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Race and Ethnicity in the South Asian American Diaspora  

Archana A. Pathak and Shivani Singh

Though not much has been written about the South Asian diaspora and race in the U.S., that which has been written is germinal work. [existing list here] among others are works that serve as the foundations for this essay. As South Asia is a broad category with complex diversity that is further complicated when exploring the diaspora, it is not truly possible to write about it as a homogeneous group. To effectively explore South Asian U.S. diaspora and its relationship to race, one must examine focuses on South Asian racialization vis-à-vis U.S. laws; the South Asian diaspora’s complexities marked by class, caste, religion, region, nation, migratory generation, migrational cohort, and migratory trajectories; and the ways that they are collapsed, erased, and/or misarticulated, to shape the communities’ racial and ethnic trajectory in the United States. There are, however, connective threads among the diaspora. One such thread is the model minority narrative. This narrative is a highly racialized concept, as articulated by several scholars, including S. Bhatia & A. Ram, A. Bhatt, E. Chou & J. Feagin, S. Koshy, Lopez, Mahalingam and A. Pathak have articulated that this is a highly racialized concept. This narrative has been deployed to evade racial identification in the U.S. Black–White spectrum and the ways in which that deployment collapsed in the face of September 11, 2001, this narrative has often been deployed to evade racial identification in the U.S. Black-White race spectrum. It is important to examine how that deployment collapsed in face of September 11, 2001, which was a watershed moment that brought South Asians and Muslims under scrutiny by dominant groups, especially in terms of race. Up against that scrutiny, it is important examine the interplay of the violence against South Asians and Muslims and the violence against Black/African Americans, especially with the emergence of Black Lives Matter, as these moments illuminate how communities of color both navigate how to stand in solidarity with each other, while confronting how anti-Blackness functions within the South Asian diaspora. These conversations about race and racism in the United States are occurring in concert with conversations of casteism, anti-Dalit discrimination, Islamophobia, and rampant violence against minority groups in South Asia. South Asians are simultaneously confronting their own histories around discrimination and violence as they experience the historical trajectory of racial violence in the United States. The South Asian diaspora is at a precipice of change regarding how it names itself in terms of race and ethnicity, how it participates in the sociopolitical landscape of the United States, and how it reckons with its own regional histories and oppressions.

Article

Race and Ethnicity in US Media Content and Effects  

Dana Mastro

Research empirically investigating the influence of media exposure on issues of race and ethnicity has long documented that media use meaningfully impacts the cognitions, emotions, and behaviors of audience members. Certainly, media are only one among a number of factors that contribute to perceptions regarding (and actions toward) one’s own and other racial/ethnic groups. However, theory and empirical evidence consistently demonstrate that the manner in which racial/ethnic groups are characterized in the media can harm or benefit different groups, depending on the nature of these depictions (alongside other social and psychological determinants). Consequently, it is both practically and theoretically important to both identify how and how often different groups are portrayed across the media landscape as well as to assess the ways in which exposure to this content influences media audiences. What quantitative content analytic studies have revealed is that there is variation in depictions of race/ethnicity in US media depending on the group, the medium, and the genre. Thus, whereas Blacks have achieved a degree of parity when it comes to the quantity of depictions on primetime U.S. television, there is variation in the quality depending on the genre. Further, the same advances have not been seen for Blacks in news, in film, and across other media forms and platforms. For Latinos, little has changed across decades when it comes to numeric representation in the media. When it comes to the quality of these portrayals, although some of the more egregious media stereotypes have faded, other long-standing media definitions of Latinos remain persistent. For other racial/ethnic groups, few images are presented. Within these infrequent images, a constrained set of characterizations often predominates, such as spiritual American Indians, tech-savvy Asian Americans, and terrorist Muslims. Exposure to these representations has consequences. Consuming the images and messages associated with racial/ethnic groups in the media contributes to the formation, activation, and application of racial/ethnic cognitions. For racial/ethnic majority group members (i.e., whites), unfavorable media depictions can mean the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes: this can lead to outcomes ranging from unsympathetic policy positions to active or passive harming behaviors. When media characterizations are favorable, more auspicious outcomes emerge. For the racial and ethnic groups being depicted, the effects of exposure again depend on the quantity and quality of portrayals. Negative characterizations prompt shame, anger, and other undesirable emotions and lead to esteem problems. On the other hand, some research indicates that favorable characterizations can serve as a source of group pride, which boosts esteem.

