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Article

Transfeminism(s)  

Daniel Coleman

Transfeminism(s) as both forms of social activism and intellectual inquiry generate ever-evolving frameworks and theoretical provocations that continue to ask critical questions about who the subjects of feminism are and what struggles are supported by purported feminist logics. Transfeminism has evolved to include genders that exist outside of the cisheterosexist binary and white supremacist logics of personhood to whom certain people can recur to garner their “subjectivity.” Transfeminism aims to account for other excluded classes of people and genders including transmen, trans nonbinary and genderqueer folks, and intersex people bringing back some of what the legal framework of intersectionality aimed to account for with the discrimination against Black women in workplace situations. It has also expanded its definitional logic and framework capacities such that it does not engage in merely additive logics of feminism that might mirror diversity and inclusion initiatives in institutions. Instead, its capaciousness, particularly in its activist iterations globally, has been mobilized to account for extrajudicial organizing around queer and trans bodies and medical needs, abolition, transicide, nonnormative sex practices for queer and trans folks such as liberated sex practices like asexuality, kink, and BDSM, queer and trans sex work, disability needs, immigrant and migrant demands, bodily autonomy, and other forms of material and bodily precarity produced by multiple forms of marginalization for queer and trans people whose needs do not exist at the center of mainstream heteronormative, homonormative, or transnormative politics. When fully accounted for in its materialist foundations in activism globally and in its historical genealogy in the aforementioned legacies in organic intellectuals and career academics, transfeminism has the pedagogical potential to participate in liberatory practices for those who most need them in institutional spaces through which we move, in community organizations, and the most intimate spaces of kinship formations toward other modes of living.

Article

Parenting of Queer Offspring  

Pamela J. Lannutti and Maria Butauski

Over recent decades, a growing body of research has consistently emphasized the importance of parental support of one’s queer (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, etc.) identity to their mental health and overall well-being. Parent–queer child relationships have increasingly drawn scholarly attention, with particular interest in children’s coming out (i.e., disclosing their queer identity) to their parents. Scholars have also focused on understanding parents’ experiences. Although researchers emphasize the importance of parents’ responses to their children coming out, as well as the importance of how people communicate and make sense of queer identities, the nature of parent–child communication beyond the initial coming out event is also central to the personal and relational well-being of parents and their queer children.

Article

Race and Ethnic Stereotypes in the Media  

Srividya Ramasubramanian, Emily Riewestahl, and Anthony Ramirez

There is a long history of scholarship documenting the prevalence of racial and ethnic stereotypes in media and popular culture. This body of literature demonstrates that media stereotypes have changed over time across specific racial/ethnic groups, media formats, and genres. Historically, the bulk of this research has focused on representations in the U.S. mainstream media and on representations of African Americans in popular media. In the last few decades, media scholars have also examined media stereotypes associated with Indigenous groups, Latino/a/x populations, Arabs, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Recent work has gone beyond traditional media such as television and films to also examine other types of media content such as video games, microblogging sites such as Twitter, and media sharing sites such as YouTube. Emerging research addresses racial biases in AI, algorithms, and media technologies through computational methods and data sciences. Despite individual variations across groups and media types, the underlying social psychological mechanisms of how, why, and under what circumstances these stereotypes influence audiences has been theorized more broadly. Cultivation, social identity theory, priming, framing, social cognitive theory, and exemplification are popular theoretical perspectives used within media stereotyping literature. Several experimental studies have examined the effects of mediated racial/ethnic stereotypes on individual users’ attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors. The lion’s share of these studies has demonstrated that negative stereotypes shape majority audiences’ real-world stereotypical perceptions, social judgments, intergroup emotions, and even public policy opinions. More important, media stereotypes can have negative effects on communities of color by affecting their self-concept, self-esteem, and collective identity in adverse ways. Recent studies have also parsed out the differences between positive and negative stereotypes. They demonstrate that even so-called positive stereotypes often have harmful effects on marginalized groups. Media scholars are increasingly interested in practical solutions to address media stereotypes. For instance, one content-based strategy has been to study the effects of counter-stereotypic portrayals that challenge stereotypes by presenting stereotype-disconfirming information. Other related measures are encouraging positive role models, implementing media literacy education, and supporting alternative media spaces that are more racially inclusive. The recent scholarship suggests that it is important to be intentional about centering social change, amplifying the voices of marginalized groups, and working toward reducing systemic racism in the media industry and research.

