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I received my PhD in Social and Political Thought from York University in Toronto in 2001 and completed my MA in Comparative Literary Studies (1993) and BA in Directed Interdisciplinary Studies (1991) from Carleton University in Ottawa.
I am currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Cultural Studies and the current Director of the M.A. Program in Cultural Analysis & Social Theory (CAST). I am President of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Journal of Communication and served as the journal's Book Review Editor for a decade (2010-2020). I am past President (2014-2016) and past Vice-President and Conference Convenor (2012-2014) of the Canadian Communication Association (CCA). I am involved in a number of programs at Laurier, including being a past Coordinator of the Cultural Studies Program and a member of the Women & Gender Studies Coordinating Committee. I am also Co-Director with Dr. Greg Bird of Technē: Wilfrid Laurier University Biopolitics Research Group, which is a member of the Italian Theory Network.
My current research stems out of my SSHRC-funded (2008-2011) research project called "From Seasonal Flu to Pandemic Influenza: The Cultural Life of a Virus." My work focuses on what may be called "microbiopolitics," the study of the ways in which the contemporary management of microbial life dovetails with the social, cultural, economic, and political. My concern is with the way that molecular and microbial come to be understood (or misunderstood) in everday life.
I have had an enduring research interest in pandemics since the 1980s, during which time, living in the early stages of the AIDS crisis, I came to understand the importance of social and cultural interventions in the meanings made around contagious disease and marginalized bodies. My interests have expanded necessarily with various disease episodes of the 21st century, including COVID-19, a lingering pandemic moment that has been my critical concern, including in Co-Edited issues of Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies (University of Toronto Press-Journals) with Dr. Greg Bird. The first volume of this COVID project was an early snapshot of the pandemic that was produced in less than 2 weeks from the onset of the pandemic and featured 10 essays and is located here: COVID-19 Essays. A second volume of follow-up essays, this time featuring 21 contributions, was published in Topia the fall of 2020 and is located here: Topia Volume 41. I have also published elsewhere on COVID-19 and have contributed to broader public discourse around the pandemic by way of news media interviews for print, television, and radio.
Another prong of my research program concerns cultural discourses surrounding the microbiome and microbiopolitics. My interest here is with the ways that ideas travel from specialist scientific conversations to popular understandings that have currency in the everyday explanatory frameworks people deploy to understand the world around them and their own bodies and health. In this I am interested in the role of health, science, and risk communication in constructing meaning around novel or newly introduced concepts, such as the microbiome. The result of this interest has included an article in the Canadian Journal of Communication called "The Microbiome as TED Knows It: Popular Science Communication, the Microbiomal Paradign, and Neoliberal Subjectivity" and one in the European Journal of Social Theory called "Me, My Self, and the Multitude: Microbiopolitics of the Human Microbiome."
I am broadly interested in cultural studies of health and medicine, popular science communication, risk cultures, social and cultural theory, and feminist and queer media studies.
I was a semi-finalist for the TVO Best Lecturer Award in 2008, and won the WLU Award for Teaching Excellence in 2012. I have received Faculty Merit Awards in the categories of research, service, and teaching over the course of my time at Laurier.
I am willing to supervise students in the areas of critical studies of health and risk communication, cultural studies of science and medicine, risk cultures, feminist and queer media studies, and social and cultural theory.
Refereed Journal Issues Edited:
Ironstone, Penelope and Bird, Greg. 2020. Special Issue on Our COVID Conjuncture: Critical Essays on the Pandemic, Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies (October 2020).
Bird, Greg, and Ironstone, Penelope. 2020. “COVID-19 [Rapid Response] Essays,” Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies (March 2020) https://www.utpjournals.press/journals/topia/covid-19-essays
Chapters in Books
Ironstone, Penelope. 2021. “Critical Communication Studies and COVID-19: Mediation, Discourse, and Masks,” Communication and Health: Media, Marketing and Risk.
Ironstone-Catterall, Penelope. 2011. “Narrating the Coming Pandemic: Pandemic Influenza, Anticipatory Anxiety, and Neurotic Citizenship,” Criticism, Crisis, and Contemporary Narrative: Textual Horizons in an Age of Global Risk, Ed. Paul Crosthwaite. New York and London: Routledge, pp. 81-94.
Ironstone-Catterall, Penelope. 2003. “Feminist Research Methodology and Women’s Health: A Review of Literature,” Head, Heart and Hand: Partnerships for Women’s Health in Canadian Environments, Penny van Estrik et al, eds. Toronto: National Network on Environments and Women’s Health, pp. 59-89.
Ironstone-Catterall, Penelope. 1999. “The ‘Post-’ of the Subject? A Meditation on Identity, Community, and Death in the ‘Age of AIDS,’” Post-Theory: Toward a Third Space, Fernando de Toro and Alphonso de Toro, eds. Frankfurt am Main and Madrid: Vervuert Verlag and Iberoamericana, pp. 113-130.
