Sharrona Pearl, Ph.D.

Portrait of Sharrona Pearl
Dean's Fellow, Annenberg School for Communication

Sharrona Pearl is a Dean's Fellow at the Annenberg School for Communication. A historian and theorist of the body and face, she is an expert on physiognomy - the study of facial features and their relationship to character traits. She has explored the face in a number of articles and two monographs, About Faces: Physiognomy in Nineteenth-Century Britain​ (Harvard University Press, 2010) and Face/On: Face Transplants and the Ethics of the Other (University of Chicago Press, 2017). She is also the editor of Images, Ethics, Technology (Routledge, 2016), the latest volume in the Shaping Inquiry in Culture, Communication and Media Studies series.

Her current research explores facial prosthetics in film and television, with a particular focus on gender and race and how the face can be manipulated to communicate character. She is also working on a project on the power dynamics of mediated apologies. Other areas of interest include visual culture; self-fashioning and visual judgment; science and performance; freak shows through history; queer bioethics; and the ethics of images.

Pearl previously was a postdoctoral fellow in the Committee on Degrees in History and Literature and in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University, and received the Swann Foundation Fellowship for Caricature and Cartoon at the Library of Congress. She has served as the keynote speaker for the Kern Conference in Visual Communication.


Uploaded on Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 4:29pm
Annenberg Professor Sharrona Pearl was one of the featured speakers during the PopTech conference in Camden, Maine Oct. 23 – 25. Her talk focused on...
Uploaded on Saturday, August 23, 2014 - 3:39pm
Sharrona Pearl, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, reveals the...
Uploaded on Monday, June 2, 2014 - 7:47pm
Professor Sharrona Pearl talks about a November 2013 conference on the medical and society impacts of face transplants.
Uploaded on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 3:57pm
Sharrona Pearl, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Communication, talks about her current research projects.
Current Projects
  1. Forthcoming book – Face/On: Face Transplants and the Ethics of the Other. The research behind the book is reflected, in part, through Professor Pearl’s work with the Perelman School of Medicine’s Center for Human Appearance.
  2. Current book project on the use of facial prosthetics in television and film, with a particular focus on gender and race.  Areas of focus include women playing ugly to gain critical recognition on screen; layering and makeup in Orphan Black; prosthetics and makeup as a character in The Elephant Man.
  3. #sorrynotsorry: : the power dynamics of apology and forgiveness, a project that explores how forgiveness for their attackers is often used in media contexts to disempower women and people of color

Sharrona Pearl is a theorist of the face and body, which she studies through history, gender and sexuality studies, disability and critical race theory, and cinema and media studies. She has a particular focus on the face (physiognomy) and its communicative role. 

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Pearl's Network

  • Culture and Communication
  • Global and Comparative Communication
  • Media Institutions and Systems
  • Visual Communication
  • Center for Media at Risk
  • National Public Radio interview on face transplants
  • University of Pennsylvania "Office Hours" webinar