Bernard Perley

Associate Professor
 (414) 229-4175
 Sabin Hall 329

Web Site:


PhD, Anthropology, Harvard University
Masters, Architecture, University of Texas
BFA, University of Texas

Courses Taught

Anthro 105 – Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology
Anthro 314 – American Indian Societies and Cultures
Anthro 361 – Applications in Linguistic Anthropology
Anthro 540 – Applications in Anthropology: Native American Oral Traditions
Anthro 641 – Seminar in Anthropology – Repatriation: New Solutions, Old Problems
Anthro 804 – Linguistic Anthropology
Anthro 999 – Graduate Reading Course: Anthropological Semiotics

Research Narrative

Bernard Perley’s ongoing research and advocacy in language revitalization is an important contributing factor in a new research and advocacy trajectory exploring metaphors, cognition, agency, and emergent subjectivity. Perley’s earlier work was diagnostic in determining the variety of pressures brought to bear on stigmatized languages and thus propelling them toward obsolescence and perceived eventual extinction. Perley argued that analysis was not enough to stop the language tip toward obsolescence and that critical attention must be paid to metaphors and rhetoric that experts use to convey their concerns to the general public. Perley’s ethnography (2011a) highlights this critique and puts forward his own metaphor “emergent vitality” as a conceptual frame for redirecting language intervention away from “documentation only” practices to promoting communicative relations.

Perley’s recent article “Zombie Linguistics” (Perley 2012a) critiques prevailing metaphors of language “death” and “extinction” as both partial and influential in promoting kinds of actions while precluding others. Perley argued that the prevailing metaphors biased language experts toward documentation of the “code” rather than revitalizing the social relations that make the code a medium for vitalities of language, identity, and culture. Perley’s book chapter “Gone Anthropologist”(2013a) describes how alternative ethnographic representations integrate the various language “documents” into alternative ethnographic spaces so that the participant can experience indigenous linguistic worlds. These explorations integrated the fields of linguistics, sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, cultural anthropology, and indigenous studies into research and programmatic projects designed to promote indigenous language revitalization. These were important steps toward a broader integration of emerging interdisciplinary research trends that inform his current research interests.

Perley’s current research trajectory incorporates cognitive science, biological anthropology, narratology, and emergent languages (Perley et al. 2013b) in exploring the intersections of cognition, metaphors, narrative, and linguistic anthropology as an integrated approach to language revitalization (Perley 2011b).

Selected Publications

Perley, B. C. (2014, December). Living Traditions: A Manifesto for Critical Indigeneity. Graham, L. R., & Penny, H. G. (Eds.). Performing Indigeneity: Global Histories and Contemporary Experiences, 32-54. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Perley, B. C. (2014, August). Review of Yakama Rising: Indigenous Cultural Revitalization, Activism, and Healing. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 24(2), 247-249. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology.
Perley, B. C. (2014, August). Review of Sovereign Screens: Aboriginal Media on the Canadian West Coast. American Ethnologist, 41(3), 601. American Ethnologist.
Perley, B. C. (2013, February). “Gone Anthropologist”: Epistemic Slippage, Native Anthropology, and the Dilemmas of Representation. Vargas-Cetina, G. (Ed.). Anthropology and the Politics of Representation., 101-118. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
Perley, B. C. (2013, November). Remembering Ancestral Voices: The Future of Indigenous Languages. Perley, B. C., Rei-Doval, G., Wheatley, K. M., & Mihas, E. (Eds.). Responses to Language Endangerment: In honor of Mickey Noonan. New Directions in Language Documentation and Language Revitalization., 243-270. Amsterdam: John Bemjamins.
Mihas, E., Perley, B. C., Rei-Doval, G., & Wheatley, K. M., eds. (2013, December). Responses to Language Endangerment: New Directions in Language Documentation and Language Revitalization. Studies in Language Companion Series, 1(Studies in Language Companion Series 142), 273. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Perley, B. C. (2012, January (1st Quarter/Winter)). The Silence Before the Void: Language Extinction, Maliseet Storytelling, and the Semiotics of Survival. Kroskrity, P. V. (Ed.). Telling Stories in the Face of Danger: Language Renewal in Native American Communities, 184-204. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Perley, B. C. (2012, June). Zombie Linguistics: Experts, Endangered Languages, and the Curse of Undead Voices. Anthropological Forum, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 22(2), 133-149.
Perley, B. C. (2012, January (1st Quarter/Winter)). Last Words, Final Thoughts: Collateral Extinctions in Maliseet Language Death. Sodikoff, G. M. (Ed.). The Anthropoogy of Extinction: Essays on Culture and Species Death, 127-142. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Selected Exhibits

2014. Visualizing Sovereignty, Bernard C. Perley, Co-curator for an exhibit of contemporary American Indian art, architecture, poetry, sculpture, and prints. “Coyote’s 1st World Casino”, an installation piece. Bernard C. Perley, artist. Union Art Gallery, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee.

2008. Journeys in Spirited Landscapes. An exhibit of graphic ethnographies displayed at the UWM Gallery, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee.

1998 to present. “Toqawiw Tokec.” An exhibit of pastel drawings visualizing the Maliseet language as integral to the Maliseet landscape. Currently on display in The Hall of the North American Indian at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Cambridge.