Sharrona Pearl, Ph.D.

Professor Sharrona Pearl at Annenberg School for Communication ASC UPenn
Assistant Professor of Communication
Core Faculty in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies

Sharrona Pearl is an Assistant Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication. An expert on physiognomy – the study of facial features and their relationship to character traits – she 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. Her research has resulted in a book published by Harvard University Press,  and multiple articles and book reviews. 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 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 Monday, June 2, 2014 - 7:44pm
Professor Sharrona Pearl talks about the research behind her book, 'About Faces."
Uploaded on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 3:57pm
Sharrona Pearl, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Communication, talks about her current research projects.
Courses Taught


COMM 108: The Speaking Body and the Marks of the Mind in Modern Western Culture
COMM 405 Facing Race: Race and Caricature in the Historical Imagination
COMM 418: Seeing Old Media Through New Media Eyes
COMM 481: Nothing New Under the Heavens: The History of ‘Old Media’
COMM 426: Communication and the Bible
COMM 470: Freaks and Geeks: People on Display
COMM 610: Perceptions of Beauty


COMM 501: (Mis)Communication: The History of a Discipline
COMM 509: Directed Readings in Theory (with Carolyn Marvin)
COMM 713: Historical and Visual Culture Methodology
COMM 731: The Beautiful People? Beauty, Media and Technology
COMM 813: Historical and Visual Culture Methods

Current Projects
  1. Forthcoming book – Face/On: Face Transplant Surgery and the Index to Identity. 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. The dynamics and relationships around doctor-generated patient celebrity; investigating how the status of celebrity changes the doctor/patient relationship.
  3. The use of controversial images in classrooms – atrocity, pornographic, ethnographic and how their use produces or constrains the production of knowledge.
  4. Sensory history of media revolutions and our current moment of media change; arguing against the idea that society is experiencing a neo-Victorian moment.
  5. The use of digital media to impel religious practice, particularly on the part of the Chabad sect of Orthodox Judaism.

Professor Pearl's research is in the area of Culture and Communication, which she studies through history, gender and sexuality studies, cinema studies, and medicine and the body.  She has a particular focus on the face (physiognomy) and its communicative role, which she is currently exploring through a book project on face transplant surgery.  Other areas of interest include visual culture; self-fashioning and visual judgment; science and performance; freak shows through history; celebrity “patienthood” and the performance of illness; queer bioethics; the ethics of images.

Download CV (51.82 KB)

Pearl's Network

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