Photo of Constantine V. Nakassis
Constantine V. Nakassis PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 2010

On leave for the 2023-24 academic year
Office: Haskell 324 Phone: (773) 834-4810 Email Interests:

Linguistic anthropology; semiotics; film theory; mass media; trademark law, brands, and counterfeiting; youth culture; India.

Professor of Anthropology and of the Social Sciences in the College Resource Faculty, Cinema & Media Studies; Faculty Associate, CHD; Core Faculty in CIR; Faculty in Digital Studies; Department Chair

Constantine V. Nakassis is a linguistic anthropologist with interests in language in culture; semiotics; film theory; mass media; brands and counterfeits; and youth culture. His regional focus is Tamil Nadu, India. He organizes the annual Chicago Tamil Forum workshop. 


Recent Research / Recent Publications


2023. Onscreen/Offscreen. University of Toronto Press. Series: Studies in the Anthropology of Language, Sign and Social Life. (Open access .pdf available here.)

2016. Doing Style: Youth and Mass Mediation in South India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press (Published April 2016); Hyderabad, India: Orient Blackswan (Published June 2016). Italian translation, Fare stile: Culture giovanili e mass-media nell’India del Sudtranslated by Francesco Peri and Aurora Donzelli. Milan, Italy: Raffaello Cortina Editore (Published September 16, 2022).

Edited Books and Journal Volumes

2022. Michael Silverstein. Language in Culture: Lectures on the Social Semiotics of Language. Cambridge University Press. Edited by E. Summerson Carr, Susan Gal, Constantine V. Nakassis. 

2021.  Bernard Bate, Protestant Textuality and the Tamil Modern: Political Oratory and the Social Imaginary in South Asia. Stanford University Press. Edited by E. Annamalai, Francis Cody, Malarvizhi Jayanth, and Constantine V. Nakassis. [This book can be downloaded as an open-access epub or pdf here.]

2020–2021. with Meghanne Barker. 2020. Images. Special issue of Semiotic Review 9. 

2013. Brand Neoliberalism. Theme issue of Cultural Anthropology 28(1).

2013. with Llerena Searle. Social Value Projects in Post-liberalisation India. Special issue of Contributions to Indian Sociology 47(2).

Articles, Book Chapters, etc.

In preparation. “Bus Routes.”

2023. “A Linguistic Anthropology of Images.” Annual Review of Anthropology 52.

2023. “Seeing, Being-Seen, and the Semiotics of Perspective.” Special issue, “Towards an Anthropology Theory of Vision,”  edited by Greg Thompson and Zach Chase. Ethos.

2022. with Swarnavel Eswaran. “Doubled Meaning.” Working Papers of the Chicago Tamil Forum - Social Meaning and Pragmatics in Tamil Discourse (May 12-13, 2022). Version 8.1.2022. 

2021. with E. Annamalai and Francis Cody. “Editor’s Preface.” In Bernard Bate’s Protestant Textuality and the Tamil Modern: Political Oratory and the Social Imaginary in South Asia. Stanford University Press.

2020. with Meghanne Barker. “Images: An Introduction.” Semiotic Review, special issue on “Images” (Meghanne Barker and C. Nakassis, eds.). 

2020. “Deixis and the Linguistic Anthropology of Cinema.” Semiotic Review, special issue on “Images” (Meghanne Barker and C. Nakassis, eds.). 

2020. with Christopher Ball, Meghanne Barker, Elizabeth Edwards, Tomáš Kolich, W. J. T. Mitchell, and Daniel Morgan. “Opening Up the Indexicality of the Image, Again: A Virtual Roundtable.” Semiotic Review, special issue on “Images” (Meghanne Barker and C. Nakassis, eds.). 

2020. with Steven Feld and Meghanne Barker. “Spectral Signage: A Conversation with Steven Feld.” Semiotic Review, special issue on “Images” (Meghanne Barker and C. Nakassis, eds.). 

2020. "The Hero's Mass and the Ontological Politics of the Image." Journal of Cinema and Media Studies (formerly, Cinema Journal) 60(1):70–91.

2020. (w/E. Annamalai) "Linguistic Diversity in South Asia, Reconsidered." In J. Stanlaw, ed. The International Encyclopedia of Linguistic Anthropology. Wiley.

2020. "The Youthfulness of Tamil Cinema and the Limits of Imitation." Critical Collective. 23 April 2020.

2020. Tamil: A Biography, by David Shulman." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 26(2):454–56.

2019. "The Ontological Politics of the Spoof Image in Tamil Cinema.” New Review of Film and Television Studies 17(4):423–55.

2019. “Poetics of Praise and Image-Texts of Cinematic Encompassment.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 29(1):69–94.

2018. (w/Amanda Weidman) "Vision, Voice, and Cinematic Presence." differences 29(3):107–36.

