Patricia O. Covarrubias Profile

ProfilesPatricia O. Covarrubias (Ph.D. University of Washington, 1999) is Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at the University of New Mexico (UNM). She is former faculty in the Department of Communication and Journalism, also at UNM in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Patricia Covarrubias

Her previous careers include work as a broadcast journalist for KCRA-TV (NBC affiliate in Sacramento, California) and owner of OCELOTL, a consulting company providing presentation skills to US and Japanese business persons. Her academic research focuses on understanding and describing how local cultures influence people’s ways of communicating and vice versa, and on describing how culturally-grounded communicative practices reflect and create a unique life for groups of people. Ultimately, she is interested in the influence of culture and cultural diversity in the activities and events of everyday life across a variety of contexts. Her research goals include contributing to the ethnography of communication, to language and social interaction approaches, and to Mexicanx and Chicanx communicative practices. Further, her aim is to contribute to cultural and intercultural communication, metaphors as communication, and the much-understudied area of generative communicative silence. In whatever context, her professional passions and research impetus are driven by personal ideals for achieving social inclusivity and justice, improving institutional (and other) contexts, more peaceful living, richer multicultural experience, and greater benefits from our human socio-cultural distinctiveness.

In the area of communicative silence she is interested in exploring silences as “generative” rather than “consumptive” enactments.  For example, she studied silence as a generative means for perpetuating, particularizing, and/or protecting culture. To this research she would like to add uses of silence to enact social resistance for purposes of emancipation. Also, she is interested in studying the kinds of social worlds people create when competing culturally situated silences collide. For example, using American Indian examples, she has taken a critical look at silence enactments that reveal “discriminatory silence” within the context of the college classroom. In future work, she hopes to explore the silencing of women who practice orthodox religions, particularly to not exclusively, in college contexts. The study of communicative silence is a much under-studied and under-theorized aspect in the field of communication, among other academic fields, and her goal is to contribute to centralizing its importance in studies about human communication.

Her past research includes ethnographic investigation of the ways of speaking of native Mexican construction workers and the ways they use pronominal address to create interpersonal webs that, in turn, enabled them to achieve workplace cooperation. This work was published as, Culture, Communication, and Cooperation: Interpersonal Relations and Pronominal Address in a Mexican Organization. Also, she co-authored Among Cultures: The Challenge of Communication, a textbook that applies the Ethnography of Communication and narrative approaches to the study of cultural communication. And, she was writer, co-producer, co-director, and co-editor of Trenzas: Margaret Montoya Stories, a documentary about the first Chicana to be admitted to Harvard Law School.


Hall, B. J., Covarrubias, P. O., & Kirschbaum, K. (2018). Among cultures: The challenge of communication (3rd ed.). London: Routledge.

Covarrubias, P. (2002) Culture, communication, and cooperation: Interpersonal relations and pronominal address in a Mexican organization. Bounder, CO: Rowman and Littlefield.

Creative Productions:

Covarrubias, P. (2019). Originator, writer, co-producer, co-director, co-editor of documentary. Trenzas: Margaret Montoya Stories.

Recent articles and chapters:

Covarrubias, P., Kvam, D., & Saito. M. (2019). Symbolic agonistics: Stressing emotion and relation in Mexican, Mexican@, and Japanese discourses. In M. Scollo & T. Milburn (Eds.) Engaging and transforming global communication through cultural discourse analysis: A tribute to Donal Carbaugh (pp. 179-194). Denver, CO: Rowman & Littlefield.

Covarrubias, P. (2017). Respeto [respect] in disrespect: Clashing cultural themes within the context of immigration. In D. Carbaugh (Ed.) The handbook of communication in cross-cultural perspective (pp. 208-221). London: Routledge.

Covarrubias, P., & Windchief, S. (2009) Silences in stewardship: Some American Indian college students examples.  The Howard Journal of Communications, 20(4), 1-20.

Covarrubias, P. (2008). Masked silence sequences: Hearing discrimination in the college classroom. Communication, Culture & Critique, 1(3), 227-252.

Covarrubias, P. (2007). (Un)biased in Western theory: Generative silence in American Indian communication. Communication Monographs, 74(2), 265-271. 

Recent shorter works:

Covarrubias, P. O. (2018). Cultural communication. In J. Nussbaum (Ed.), Oxford research encyclopedia of communication. New York: Oxford University Press.

Covarrubias, P. O. (2018). Communication modes: Mexican. In Y. Y. Kim (Ed.), International encyclopedia of intercultural communication. Wiley-Blackwell.

Covarrubias, P. O. (2015). Ethnographic research. In J. M. Bennett (Ed.) Encyclopedia of intercultural competence (vol. 1, pp. 312-315). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Covarrubias, P. O. (2015). Silence. In K. Tracy (Ed.) International encyclopedia of language and social interaction (pp. 1354-1359). Boston, MA: Wiley.

Covarrubias, P. O. (2015). Pronoun functions. In K. Tracy (Ed.) International encyclopedia of language and social interaction (pp. 1236-1242). Boston, MA: Wiley.

Covarrubias Baillet, P. O. (2009). The ethnography of communication. In S. Littlejohn & K. Foss (Eds.) Encyclopedia of communication theory (pp. 355-360). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Covarrubias Baillet, P. O. (2009). Speech codes theory. In S. Littlejohn & K. Foss (Eds.), Encyclopedia of communication theory (pp. 918-924). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

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