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Jenny L. Davis

Profile picture for Jenny L. Davis

Contact Information

1204 W. Nevada St.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Urbana, Illinois 61801

Associate Professor


This is the page for the Indigenous Studies/linguist/anthropologist/poet Jenny L. Davis, if you are looking for my doppelnamer, the sociologist/techology studies scholar and author of  How Artifacts Afford: The Power and Politics of Everyday Things (which I recommend), her site is here.

Jenny is on sabbatical for AY 2023-2024. 

Jenny L. Davis is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and an Associate Professor of Anthropology and American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign where she is the director of the American Indian Studies Program and co-director of the Center for Indigenous Science. She is the co-editor of the Studies in Language and Gender series at Oxford University Press.

Her research interests sit at the intersections of Indigenous language futurism (including language reclamation & revitalization); Queer Indigenous Studies; Speculative fiction and poetry; NAGPRA & repatriation; and collaborative/community-based methods. Her research has been published in the Annual Review of Anthropology, American Anthropologist, Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, Gender & Language, Language & Communication, Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals, the American Journal of Biological Anthropology, and The Routledge Companion to Publicly Engaged Humanities Scholarship (forthcoming), among others. Her 2022 poetry manuscript, Trickster Academy, was published in the University of Arizona Press Sun Tracks Series, and her creative work has most recently been published in Transmotion; Anomaly; Santa Ana River Review; Broadsided; North Dakota Quarterly; Yellow Medicine Review; As/Us; Raven Chronicles; and Resist Much/Obey Little: Inaugural Poems to the Resistance and exhibited at the Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

She is the recipient of two book prizes: the 2019 Beatrice Medicine Award from the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures for Talking Indian: Identity and Language Revitalization in the Chickasaw Renaissance (University of Arizona Press, 2018) and the 2014 Ruth Benedict Book Prize from the Association for Queer Anthropology and the American Anthropological Association for her co-edited volume Queer Excursions: Retheorizing Binaries in Language, Gender, and Sexuality (Oxford University Press, 2014). In 2021, she received the Dynamic Woman of the Year Award from the Chickasaw Nation, which is given annually for significant contributions to the Chickasaw Nation and its people through community engagement and work preserving its linguistic and cultural heritage.

From 2019-2022 she served as the Chancellor's Fellow of Indigenous Research & Ethics. In that role, she worked to develop initiatives, including a campus-wide NAGPRA office and Tribal Liaison postion, to ensure that the University is knowledgeable about and in compliance with U.S. and tribal government policies and protocols. She currently serves as the co-chair of the campus NAGPRA Advisory Committee and as a member of the Commission for the Ethical Treatment of Human Remains (TCETHER) of the American Anthropological Association. 

Research Interests

Language Revitalization & Documentation; Gender/Sexuality; Collaborative & Community-based Research Methods; Native American and Indigenous Studies; Creative & Speculative Writing


PhD Linguistics, University of Colorado 2013
MA Linguistics, University of Colorado 2007
BA English, Oklahoma State University 2005
BA Spanish, Oklahoma State University 2005


2023-2024       Co-PI: Ripan Malhi, Jenny L. Davis, Katlyn Bishop, Renata Burchfield Ryan, and Brandon Ritchison. “Center for Indigenous Science,” Wayfarer Foundation. $115,000.00

2021-2024       Co-PI: Bethany Anderson, Christopher Prom, and Jenny L. Davis. “Doris Duke Oral History Program Archives: Revitalization and Community Building.” Doris Duke Foundation and the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, & Museums. $196,000.00

2017 PI: "Language Documentation Technologies and Methodologies Workshop for the American Anthropological Association Meeting," #1744248 National Science Foundation: Documenting Endangered Languages. $16, 579.00

2015-2016 IPRH Research Cluster, with Dr. Ryan Shosted, “Indigenous Languages in Diaspora”. Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH). University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Awards and Honors

2022-2027 Conrad Humanities Scholar, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
2021 Dynamic Woman of the Year, Chickasaw Nation
2019-2022 Chancellor's Fellow of Indigenous Research & Ethics, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
2020-2021 Helen Corley Petit Scholar, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
2019 The Beatrice Medicine Award for Best Monograph in American Indian Studies from the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures
2017-2019 Lincoln Excellence for Assistant Professors (LEAP) Scholar, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
2017-2018 Faculty Fellow, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH), University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
2014 Ruth Benedict Book Prize for Queer Excursions: Retheorizing Binaries in Language, Gender, and Sexuality

Courses Taught

AIS 101: Intro to American Indian Studies
AIS/ANTH 165: Lang & Culture in Native N. America
AIS 285: Indigenous Thinkers
AIS 501: Indigenous Critical Theory
AIS 502: Indigenous Decolonial Methods

ANTH 270: Language in Culture
ANTH 372: Language, Social Media & Digital Domains
ANTH 374: Anthropology of Science & Technology
ANTH 471: Ethnography through Language
ANTH 499: NAGPRA & Ethics
ANTH 515/MUSE 589: NAGPRA & Repatriation in US Context
ANTH 515/GWS 581: Queer Anthropology
ANTH 515: Indigenous Methods & Ethics in Bio/Forensic Anthropology

Additional Campus Affiliations

Associate Professor, Anthropology
Associate Professor, Gender and Women's Studies
Associate Professor, Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory
Associate Professor, Linguistics
Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture
Associate Professor, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Highlighted Publications

Davis, J. L. (2022). Trickster Academy. (Sun Tracks). University of Arizona Press.

Davis, J. L. (2018). Talking Indian: Identity and Language Revitalization in the Chickasaw Renaissance. University of Arizona Press.

Zimman, L., Davis, J. L., & Raclaw, J. (Eds.) (2014). Queer Excursions: Retheorizing Binaries in Language, Gender, and Sexuality. (Studies in Language and Gender). Oxford University Press.

View all publications on Illinois Experts

Recent Publications

Burton, A. M., Davis, J. L., & Brennan, M. L. (2024). Reciprocity and Redistribution: Methodologies for Rethinking Public and Community-based Humanities Research . In D. Fisher-Livne, & M. May-Curry (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Public Humanities Scholarship (Routledge Literature Companions). Routledge.

Davis, J. L. (2024). Attending to settler colonialism in Black/Native American histories in Alaina Roberts' I've been Here All the While. Settler Colonial Studies.

Davis, J. L. (2024). Infant, Name Once Known. SAPIENS Magazine.

Bader, A. C., Carbaugh, A. E., Davis, J. L., Krupa, K., & Malhi, R. S. (2023). Biological samples taken from Native American Ancestors are human remains under NAGPRA. American Journal of Biological Anthropology, 181(4), 527-534.

Kowal, E., Weyrich, L. S., Argüelles, J. M., Bader, A. C., Colwell, C., Cortez, A. D., Davis, J. L., Figueiro, G., Fox, K., Malhi, R. S., Matisoo-Smith, E., Nayak, A., Nelson, E. A., Nicholas, G., Nieves-Colón, M. A., Russell, L., Ulm, S., Vergara-Silva, F., Villanea, F. A., ... Tsosie, K. S. (2023). Community partnerships are fundamental to ethical ancient DNA research. Human Genetics and Genomics Advances, 4(2), Article 100161.

View all publications on Illinois Experts