2018. "Indexicality's Ambivalent Ground." Special Issue - (Meta)Semiosis and Social Life: Essays in Honor of Michael Silverstein, Signs and Society 6(1):281–304.

2017. "Rajini's Finger, Indexicality, and the Metapragmatics of Presence." Signs and Society 5(2):201–42.

2017. "Poetics of Praise and Cinematic Encompassment." Working Papers of the Chicago Tamil Forum - Poesis/Politics of Language and Place in Tamilagam (May 25–27, 2017).

2016. "Scaling Red and the Horror of Trademark." In E. S. Carr and M. Lempert, eds. Scale: Discourse and Dimensions of Social Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 159–84.

2016. "Linguistic Anthropology in 2015: Not the Study of Language." American Anthropologist 118(2):330–45.

2016. “Spoofs and the Politics of the Film Image’s Ontology in Tamil Cinema." Working Papers of the Chicago Tamil Forum - Politics of Media, Media of Politics (May 19–21, 2016).

2015. "A Tamil-speaking Heroine." BioScope 6(2):165–86.

2015. Review of Hindi Is Our Ground, English Is Our Sky. Chaise LaDousa. New York: Berghahn Books, 2014. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 25(3):358–60.

2015. Review of The Right Spouse: Preferential Marriages in Tamil Nadu. Isabelle Clark-Decès. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2014. Journal of Anthropological Research 71(2):268–70.

2014. "Suspended Kinship and Youth Sociality in Tamil Nadu, India." Current Anthropology 55(2):175–99. (With comments from Asif Agha, Bernard Bate, Francis Cody, Chris Gregory, and Michael Silverstein, and a reply from C. Nakassis.)

2014. "Realism, On and Off the Screen." In Anand Pandian, ed. Subramaniyapuram: The Tamil Film in English Translation. Chennai: Blaft Publications, pp. 217–23.

2014. (w/Kausalya Hart and Anand Pandian) “Subramaniyapuram: The Screenplay (by M. Sasikumar).” (translation) In Anand Pandian, ed. Subramaniyapuram: The Tamil Film in English Translation. Chennai: Blaft Publications, pp. 1–205.

2013. "Materiality, Materialization." A Comment on Hull, Matthew. 2012. Government of Paper. Berkeley: University of California Press. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 3(3):399–406. 

2013. "The Quality of a Copy." In T. Kuldova, ed. Fashion India: Spectacular Capitalism. Trondheim: Akademika forlag, pp. 142–65.

2013. "Citation and Citationality." Signs and Society 1(1) (April):51–78. 

2013. "Youth Masculinity, 'Style', and the Peer Group in Tamil Nadu, India." Contributions to Indian Sociology 47(2):245-269, theme issue, Social Value Projects in Post-liberalisation India (eds. C. Nakassis and L. Searle).

2013. (w/Llerena Searle) "Introduction: Social Value Projects in Post-liberalisation India.” Contributions to Indian Sociology 47(2):169–83, theme issue, Social Value Projects in Post-liberalisation India (eds. C. Nakassis and L. Searle).

2013. "Brands and Their Surfeits." Cultural Anthropology 28(1):111–26, part of theme issue on Brand Neoliberalism (ed. C. Nakassis).

2013. "Introduction: Brand Neoliberalism." Cultural Anthropology 28(1):110, part of theme issue on Brand Neoliberalism (ed. C. Nakassis).

2013. "Para-s/cite, Part I: The Parasite." The Semiotic Review (N.S.) 1 (May), special issue on Parasites. 

2013. "Para-s/cite, Part II: The Paracite." The Semiotic Review (N.S.) 1 (June), special issue on Parasites. 

2012. "Brand, Citationality, Performativity." American Anthropolgist 114(4):624–38.

2012. "Counterfeiting What? Aesthetics of Brandedness and BRAND in Tamil Nadu, India." Anthropological Quarterly 85(3):701–22, special issue on Piracy.

2012. Review of Social Dimensions of Modern Tamil (2011) (by E. Annamalai). Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 22(3):261–63.

2012. Review of Hip Hop Desis (2010) (by N. Sharma). Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 22(3):277–79.

2010. Youth and Status in Tamil Nadu, India. PhD Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania.

2009. "Theorizing Realism Empirically." New Cinemas 7(3):211–35.

2007. (w/Melanie Dean) "Desire, Youth, and Realism in Tamil Cinema." Journal of Linguistic Anthropolgy 17(1):77–104.

2005. "Formalizing Context." Review of Gauker, D. (2003) Words without MeaningTheory and Psychology 15(1):128–31.

2002. (w/Jesse Snedeker) "Beyond Sarcasm: Intonation and Context as Relational Cues in Children's Recognition of Irony." Proceedings of the Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development 26(2):429–40.