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

Race, Ethnicity, and Cultural Industries  

John Sinclair

The term cultural industries was first coined in the 1980s as a comprehensive means to understand production, distribution, and consumption in the traditional information and entertainment industries—press, radio, and television—and others such as film and recorded music. Closely related industries, such as advertising, marketing, and public relations, were also included. With the subsequent popular embrace and commercialization of the internet, especially the social media platforms, the concept was necessarily expanded to incorporate such “new” media of the digital age. The relevance of these cultural industries for racial and ethnic groups living within the nations of the developed world is significant in at least two contexts: national and transnational. Within the frame of the nation, the issues concern the status of these groups as minorities; and in a global perspective, the groups come to be seen as members of transnational communities, with ties both to a putative nation of origin and to their counterparts in other nations. Most theoretical and research attention has focused on media representations—that is, on how racial and ethnic minorities are portrayed in the content of the cultural industries’ outputs, seen both in a national context, such as the perpetuation of stereotypes in news and television series, and globally, as in film. Yet such a focus on representations tends to position minorities as passive victims of the media. Less common is research in which minorities are viewed as active agents producing their own information and entertainment, as they do, with local, national, and even transnational distribution. Minorities’ own media can range from local community radio to globally available television channels and internet platforms serving vast diasporas, the largest of these being those of non-resident Indians (NRIs) and the Chinese-speaking world (the “Sinosphere”). Each of these provides a case in which the industrial structure of the huge home media market provides the basis for far-flung consumption in all those countries in which members of the respective ethnicities have settled. In situations in which they attain a certain critical mass, such racial and ethnic minorities form a market for the cultural industries and consumer goods industries more broadly. Also to be taken into account is the phenomenon of racial and ethnic minorities having an impact on the cultural industries of the dominant cultures of the nations in which they dwell. The most striking case in that regard is how African American popular music made the profound cross-over from segregated radio stations and live venues to infuse the commercial mainstream of music recording and performance in the United States and, ultimately, the world. Although such creativity is valued, there remains a diversity issue about the actual participation of racial and other minorities in executive, management, and production roles in the major cultural industries.

Article

Race, Gender, Class, and Sexuality  

Patricia S. Parker, Jing Jiang, Courtney L. McCluney, and Verónica Caridad Rabelo

Difference in human experience can be parsed in a variety of ways and it is this parsing that provides the entry point to our discussion of “race,” “gender,” “class,” and “sexuality” as foci of study in the field of organizational communication. Social sorting of difference has material consequences, such as whether individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and nations have equal and equitable access to civil/participative liberties, food, clean water, health, housing, education, and meaningful work. Communication perspectives enable researchers to examine how difference is produced, sustained, and transformed through symbolic means. That is, communication organizes difference. In the field of organizational communication the communicative organizing of race, gender, class, and sexuality is examined in everyday social arrangements, such as corporate and not-for-profit organizations, communities, and other institutional contexts locally and globally. Topics of central concern in organizational communication difference studies are those related to work and the political economy of work, such as labor, conflicts between public and private domains, empowerment, and agency. Research on race, gender, class, and sexuality as communicatively structured difference has progressed in the field of organizational communication from early top-down functionalist approaches, to bottom-up and emergent interpretive/critical/materialist methods, to poststructuralist approaches that deconstruct the very notion of “categories” of difference. More complex intersectional approaches, including queer theory and postcolonial/decolonial theory, are currently gaining traction in the field of organizational communication. These advances signal that difference studies have matured over the last decades as the field moved toward questioning and deconstructing past approaches to knowledge production while finding commensurability across diverse theoretical and research perspectives. These moves open up more possibilities to respond to societal imperatives for understanding difference.

Article

Race, Nationalism, and Transnationalism  

Myra Washington and Kent A. Ono

Race is important within U.S. society and globally. However, race also plays a significant role in communication, and research on its influence cuts across every conceivable area of the field, ranging from rhetoric to organizational communication to film studies to health communication. Race is discussed so much within communication that this article, although expansive, cannot refer to all the important work that has been done. Research on race and communication considers a broad range of racial, multiracial, and ethnic groups. Scholarship also ranges from more applied research to purely theoretical work. Critical and cultural studies work has significantly affected the way scholars think about communication and race. Specifically, concepts developed and explored have provided new lenses through which to understand communication and race. Nationalism, for example is significant. A nation is a collectively shared and discursively constructed identity. In thinking about nations as imagined communities cultural ties (such as language, ethnicity, and shared memories) are part of that identity. For racially marginalized groups, a nation may be a political organization at the same time as it is a collectively identified political group based on racial ethnic ties, ancestry, or simply politics. The concept of transnationalism, on the other hand, relates to cross or “trans” national relations, ties, and processes, processes that globalization has accelerated and strengthened, such as the movement of capital, media, and people which in turn has shaped local happenings and vice versa. When coupled with nationalism and transnationalism, race plays a mediating role, helping to govern and regulate people, relationships, and sometimes the very reason for relationships existing.