Article

Racial Culture Wars in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore  

Daniel P.S. Goh

Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore are ethnically and religious diverse countries in Southeast Asia that had established postcolonial multiracial compacts to counter the legacies of colonial racism and pursued inclusive nation-building under authoritarian conditions in the early decades after independence. This contained the rise of political Islam among the majority Javanese and Malays in Indonesia and Malaysia, respectively, and secured racial harmony in Singapore despite the political and economic dominance of the Chinese majority. Political liberalization after the Asian financial crisis and the democratization of the public sphere with the Internet have led to the decline of the multiracial compacts and the emergence of culture wars between conservatives and progressives over the nation’s values and future. Renewed Islamization pits conservative against moderate Muslims in everyday life and new media spaces while putting heavy pressure on Chinese and Christian minorities as well as the secular state in Indonesia and Malaysia. In Singapore, the spread of conservative Christianity among the Chinese and conservative Islam among the Malays pits conservatives against progressives in the growing civil society sector championing secularism and liberalization in racial, gender, and sexual discourse, with all sides using new media for political mobilization. These trends intersect with the politics of race and racism unleashed by the decline of the multiracial compacts, engendering racial culture wars mixing race and religion. The recent pervasive spread of social media has intensified the conflicts of the racial culture wars, leading to intergroup violence, prosecution of individuals for insulting religious sensitivities, and heated accusations of racism and of religious and racial sensitivities being offended. Social media is also changing the dynamics of the racial culture wars, collapsing the boundary between the offline world of face-to-face interaction and the online world of viral realities, causing casual everyday remarks and actions to become national controversies. Efforts to promote antiracism and multiculturalism need to move into the social media space in creative and relevant ways to counter the racial culture wars.

Article

Transnational Queer Translations  

Ahmet Atay

One of the arguments that queer color of critique makes is that queer theory and queer studies and their applications in communication studies are not intersectional. This criticism also includes the dominance of White voices, perspectives, and methodologies. Hence, some scholars argue that although queer theory and queer studies promise inclusion, they are not inclusive enough. Following this criticism, in this essay I claim that in addition to the dominance of White perspectives and the hegemony of English, queer studies in the communication discipline is U.S.-centric. Therefore, I argue that to fully understand queer experiences, as communication scholars we must take intersectional and transnational perspectives to make sense of queer lives. In this article, the author offers transnational queer slippages and translations as a perspective to examine diasporic and transnational queer experiences. Here, I argue that diasporic and transnational individuals often live in multiple cultures and different nation-states and speak more than one language. Hence, they constantly maneuver between cultures and nation-states and often translate from one experience to another. Sometimes, due to linguistic limitations, such as the lack of a word to mirror their experience, they fail to translate. Moreover, diasporic and transnational queer individuals often experience different layers of cultural maneuvering because they also have to negotiate their queerness. They translate their experiences from mainstream culture to queer culture, from the mainstream queer culture to their individualized diasporic and queer experiences. Thus, they often experience constant translations. When they fail to translate, they begin to experience slippages. I refer to these slippages as queer slippages because they do not only translate between nation-states, cultures, and languages, but they also translate between mainstream queer culture and diasporic or transnational queer experiences. These slippages can be liberatory because they offer possibilities, but they can also be very challenging for those who are stuck in those slippages.

Article

Spanish Queer Cinema  

Santiago Fouz Hernández

LGBTQ+ lives in Spain have experienced drastic changes since the days of the Franco dictatorship. Then, laws were made to prosecute and incarcerate queers. Now, Spain enjoys one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks to protect LGBTQ+ rights. Spanish cinema, in part, reflects this evolution. Heavy censorship made representation of LGBTQ+ characters almost impossible during Franco, although in the early years crusade films created homosocial scenarios which could be read against the grain. In late Francoism and in the early years of the transition visibility was very rare and would typically involve damaging stereotypes of gay men in degrading comedies or oversexed lesbian vamps in exploitative horror films. After the abolition of censorship in 1978, filmmakers including Ventura Pons, Pedro Almodóvar or Eloy De la Iglesia made considerable headway in normalizing the presence of queer lives and stories on the Spanish screen. Growing (but vulnerable) levels of social acceptance and visibility in the last three decades or so have made LGBTQ+ characters and stories increasingly more visible. The 1990s saw the proliferation of films set in the then emerging “gay villages” in major urban centers, especially Madrid’s Chueca. In the 2000s, legal advances such as same-sex marriage or the right to adopt led to more romantic comedies and some melodramas dealing with these issues (weddings, families, and so on). More recently there is a greater diversification of spaces, characters, and stories, including immigration and trans issues. New generations of queer creators have found considerable domestic and international success in streaming services, with representation becoming much more explicit and noticeably more complex and diverse.

Article

Crip Theory  

Jeffrey Bennett

Over the past two decades, crip theory has evolved into a vibrant field of study for generating new forms of knowledge that scrutinize ableist assumptions of the social world and that strive to incorporate diffuse bodily experiences into otherwise restrictive cultural structures. In doing so, thinkers indebted to crip theory have developed original categories of epistemological consideration, often referred to as “cripistemologies.” As a mode of critique, crip is situated as both a methodology and a sensibility; it is both a tool and an attitude. Three discernable qualities of crip theory as it relates to Communication Studies have tended to emerge in the literature: normative understandings of the body, the contingent materialization of crip practices, and the political character of crip. These touchstones provide a useful orientation for capturing the scope of crip theory in Communication Studies, including in the areas of media representation, public culture, and performance studies.

