Center for the Study of Communication and Society

Talking Politics: Anthropologists and Linguists Analyze the 2020 Election

Join language and politics experts across the United States as they discuss the 2020 election in this online forum

About this Event

How is the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election affected by language and culture? Experience and learn how anthropologists and linguists decipher political messages, and examine the words, gestures, tone of voice, and unspoken meanings that implicitly affect who we vote for, and why.

Talking Politics brings together anthropology and linguistics experts to share their distinctive analytic perspectives on political communication in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. Organized by graduate students in the University of Chicago Department of Anthropology and University of Colorado Boulder Program in Culture, Language, and Social Practice (CLASP), this interdisciplinary workshop series invites the public to experience and learn how language and culture shape real-world political communication.

This online forum features a series of webinars and a closing colloquium. Each Talking Politics webinar will feature demonstrations of the types of data and methods of analysis that anthropologists and linguists use in studying political communication. Each featured scholar will also engage in a conversation with invited guest discussants and members of the public. The series will conclude in December with a final colloquium featuring all the series’ speakers, moderated by Kira Hall, Professor of Linguistics and Anthropology at University of Colorado Boulder and President of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology (SLA).

All events are online, and are free and open to the public. Register here at Eventbrite to receive updates and news on all upcoming workshops, as well as more information on invited speakers.

Organizations presented by

Speaker Events:

“How Plausible is the Deniability?” | 9 Oct 2020, 6pm CT

  • Adam Hodges, Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Department of Linguistics at University of Colorado Boulder. He is a sociocultural linguist with research interests in how language impacts contemporary social and political issues, such as the collective enactment of racism or the role language plays in politics.

“Political Gesture in Presidential Debate” | 20 Oct 2020, 3pm CT

  • Michael Lempert, Associate Professor of Anthropology at University of Michigan Ann Arbor. A linguistic anthropologist with cross-disciplinary interests, he has trained in several fields and written on a wide range of topics having to do with social interaction, featuring political gesture and embodied communication.

“Communicating Crisis: Getting Back to Whose Normal?” | 30 Oct 2020, 5pm CT

  • Jonathan Rosa, Associate Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. As a sociocultural and linguistic anthropologist, Jonathan Rosa’s research theorizes the co-naturalization of language and race as a key feature of modern governance.

“Race and Gender Panics in the 2020 Trump Campaign” | 16 Nov 2020, 5pm CT

  • Janet McIntosh, Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. She is a cultural anthropologist with wide-ranging interests, including linguistic anthropology, narrative and discourse, whiteness studies, nationalism, and East Africa.
  • Norma Mendoza-Denton, Professor of Anthropology at University of California at Los Angeles. Her research focuses on youth, language, migration, politics, and identity.

Final Colloquium | 11 Dec 2020, 5pm CT

  • All invited speakers, moderated by Kira Hall, Professor of Linguistics and Anthropology at University of Colorado Boulder. Kira Hall’s research focuses on language and social identity in India and the United States, particularly with respect to hierarchies of gender, sexuality, and socioeconomic class. Her recent work has turned to diverse topics, including the role of gesture in Donald Trump’s entertainment appeal.

Talking Politics is proudly co-sponsored by the Society for Linguistic Anthropology (SLA), the Center for the Study of Communication and Society (CSCS) and Linguistic Anthropology Lab at the University of Chicago, and the Program in Culture, Language, and Social Practice (CLASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder

Read the official Press release for Talking Politics here. 


Organizing Committee

Wee Yang Soh (Lead Organizer, UChicago)
Velda Khoo (Lead Organizer, CU Boulder)
Joshua Babcock (UChicago)
Molly Hamm-Rodríguez (CU Boulder)
Jacob Henry (CU Boulder)
Maureen Kosse (CU Boulder)
Rebecca Lee (CU Boulder)
Maria Ruiz-Martinez (CU Boulder)
Feng Ye (UChicago)

For more information on the Talking Politics online forum, please contact Wee Yang Soh at, or Velda Khoo at Persons with disabilities who require an accommodation in order to fully participate in this event should contact Velda Khoo at