Article

Ranajit Guha’s Historiography of Colonial India  

Vasant Kaiwar

Ranajit Guha is one of the best-known and most innovative historians of modern India. The bulk of his best-known work was published between 1981 and 2002. The main historiographical issues that appear in his work include (a) the colonial appropriation of the Indian past and its representation as a “highly interesting portion of British history,” which together with the force of colonial conquest added up in Guha’s terminology to a colonial expropriation of Indian history; (b) the complicity of all branches of colonialist knowledge in the fact or force of conquest; (c) British rule in India as a “dominance without hegemony,” in which the moment of coercion outweighed the moment of persuasion by contrast with western Europe; (d) an Indian historiography of India that attempts to redress the expropriation of Indian history and make “the Indian people, constituted as a nation, the subject of their own history”; (e) a subaltern historiography that identifies the limitations of the mainstream Indian historiography of India and the need to pay attention to the “neglected dimension of subaltern autonomy in action, consciousness and culture,” the “contribution made by the people on their own”; and (f) a historiography that goes beyond “statism” to the everyday being-in-the-world of ordinary people, countering the pretensions of the “prose of world-history” with the “prose of the world.” These issues recur in various forms and combinations in Guha’s books and essays, notably the ones he contributed to Subaltern Studies, an edited series that he launched in 1982. The theoretical influences on Guha’s work are not limited to Marxism and its many offshoots. Guha used the concept of “subaltern” to signify anyone in India who did not belong to the “elite” and therefore included peasants, workers, impoverished landlords, and others whose behavior exhibited a combination of defiance and deference to the elite. It has many points of contact with Gramsci’s work. Guha drew freely on the philosophy of Hegel and Heidegger, Bengali literature, notably the works of Rabindranath Tagore, not to mention semiotics, linguistics, structuralism, and poststructuralism, the objective being not theoretical monism or purity but the mobilization of a wide range of references to shed light on history’s dark corners. The eclectic richness, if not elusiveness, of the concept of “subaltern” and Guha’s deployment of it in various forms to speak to caste, class, and gender issues has perhaps inspired its wider diffusion for rethinking the history of popular consciousness and mobilization in fields as far apart as Asian, African, and Latin American history.

Article

Raymond Williams and Communication Studies  

Jim McGuigan

Raymond Williams (1921–1988) is often cited as one of the founders of the interdisciplinary field of education and research known as cultural studies (CS). To be more specific, he formulated an influential methodology that he named “cultural materialism,” which has an affinity with CS but is a distinctive perspective in its own right. Williams’s most celebrated book, Culture and Society 1780–1950 (1958), traced British Romanticism’s critical response to the Industrial Revolution and successive debates on social and cultural change. At the time of publication, Williams declared “culture” to be “ordinary,” thereby challenging the cultural elitism of literary study and opening up questions concerning mass-popular culture. However, Williams distanced himself from the populist study of communications and culture that became fashionable in the 1980s. His transition from literary criticism and history to sociological commentary and speculation on future prospects was signaled further by his 1961 sequel to Culture and Society, The Long Revolution. Williams challenged the behaviorism of American-originated communication studies and drew upon European critical theories in his own work. His academic specialism was dramatic form, which he studied historically and related to theatrical and audiovisual trends in modern drama. His perspective of cultural materialism broke entirely with idealist approaches to the arts and communications media. However, he was firmly opposed to technologically determinist explanations of the emergence of new media and the dynamics of social change, On technical innovation, he emphasized the role of intentionality, the materiality of discourse, and the social conditions of cultural production and circulation. His key concepts include selective tradition, structure of feeling, and mobile privatization. Williams later coined the term “Plan X” to refer to the rise of military recklessness and unregulated “free-market” political economy and communications during the late 20th century. His final non-fiction book (he also wrote novels), Towards 2000 (1985), has been updated to take account of developments in culture, society, and the environment over the past 30 years.