Ironstone-Catterall, Penelope. 1995. “Imagining the Other Among US: Kathy Acker Between ‘New York’ and Algeria, Borders and Margins: Post-Colonialism and Post-Modernism, Fernando de Toro and Alphonso de Toro, eds. Frankfurt am Main and Madrid: Vervuert Verlag and Iberoamericana, pp.169-180.
Papers in Refereed Journals
Ironstone, Penelope. 2020. “COVID-19: An Essay in Keywords,” Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 41(1): 13-21.
Ironstone, Penelope and Bird, Greg. 2020. “Our COVID Conjuncture: Critical Essays on the Pandemic,” Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 41(1): 5-10.
Ironstone, Penelope. 2020. “The Pandemic is (Extra)Ordinary,” COVID-19 Essays, Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, https://www.utpjournals.press/journals/topia/the-pandemic-is-extra-ordinary?=
Bird, Greg and Ironstone, Penelope. 2020. “Editorial Introduction: Writing in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic: From Vulnerability to Solidarity,” Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies https://www.utpjournals.press/journals/topia/covid-19-essays
Ironstone, Penelope. 2019.“The Microbiome as TED Knows It: Popular Science Communication, the Microbiomal Paradigm, and Neoliberal Subjectivity,” for Special Issue on “Mediating Cultures of Disease,” Canadian Journal of Communication, 44(2):157-174.
Ironstone, Penelope. 2019. “Me, My Self, and the Multitude: Microbiopolitics of the Human Microbiome,” European Journal of Social Theory, 22(3): 325-341.
Ironstone, Penelope. 2018. “Me, My Self, and the Multitude: Microbiopolitics of the Human Microbiome,” European Journal of Social Theory. Online first publication: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1368431018811330.
Ironstone-Catterall, Penelope. 2005. “Postcard from NYC October 2004: Democracy, Psychoanalysis, and Trauma,” Space & Culture: An International Journal of Social Spaces (London and New York: Sage Publications), 8(3): 332-33.
Ironstone-Catterall, Penelope. 2004-5. “When Isaak Was Gone: An Auto-Ethnographic Meditation on Mourning a Toddler,” Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, 50(1): 1-21.
Ironstone-Catterall, Penelope. 2001. “Love and Mourning: On the Im/Possibilities of Mourning,” Space & Culture: An International Journal of Social Spaces (London and New York: Sage Publications), 1(8): 87-94.
Ironstone-Catterall, Penelope. 2001. “Epidemic Logic, or HIV/AIDS and the Disciplines and Crises of Knowing,” Space & Culture: An International Journal of Social Spaces (London and New York: Sage Publications), 1(8): 142-154.
M.A. In Cultural Analysis & Social Theory
CQ642D Special Topics in Body Politics: Embodiment and Alterity
CQ601 Cultural Analysis and Social Theory
CS630 Risk, Media, and the Politics of Anxiety
M.A. In Communication Studies
CS617 Risk, Media, and Science
CS401 Moral Panics and Risk Society
CS400 (Critical Studies in) Risk Communication
CS360 (Critical Studies in) Health Communication
CS322 Gender, Communication, and Culture
CS203 Conceptual Issues in Communication and Culture
CS101 formerly Mass Communication in Canada
CS100 Introduction to Communication Studies
Radio Laurier, ‘Exploring the Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories with Dr. Penelope Ironstone,” Podcast interview, June 9, 2020, 58 mins. Link here
900CHML “What Happens When We Get a Vaccine?” Scott Thompson Show, April 23, 2020 Link here
Lauren Beaulne-Stuebing. University Affairs, “Laurier Professors Publish ‘Rapid Response” Essay Collection on COVID-19,” April 22, 2020. Link here
570 News, “On the Rapid Response COVID-19 Essays,” Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke, April 8, 2020
900CHML “Fear and Trust and COVID-19,” Scott Thompson Show, April 7, 2020
CBC KW 89.1 “Laurier profs use essay collection to look at societal, governmental response to COVID-19,” The Morning Edition with Craig Norris, April 7, 2019 Link here
CTV Kitchener Evening News, “COVID-19 and Misinformation,” March 27, 2020. Link here
900CHML “Dr. Penelope Ironstone Explains the Reaction to Covid-19,” Scott Thompson Show, March 11, 2020 link here
Katelyn Tufford, “The Repercussions of Racism and the Coronavirus,” The Cord, February 26, 2020. Link Here
Ironstone, Penelope. CBC Kitchener, “Ebola Fear and Panic Spreads Quickly,” Live Interview with Craig Norris, The Morning Edition, KW, October 6, 2014.
Office location: DAWB 3-154
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