Bernard Perley

Bernard Perley

Associate Professor

Office: Sabin 329
Phone: (414) 229-4175
Web Site:


Ph.D., Harvard University
Masters, Architecture, University of Texas
B.F.A., University of Texas

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).

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

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.

Selected Publications:

2014. Living Traditions: A Manifesto for Critical Indigeneity.  In Performing Indigeneity: Global Histories and Contemporary Experiences.  Laura R. Graham and H. Glenn Penny eds.  University of Nebraska Press: Lincoln.

2013. Responses to Language Endangerment: In honor of Mickey Noonan. New Directions in Language Documentation and Language Revitalization. Elena Mihas, Bernard Perley, Gabriel Rei-Doval, and Kathleen Wheatley eds. John Benjamins Publishing Company. Amsterdam/Philadelphia. John Benjamins Listing

2013. Remembering Ancestral Voices: Emergent Vitalities and the Future of Indigenous Languages. In Responses to Language Endangerment: In Honor of Mickey Noonan. New Directions in Language Documentation and Revitalization. Elena Mihas, Bernard Perley, Gabriel Rei-Duval, and Kathleen M. Wheatley, eds. John Benjamins. Amsterdam/Philadelphia.

2013. "Emergent Vitalities as Antidote to 'Zombie Linguistics': A rejoinder to Joshua Nash." Anthropological Forum, 23(1):114-119.

2013. "Gone Anthropologist": Epistemic Slippage, Native Anthropology, and the Dilemmas of Representation. In Anthropology and the Politics of Representation. Gabriela Vargas-Cetina ed. University of Alabama Press: Tuscaloosa.

2012. Silence Before the Void: Language Extinction, Maliseet Storytelling, and the Semiotics of Survival. Invited chapter for the edited volume Telling Stories in the Face of Danger: Language Renewal in Native American Communities. Paul V. Kroskrity ed. University of Oklahoma Press. Norman.

2012. Zombie Linguistics: Experts, Endangered Languages and the Curse of Undead Voices. Anthropological Forum, 22(2): 133-149.

2012. Last Words, Final Thoughts: Collateral Extinctions in Maliseet Language Death. Invited chapter for the edited volume The Anthropology of Extinction: Essays on Culture and Species Death. Genese Sodikoff ed. Indiana University Press. Bloomington.

2011. Managing Language as an Integrated Cultural Resource. Invited chapter for the edited volume Companion to Cultural Resource Management. Thomas F. King ed. Blackwell. Malden.

2011. Defying Maliseet Language Death: Emergent Vitalities of Language, Culture, and Identity in Eastern Canada. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Nebraska Press Listing

2009. Contingencies of Emergence: Planning Maliseet Language Ideologies. In Paul V. Kroskrity and Margaret Field (eds), Native American Language Ideologies: Language Beliefs, Practices and Struggles in Indian Country. University of Arizona Press.

2006. Aboriginality at Large: Varieties of Resistance in Maliseet Language Instruction. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 13: 187-208.

2005. Ambiguous Esteem: Bibles in Dead Language. In Objects of Everlasting Esteem, Lucy Fowler William, William S. Wierzbowski, Robert W. Preucel (eds). University of Pennsylvania Museum Publication.

2004. North American Tricksters. Encyclopedia of Religion, second edition, Macmillan Reference.

2004. Indians of the Northwest Coast Indian. Encyclopedia of Religion, second edition, Macmillan Reference.

2003. Language, Culture, and Landscape: Protecting Aboriginal "Deep Time" for Tomorrow. Protecting the Cultural and Natural Heritage in the Western Hemisphere: Lessons from the Past; Looking to the Future at Harvard University.

2000. Medicine Wheelers and Dealers. In Ronald Niezen (ed.), Spirit Wars: Native North American Religions in the Age of Nation Building, pp. 217-219. University of California Press: Berkeley, Los Angeles, London .