Article

Refugee and Mediated Lives  

Kevin Smets, Giacomo Toffano, and Silvia Almenara-Niebla

The lives of refugees are highly mediated. Media and technologies affect the daily experiences and trajectories of refugees in numerous ways while on the move as well as while settling into new homelands. Mediation processes also inform broader societal and political meanings that are assigned to refugees, as the figure of “the refugee” is constantly reshaped through processes of representation. Although these processes are much older, the research on refugees and mediation has accelerated especially since 2015. The literature focuses on three key areas: (a) refugees’ media uses and (dis)connectivity; (b) the role of media technologies in refugees’ everyday lives; and (c) media representations and narratives. Across these three areas, several important critiques have been formulated. These include criticisms of essentialist understandings of “the refugee” as well as Eurocentric and technocentric tendencies in the literature. A response to these criticisms might lay in a more historicized, contextualized, and situated approach to the mediated lives of refugees.

Article

Representations of Native Americans in the Mass Media  

Casey Ryan Kelly

The historical construction of Indian in American popular culture poses serious challenges for conducting research about representations of indigenous culture, identity, and politics. Mass-mediated representation deserves specific attention, as popular entertainment has been one of the most significant historic battlegrounds over the status of indigenous identity in American culture. Representations of American Indians have been reworked and negotiated as they have circulated through a variety of mediums, including theatrical performances, silent films, Westerns, prime time television, independent films, advertising, sports culture, and so on. Beginning with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope, introduced the at the 1893 Chicago Columbian World’s Exposition, American mass entertainment has been preoccupied with the drama of westward expansion and the noble savage of the American frontier. Later, the films of John Ford developed the Hollywood image of the screen savage. Film continued to address the topic of American Indians through the lens of the 1960’s and 1970’s counterculture, 1980’s imperial nostalgia, 1990s sympathy and revisionism, and, in the 21st century, through native filmmaker’s reclamation of indigenous visual sovereignty. Not all media are uniform in their portrayals. The televisual Indian evolved quite differently than her/his counterpart in film. At some points, television has been even more progressive in its portrayals of American Indian characters, more willing to feature native actors and storylines than mainstream Hollywood film. Besides film and television, sports and advertising have had the most influence on popular conceptions of American Indians. While commodified images of American Indians are ubiquitous in popular culture, sport culture (mascots) has become the most popular site where Indian imagery is used to generate a profit. Struggles over everything from the moving image to sports mascots demonstrate the importance of studying the power of the image, particularly in the context of American settler colonialism.

Article

Rethinking Development Communication  

Bhavya Chitranshi and Anup Dhar

Here we, on the one hand, revisit the standard operating procedure in development strategies—“communication (technologies) for development”—and move instead to “development for facilitating communication” through exploring questions such as: Does communication facilitate development? Or does development facilitate communication? Which kind of communication can engender development? Which kind of development can ensure communication with the “margins”? We thus tighten and deepen the connection between the nature of development and the nature of communication; in the process we see communication for development and development for communication as mutually constitutive. We also invoke the question of praxis in three forms: (a) by exploring the connection between praxis and communication and seeing communication as not just a technique but as a question of praxis—where theories of communication and practices of communication are in a relationship, (b) by seeing developmental praxis as intimately tied to the question of communication, and (c) by letting praxis emerge as the “middle term” or the connecting link between development and communication. We deconstruct three discourses of development: the growth-centric discourse, those offering “developmental alternatives” (like human developmental perspectives), and those presenting “alternatives to development” (like postdevelopmentalist positions focused on “third world” or the “local,” etc.), to move to a fourth discourse that problematizes both modernism and capitalism, as it opens up the discourses of communication (modernist, dependency theory, participatory approach, etc.) for inquiry. We attempt to go beyond the modernist and capitalist understandings of development to introduce the logic-language-ethos of “world of the third” as against third world-ist imaginations. This helps us rethink the praxis of communication in creating, on the one hand, community- or social movements–driven developmental futures and, on the other, engendering post-Orientalist and postcapitalist forms of life in local or world of the third contexts. We also emphasize the need to reflect on the question of the “subject” (as also psychoanalytic conceptualizations of the “psyche”) and the need to learn to “work through” “groups” in order to usher in depth and nuance in the praxis of development communication.

