1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Jennifer Petersen

Associate Professor

224 Wilson Hall

Class Schedule:

MDST 3050: History of Media

MDST 4411: Media and Free Speech

Dr. Petersen is an Associate Professor of Media Studies. Her interests focus on media and law, technology studies, historical understandings of emotion and/in communication, and conceptions of the public sphere. She teaches in the areas of media history, documentary, and cultural studies of journalism. Her articles in these areas appear in journals such as Media Culture & Society and Critical Studies in Media Culture. Her book,  Murder, Media, and the Politics of Public Feeling ( Indiana University Press, 2011), explores the emotional mediation of and legal responses to two of the most publicly visible and commented upon hate crimes of the late 1990s. Using textual analysis of media and legal texts as well as interviews with activists and lawmakers, the book analyzes the ways that media texts encouraged and conveyed feelings about the men and their murders, and traces how these feelings became the grounds for local political action and the eventual passage of hate crimes laws.

She is currently writing a second book, The Unspoken History of Free Speech: Media Technologies, Social Science, and the Law. This book will analyze how legal conceptions of speech within First Amendment law changed over the previous century, from a strictly deliberative and linguistic definition to one that encompasses symbols, aesthetics, and emotion. The project suggests that this history is as much about new media technologies and social scientific ideas about communication and rationality as it is about politics and legal theory.

Petersen earned her PhD in the Radio-Television-Film Department of the University of Texas at Austin. She also received an MA in Journalism from UT-Austin, and a BA in literature from University of California at Santa Cruz.