Article

Multiculturalism, Ethnicity, and Prisons: Russia, Georgia, and Estonia  

Costanza Curro, Judith Pallot, and Olga Zeveleva

Ethnic difference and ethnic identity constructions are examined in prison settings. While a vast academic literature examines prisons as sites of ethnic and racial identity constructions in the United States and Europe, studies of Soviet and post-Soviet prisons have not been included in this scholarly dialogue. Thus, ethnic identity negotiations in prisons in the former Soviet Union are examined. Soviet legacies in policies and practices toward ethnic and religious difference in prison services and the contrasting trajectories away from the Soviet penal model in different jurisdictions after 1991 are considered. Examination of Russia focuses on Muslim prisoners and official and popular responses to moral panic about “prison jihad.” Subsequent analysis turns to elements of Soviet legacies in two other post-Soviet countries: Georgia and Estonia. New trends and reforms unique to each case (including the architectural and spatial organization of incarceration) are identified, the role of prison subcultures is discussed, and analysis is provided as to how these prison systems reflect or refract overall trends of ethnic discrimination and marginalization in each country.

Article

Queer African Studies  

Godfried Asante

The main goals of the rapidly growing interdisciplinary field of queer African studies (QAS) are to (a) resist the continual (post)colonial perpetuation of “African culture” as a homogenous entity devoid of diverse nonnormative genders and sexualities, (b) seek to decenter universal Western epistemological framing of queerness, and (c) reveal the intersectional ways that queer African subjectivities are experienced. Drawing primarily from African/Africanist scholarship and queer theory/studies, QAS seeks to create more fluidities between a network of activists and university-based professors to produce contextually relevant and grounded studies that center African experiences in conversations on gender and sexuality. In particular, scholarship in QAS places Africans’ lived experiences as the starting point to theorize queerness. As an interdisciplinary field of study with scholars from history, anthropology, political science, sociology, legal studies, and African studies, QAS has emerged as an essential theoretical intervention in African studies, queer of color critique, and postcolonial studies. In this way, it opens up spaces to interrogate the theoretical and material concerns of queer theory and African studies beyond its westernized origins and focus. For same-gender-loving, queer, nonbinary, and trans Africans, for whom queer theory’s historical beginnings seem to have written them out of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex+ Euro American history, their emergent contributions to the now institutionally anchored discipline of queer theory, and queer studies in communication, provide a necessary corrective and decolonial endeavor to decentralize the Euro American lens in which queerness tends to be theorized and explored. In this regard, while “queering” Africa is a necessary project for some scholars, “Africanizing” queer studies equally provide the epistemological shifts needed to dislodge the West as the source and referent for queer theorizing. The field of communication studies is diverse in its formations and production of knowledge. However, the different subfields all cohere around the commitment to theorizing the symbolic and material systems of communication that enable individuals to make sense of their lives and their positionalities in both local and transnational contexts. QAS can invariably contribute to the various subfields of communication studies by providing an alternative epistemological framework for analyzing language and meaning, especially as they pertain to gender and sexuality.

Article

Queer Music Practices in the Digital Realm  

Ben De Smet

The relevance of music in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other sexually nonnormative (LGBTQ+) lives and identities has been extensively established and researched. Studies have focused on queer performances, fandom, night life, and other aspects of music to examine the intimate, social, and political relations between music and LGBTQ+ identities. In a time where music culture is produced, distributed, and consumed increasingly in digital spaces, relations between music and LGBTQ+ identities are meaningfully informed by these spaces. As this is a relatively recent development and offline music practices remain profoundly meaningful and relevant, the amount of research on queer digital music practices remains modest. However, a rich body of literature in the fields of popular music studies, queer studies, and new media studies provides an array of inspiring angles and perspectives to shed light on these matters, and this literature can be situated and critically linked. For over half a century, popular music studies have directed their attention to the relations between the social and the musical. Under the impulse of feminist studies, gender identities soon became a prominent focus within popular music studies, and, driven by LGBTQ+ studies, (non-normative) sexual identities soon followed. As popular music studies developed a rich theoretical basis, and feminist and queer studies evolved over the years into more intersectional and queer directions, popular music studies focusing on gender and/or sexuality gradually stepped away from their initial somewhat rigid, binary perspectives in favor of more open, dynamic, and queer perspectives. Following a similar path, early new media studies struggled to avoid simplistic, naïve, or gloomy deterministic analyses of the Internet and new media. As the field evolved, alongside the technologies that form its focus, a more nuanced, mutual, and agency-based approach emerged. Here, too, scholars have introduced queer perspectives and have applied them to research a range of LGBTQ+-related digital phenomena. Today, popular music, sexual identities, and new media have become meaningful aspects of social life, and much more remains to be explored, in particular on the intersection of these fields. A diverse array of queer fan practices, music video practices, and music streaming practices are waiting to be examined. The theory and the tools are there.