Article

Rhetorical Construction of Bodies  

Davi Johnson Thornton

Communication studies identifies bodies as both objects of communication and producers (or sites) of communication. Communication about bodies—for example, gendered bodies, disabled bodies, obese bodies, and surgically modified bodies—influences bodies at the physical, material level by determining how they are treated in social interactions, in medical settings, and in public institutions. Communication about bodies also forges cultural consensus about what types of bodies fit in particular roles and settings. In addition to analyzing the stakes of communication about bodies, communication studies identifies bodies as communicating forces that cannot be accounted for by standards of reason, meaning, and decorum. Bodies are physical, material, affective beings that communicate because of, not in spite of, their messy, ineffable status. Moreover, communication is an embodied process that involves a range of material supports, including human bodies, technological bodies, and other nonhuman physical and biological bodies. Investigating bodies as communicating forces compels an understanding of communication that is not exclusively rational, meaning-oriented, and nonviolent.

Article

Rhetorical Contexts of Colonization and Decolonization  

Tiara R. Na'puti

Colonization and decolonization continue to be debated both in terms of their meaning and their efficacy in Communication Studies scholarship and across related fields of inquiry. Colonization is part of ongoing processes of subjugation that are linked to other forms of oppression including labor, occupation, and resource extraction. Inquiries about processes of colonization also involve examining corresponding efforts in decolonization processes. Decolonization entails an effort to critically reflect on colonialism and its impact upon colonized people and environments, it involves processes entangled with issues of sovereignty, self-determination, and territory, and so on. Indigenous Studies scholarship helps to foreground Indigeneity as a place from which broader inquiries on colonization and decolonization may be launched. The legitimacy of colonialism and its communicative dimensions has been a concern for scholars. Within the field of Communication, it notes particular contexts of colonization inquiry that overlap across topics and various areas of the discipline. Research on colonialism and its influence spans throughout rhetorical theory and critical/cultural studies to organizational communication and global communication. This scholarship has employed expansive methodologies from applied research to theoretical work and considered a wide range of issues from domestic, international, and transnational perspectives. The study of these powerful structures in rhetoric draws on interdisciplinary fields and raises challenges to intellectual traditions of the West, which have maintained the rhetoric canon. Rhetorical scholars call for the need to examine artifacts that exist at the “margins” and “outside” the imperial centers. They have theorized methods of rhetorical analysis that attend to the colonial and decolonial elements of discourse, power, and identity.

Article

Rhetorical Field Methods/Rhetorical Ethnography  

Roberta Chevrette, Jenna Hanchey, Michael Lechuga, Aaron Hess, and Michael K. Middleton

Rhetorical scholars have recently taken up rhetorical field methods, rhetorical ethnography, and other participatory methods to augment textual approaches. Following critical rhetoric, field researchers engage emplaced and embodied perspectives, thereby gaining an immediate understanding of rhetoric and its effects on audiences. Rhetorical field methods/ethnography challenge key assumptions and ethics about rhetorical research, including conceptions of text, context, the critic, the rhetor, and audiences. Although antecedent work at this intersection exists, only recently have rhetorical scholars given full attention to how fieldwork orientations and participatory approaches challenge the project of rhetoric. Rhetorical field methods/ethnography have been applied in a wide array of topic areas, including social movement research, public memory, environmental/ecological rhetoric, digital rhetoric, international contexts, and audience studies. Tensions that have arisen as a consequence of taking up participatory perspectives include whether such research engages in critical/cultural appropriation or can effectively be conducted within groups that researchers ideologically oppose. Moreover, incorporating participant perspectives, non-textual elements, and affective considerations opens rhetoric to forms of expression that span well beyond traditional, logos-centered criticism. Such a move may dilute rhetorical research by flattening expression, making nearly all elements of human life open for critical consideration. Finally, rhetorical field methods/ethnography have emerged in a larger context of disciplinary reflexivity, with many questioning rhetoric’s racist and colonial histories and legacies. To this end, we offer anti-colonial landmarks, orienting toward multidimensionality, liquidity, queering, and community, while disorienting from citizenship. These landmarks trouble rhetoric’s legacies, and invite scholars to engage more deeply with de/colonial possibilities of rhetorical fieldwork.

