

Website: K.D. Thompson's website

225 Bradley Memorial


K.D. Thompson is the Evjue-Bascom Professor in the Humanities, Director of the Doctoral Program in Second Language Acquisition, and Professor of Religious Studies with additional affiliations in Anthropology, Gender & Women’s Studies, and the Middle Eastern Studies Program. Their research uses critical ethnography and critical discourse analysis to examine African and Muslim discourse, with specific projects in Zimbabwe, Tanzania, North America, and online.


In Thompson’s first monograph, Zimbabwe’s Cinematic Arts: Language, Power, Identity (Indiana University Press, 2012), they used critical discourse analysis to examine how cultural identity is produced, performed, and negotiated in talk and texts about film and television in Zimbabwe. Their next book, Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean: Islam, Marriage, and Sexuality on the Swahili Coasta co-edited volume with Erin Stiles from Ohio University Press (2015), brought together anthropologists, historians, linguists, and gender studies scholars to examine Islam, sexuality, gender, and marriage on the Swahili coast and elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. Thompson’s second monograph, Popobawa: Tanzanian Talk, Global Misreadings  (Indiana University Press, 2017), concerned the transgression of discursive taboos and cultural boundaries of gender and sexuality in Swahili talk about the supernatural.

Thompson’s current research focus is a multi-sited ethnography of nonconformist Muslim communities of practice in North America and online, contributing to queer anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and Islamic Studies. Their book, Muslims on the Margins: Creating Queer Religious Community in North America, is in production with NYU Press, to appear in its North American Religions series in early 2023.

Awards & Honors

  • Evjue-Bascom Professorship, 2022-2027.
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend, 2020.
  • Vilas Associates Award, UW-Madison, 2018-2020.
  • Faculty Professional Development Grant, UW-Madison, for “Arabic as a Foreign Language.” 2018-19.
  • Summer Fellowship, Institute for Research in the Humanities, UW-Madison. Summer 2018.
  • Honored Instructor Award, UW-Madison University Housing, December 2017.
  • 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 Publications

  • Thompson, K.D. 2024. Review of I Cannot Write My Life: Islam, Arabic, and Slavery in Omar Ibn Said’s America, by Mbaye Lo and Carl W. Ernst. Reading Religion.

  • “Queer-Jewish-Muslim: Constructing Hyphenated Religious Identities through Tactics of Intersubjectivity,” in Queer Jews, Queer Muslims Race, Religion, and Representation, ed. Adi Saleem (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2024), 25–50.

  • With Julia L. Offen, “Culture Shock: Introduction to the Special Section ‘Writing Ethnographically During a Pandemic’ (Part One),” Anthropology and Humanism 46, no. 2 (2021): 385-7.
  • “Making Space for Embodied Voices, Diverse Bodies, and Multiple Genders in Nonconformist Friday Prayers: A Queer Feminist Ethnography of Progressive Muslims’ Performative Inter-Corporeality in North American Congregations.” American Anthropologist 122, no. 4 (2020): 876–90.
  • “Fictive Fathers in the Field,” Journal of Autoethnography 1, no. 3 (Summer 2020): 265–273.
  • “Queering Language Socialization: Fostering Inclusive Muslim Interpretations through Talk-in-Interaction,” Language & Communication 74 (2020): 29–40.
  • “Voicing Queer Adjustments in a Progressive Muslim Community.” The Maydan (blog). April 28, 2020.
  • “Becoming Muslims with a ‘Queer Voice’: Indexical Disjuncture in the Talk of LGBT Members of the Progressive Muslim Community.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology30:1 (May 2020): 123–44.
  • “When I Was a Swahili Woman: The Possibilities and Perils of ‘Going Native’ in a Culture of Secrecy.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 48:5 (2019):674–99.
  • POPOBAWA: Tanzanian Talk, Global Misreadings. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.
  • “Beginnings and Endings: An Autoethnographic Account of Two Zanzibari Marriages.” Anthropology and Humanism 42:1 (2017): 149–55.
  • “Secrets of a Swahili Marriage.” Anthropology and Humanism 42:1 (2017): 118–26.
  • Gendered Lives in the Western Indian Ocean: Islam, Marriage, and Sexuality on the Swahili Coast. Erin Stiles and K.D. Thompson, eds. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2015.
  • Zimbabwe’s Cinematic Arts: Language, Power, Identity. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012.



Dr. Thompson works with students interested in conducting research in the areas of critical applied linguistics, gender and sexuality, cultural approaches to discourse,  discourse-centered approaches to culture, and various uses of ethnography, especially linguistic ethnography, literary ethnography, and autoethnography. They have supervised recent dissertations addressing the following topics:

  • Circumcision and masculinity in a Kenyan family
  • Representations and enactment of Senegalese women’s sexuality
  • Naming and embodied memories of violence in Kenya
  • Discourses of discrimination among Iranian migrants in Germany
  • Narrative and discursive practices in the Rwandan diaspora surrounding the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi
  • Use of non-Standard Yoruba in Yoruba-language classrooms in Nigeria
  • Language ideologies and multilingual practices in a Yoruba study abroad program
  • Codeswitching in Indonesian popular texts


Need a letter of recommendation from Dr. Thompson? Please see these instructions.