Robin Conley

Robin Conley is Assistant Professor of Anthropology in Marshall’s Sociology & Anthropology Department. She specializes in the fields of legal and linguistic anthropology.

Dr. Conley has conducted ethnographic research on death penalty trials across Texas, investigating how the use of language shapes jurors’ experiences during trials and impacts their life and death decisions. Her book manuscript, under contract with Oxford University Press, specifically explores how jurors use language to counter moments of empathy they share with defendants, thereby justifying their decisions for death. Her explorations into the connections among language, empathy, and violence in law engage with ongoing debates in law and society and language and culture, especially regarding American ideologies of democracy and lay judging. Her previous research focused on the construction of gendered identity within legal and medical settings.

Dr. Conley is currently collaborating with other faculty members in Marshall’s Sociology & Anthropology department to conduct an empirical study of higher education in Appalachia. The project attempts to ascertain the cultural influences on the region’s relatively poor achievement in higher education and low economic status. This project is being developed in conversation with university administrative departments and will add a much-needed perspective to the discussion of the future of higher education in the United States. All of Dr. Conley’s research utilizes ethnographic inquiry to address practical socio-legal issues.

Her teaching covers diverse topics such as ethnographic methods and theory; language and social life; law, culture and society; and gender and sexuality. She currently serves as the department’s director of Undergraduate Studies and as a member of the Women’s Studies board on campus.

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Curriculum Vitae


Selected publications

Conley, R. (2016). Executing Language: Discourses of rationality and empathy in jurors’ death penalty decisions. Oxford University Press.

Conley, R. (2013). Living with the Decision that Someone Will Die: Linguistic distance and empathy in jurors’ death penalty decisions. Language in SocietyPDF

Conley, R. & J.M. Conley (2009). Stories from the Jury Room: How jurors use narrative to process evidence. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society 49(2).  PDF

Conley, R. (2008). “At the time she was a man”: The temporal dimension of identity construction. Political and Legal Anthropology Review 31(1):28-47.  PDF


Selected courses

Linguistic Anthropology

Cultural Anthropology

Law, Culture & Society

Language, Gender and the Body

Theory in Ethnology: Anthropological Knowledge and Authority