Article

Rhetoric and Critical Cultural Studies  

John M. Sloop

While each term denoting the area of “Rhetoric and Critical/Cultural Studies” denotes a broad area of academic study on its own, there are numerous to contain or capture a specific area of study. Regardless of how it gets cordoned off, the area is defined by similar themes. In one sense, the area now going under this banner begins with the march of British cultural studies (especially, the so-called Birmingham School under Stuart Hall’s leadership) into the U.S. academic discussion that began in the 1970s. As this particular study of culture found its way into communication studies departments across the country, many scholars emerging from their graduate programs were shaping the area of rhetoric and critical/cultural scholars in the very act of researching the ways meanings/ideology were constrained and enabled by the operation of the entire circuit of meaning (i.e., production, consumption, representation, identity, and regulation). As the critical/culture study of rhetoric and communication has grown, several themes have emerged: (a) the study of ideological and discursive constraints (often linked to a critique of neoliberalism); (b) the study of media ecology and its way of shaping meaning; (c) studies focusing on reception/agency/resistance; (d) studies concerning materialism and the ways communication is altered by the political economy; (e) studies based in performativity; and (f) studies based in affect theory. In general, regardless of the orientation, these studies are concerned with issues of power and action around intersectional axes such as gender, race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, class, and nationality.

Article

Rhetoric and Social Movements  

Christina R. Foust and Raisa Alvarado

What moves the social? And what is rhetoric’s relationship to social movement? Since 1950, scholars studying the art of public persuasion have offered different answers to these questions. Early approaches to social movements defined them as out-groups that made use of persuasion to achieve goals and meet persistent challenges. However, protest tactics that flaunted the body and spectacle (e.g., 1960s-era dissent) challenged early emphasis on social movements as nouns or “things” that used rhetoric. Influenced by intersectional feminist theories and movements that featured identity transformations (along with ending oppression) as political, rhetoric scholars began to view “a social movement” as an outcome or effect of rhetoric. Scholars treated movements as “fictions,” identifying the ways in which these collective subjects did not empirically exist—but were nonetheless significant, as people came to invest their identities and desires for a new order into social movements. Scholars argued that people manifested “a social movement’s” presence by identifying themselves as representatives of it. More recently, though, rhetoric scholars emphasize what is moving in the social, by following the circulation of rhetoric across nodes and pathways in networks, as well as bodies in protest. Inspired by social media activism, as well as theories of performance and the body, scholars concentrate on how symbolic action (or the affects it helps create) interrupts business as usual in everyday life. To study rhetoric and social movement is to study how dissent from poor and working-class people, women, people of color, LGBTQ activists, the disabled, immigrants, and other non-normative, incongruous voices and bodies coalesce in myriad ways, helping move humanity along the long arc of the moral universe that bends toward justice.

Article

Sara Ahmed’s Critical Phenomenology of Communication  

Rachel Stonecipher

Sara Ahmed is a feminist philosopher specializing in how the cultural politics of language use and discourse mediate social and embodied encounters with difference. She has published field-shaping contributions to queer and feminist theory, critical race and postcolonial theory, affect and emotion studies, and phenomenology. Since the publication of Differences that Matter: Feminist Theory and Postmodernism in 1998, her work has epitomized the value of contemporary feminist cultural studies to speak to and against the masculinist traditions of continental philosophy. Unequivocally inserting feminist politics into the rarified air of academic theory, it crosses the sexist boundary which corrals feminist thought into the category of “studies” while opposing it to male-authored philosophy—the latter automatically authorized to speak on the social and material “Real.” In doing so, her work sits squarely within discourse-analytical traditions that seek to expose how various epistemic scenes – activism, the media, and academia, to name a few -- sediment false authority on such issues as happiness, utility, and the good. Moreover, in contesting New Materialism’s search for some monist “matter” beneath experience, she traces how those linguistic moves impose insidiously singular concepts of what social “reality” is, and how it unfolds, for real people. As a field, communication studies concerns itself centrally with matters of social influence, scale, and power, such as the electoral effects of political speech, or the ability of a message to morph as it reaches new audiences. Turning a critical eye upon the (re)production of cultural norms and social structure through interpersonal and institutional encounters, Ahmed’s oeuvre explores the discursive logics and speech acts that sediment or transform the social meanings of race, gender, and other differences.

Article

Sexual Media Content and Effects  

Lucretia Monique Ward, Sarah E. Erickson, Julia R. Lippman, and Soraya Giaccardi

Major findings concerning the nature and impact of sexual content in mainstream entertainment media, with a focus on empirical studies and content analyses (published from 2000 to 2015) indicate that sexual content is prevalent in mainstream media, appearing in approximately 85% of films and 82% of television programs. On television, sexual content varies greatly by genre, sexual talk is more prevalent that depictions of sexual activity, and references to sexual risks and responsibilities are minimal. Sexual imagery is also prevalent in music videos, where the most frequent portrayals are of sexual and suggestive dance, sexual objectification, and self-touching. Women and female artists are more often shown in sexual ways than men and male artists. This trend extends to video games, where women are underrepresented, and, when present, are much more likely than men to be shown with a sexualized appearance or in sexually revealing clothing. Drawing primarily on the premises of cultivation theory and social cognitive theory, researchers have explored how exposure to this content contributes to the sexual attitudes and behaviors of consumers. In terms of attitudes, heavier media exposure is associated with holding more positive attitudes toward uncommitted sexual exploration; stronger support of gender-related sexual roles, adversarial sexual beliefs, and the sexual double standard; and increased estimates of peers’ sexual behavior. Evidence is sparser for a causal link between media use and attitudes toward uncommitted sexual exploration. In terms of sexual behavior, cross-sectional surveys have found that frequent exposure to sexual media content is associated with increased reports of intentions to have sex, light sexual behavior (kissing, holding hands), and heavy sexual behavior, such as intercourse. Studies have also found that heavier exposure to sexual content predicts earlier or heavier sexual activity one year later. Several factors have been shown to moderate these connections, including the race and gender of the viewer and level of parental mediation. Sexually explicit material or pornography has become widely accessible, especially on the Internet. Among both adolescents and adults, more frequent pornography consumption has been associated with holding more permissive sexual attitudes, such as a greater acceptance of extramarital and casual sex; with gender-specific attitudes, including greater support of traditional sexual roles and adversarial sexual beliefs; and with a greater likelihood of perpetrating sexual coercion, harassment, and aggression. Evidence also connects pornography consumption to individual sexual behavior, especially among adults. Among adults, pornography use is linked to earlier coital initiation, more frequent participation in specific sexual activities, participation in casual sex, and having a higher number of sexual partners; it has not been consistently linked to condom use.

Article

Sex Work, Queer Economic Justice, and Communicative Ethics  

Carly Leilani Fabian

There are various academic and activist perspectives on sex work as an area of inquiry at the intersection of queer, feminist, and class politics. Exploring this topic with an eye toward a communicative ethic helps to foreground consent and mutuality when considering some of the major theoretical topics connected with sex work. A historiography of the sex wars of the 1970s and 1980s illuminates how public discussions about feminism and sexuality were influenced by the emergence of pornography as a major media force. Taking seriously the refrain “sex work is work,” how labor can be a useful analytic for connecting sex work to the broader economy is considered, while also pointing to the limits of categories such as “sex,” “work,” and “labor.” Situating sex work in the contemporary context of neoliberal and paternalistic rationalities of the state, how advocates for sex workers are caught in a communicative double bind is discussed. Taking into account shared commitments among scholars of sex work in the communication discipline, alternatives to criminalization provide scholars and activists a place to start in imagining a future that is safer for queer bodies and practices.

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Slavoj Žižek and Communication Studies  

Robert McDonald

Slavoj Žižek stands as one of the most influential contemporary philosophical minds, stretching across a wide variety of fields: not just communication and critical/cultural studies, but critical theory, theology, film, popular culture, political theory, aesthetics, and continental theory. He has been the subject (and object) of several documentaries, become the source of a “human megaphone” during Occupy Wall Street, and become, while still living, the subject of his own academic journal (the International Journal of Žižek Studies). Žižek’s theoretical claim to fame, aside from his actual claim to fame as a minor “celebrity philosopher,” is that he weaves together innovative interpretations of G. W. F. Hegel, Karl Marx, and Jacques Lacan to comment on a variety of subjects, from quantum physics to Alfred Hitchcock films to CIA torture sites. While there are as many “Žižeks” as there are philosophical problem-spaces, Žižek proposes an essential unity within his project; in his work, the triad Hegel-Marx-Lacan holds together like a Brunnian link—each link in the chain is essential for his project to function. Further, his intentionally provocative work acts as a counterweight to what he views as the dominant trends of philosophy and political theory since the 1980s—postmodernism, anti-foundationalism, deconstruction, vitalism, ethics, and, more recently, speculative realism and object-oriented ontology.