Although “memory” has long held a place of distinction within the discipline of Communication, queer memory and its capacity to make powerful interventions into politics, culture, and society represent a significant new enactment of the term. As an area of study, queer memory in Communication draws heavily from the confluence of memory studies and queer theory, both of which arrived at the end of the 20th century. It was also accelerated by the exigency that is HIV/AIDS. While the early aughts saw the inauguration of queer memory studies in Communication, today the topic is a regular focus of queer scholars. In particular, scholars have gravitated to the recovery and circulation of the memories of queer individuals, movements, and institutions; the queering of the study and practice of memory itself; and the reconsideration of the archive through a queer lens.
Thomas R. Dunn
Morgan DiCesare and Charles E. Morris III
Communication scholars have taken up queer archives and their artifacts, often in a Western context, in relation to a range of presumptions that had previously structured (straight) archival engagement. Queer archives and memories have been buried and erased by homophobic histories. Nonetheless, revisitations of these histories seek to differentially unearth queer materials, challenge the terms of erasure, and revise modern conceptions of sexuality that tie it to identity, community, organization, and activism. Queer scholars and activists have rewritten archival standards that had previously functioned to exclude queer life, and they have challenged the terms of “queer” in relation to both past and present. Queer/ing archives thus addresses practices, places, objects, theories, people, and methods that have been articulated to queer pasts in the interest of its influences on queer presents and futures.
Approaching letter writing as a rhetorical practice—as epistolary rhetoric—is not an obvious priority for queer studies in communication. Yet the importance of letters to LGBTQ+ studies of rhetoric have come to the fore in two key ways. In a first approach, following the long-standing use of letters as evidence within interdisciplinary LGBTQ+ histories, letters serve as vital primary sources in histories of LGBTQ+ rhetoric. Letters act as evidence of LGBTQ+ romantic, erotic, and sexual relations within queer studies of public memory. Also, acting as so-called hidden transcripts, letters document other kinds of background information about rhetorical situations. In a second approach LGBTQ+ letters have been analyzed as rhetoric. Receiving the most attention are obviously public and political letters, such as those appearing in movement publications, the rhetoric of public officials and their political campaigns, and activist letter-writing campaigns. Especially in the case of LGBTQ+ life, however, letters often blur the lines between genres that are public and private, political and intimate. As such, even those letters considered most intimate, such as romantic and erotic letters, have been theorized as forms of epistolary rhetoric. Both approaches persist and are in productive tension with each other. Whether scholars underscore how LGBTQ+ letters are rhetoric or simply draw on them as records of information, letters are indispensable sources for the development of LGBTQ+ histories of rhetoric, studies of public memory, and research on communication.
The relationship between queer memory and cinema is a complex one. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) histories have often been and continue to be systematically and deliberately excluded from the “official” memory narratives of nation-states, whether it be within the context of education or other commemorative projects. In order to counter this erasure, activists and artists have worked to preserve and reimagine LGBTQ pasts, creating archives, undertaking historiographic work, and, finally, reimagining queer histories in film and television. While memory remains an underutilized concept in queer studies, authors working in this nascent area of the field have nonetheless examined how the queer past is being commemorated through national, educational, and cinematic technologies of memory. For example, Scott McKinnon’s work has focused on gay male memories of cinema-going, therein highlighting the role of audience studies for the understanding of gay memory. Like McKinnon, Christopher Castiglia and Christopher Reed have also focused on the gay male community, emphasizing the ways in which film and television can combat the effects of conservative and homonormative politics on how the past is remembered. While Castiglia, Reed, and McKinnon’s work focuses on the memories of gay men, a monograph by the author of this article has analyzed how contemporary film and television represent LGBTQ histories, therein interrogating the role these mediums play in the creation of what can be termed specifically queer memory. Furthermore, while monographs dealing with queer memory are only beginning to appear, a number of single case studies and book chapters have focused on specific cinematic works, and have looked at how they present the LGBTQ past, particularly with respect to activist histories. Authors like Dagmar Brunow have also emphasized the link between queer memory and film preservation, exhibition and distribution, therein pointing toward the ways in which practices of curation shape one’s perception of the past. Taken together, these different approaches to queer filmic memory not only illuminate the relevance of cinema to the ways in which LGBTQ people recall and imagine the past of their own community, but also to the unfixed and continually evolving nature of queer memory itself.
Gayatri Spivak is one of the foremost intellectuals of the 20th and 21st centuries. Although a literary critic, her work can be seen as philosophical as it is concerned with how to develop a transnational ethical responsibility to the radical “other,” who cannot be accessed by our discursive (and thus institutionalized) regimes of knowledge. Regarded as a leading postcolonial theorist, Spivak is probably best seen as a postcolonial Marxist feminist theorist, although she herself does not feel comfortable with rigid academic labeling. Her work is significantly influenced by the deconstructionist impulses of Jacques Derrida. Additionally, the influence of Gramsci and Marx is prominent in her thinking. Spivak’s work has consistently called attention to the logics of imperialism that inform texts in the West, including in Western feminist scholarship. Relatedly, she has also written significantly on how the nation, in attempting to represent the entirety of a population, cannot access otherness or radical alterity. This is best seen in her work on the subaltern and in her intervention into the famous Indian group of Subaltern Studies scholars. Other related foci of her work have been on comprehending translation as a transnational cultural politics, and what it means to develop a transnational ethics of literacy.
Phaedra C. Pezzullo
Central to the study of communication and cultural studies is the relationship between nature and culture, not as a rigid dichotomy, but as elements that are coconstituted by each other materially and symbolically. With the rise of ecological awareness, the past three decades has fostered an increase in scholarship addressing environmental matters explicitly, as well as professional organizations mobilizing around the ways this perspective has shaped research, teaching, and praxis. Communication scholars from a range of perspectives have contributed to ongoing conversations about “environment” as a keyword, including at least these seven general approaches: (1) environmental personal identity and interpersonal relationships; (2) environmental organizational communication studies; (3) science, technology, and health communication; (4) public participation in environmental decision-making; (5) green applied media and arts; (6) environmental mass media studies; and (7) environmental rhetoric and cultural studies. Given this rich and expanding disciplinary terrain, identifying the heart of this research is a complicated task. Environmental communication is the study and practice of pragmatic and constitutive modes of expression that define and trouble our ecological relationships within the world. It has been founded as a crisis discipline, one dedicated to addressing some of the greatest challenges of our times and to foregrounding the ethical implications of this orientation. In this article, environmental communication also is characterized fundamentally as a care discipline, one devoted to unearthing human and nonhuman interconnections, interdependence, biodiversity, and system limits. In the United States, environmental discourse has articulated dominant, residual, and emergent attitudes, values, and practices related to—though not limited to—wilderness, preservation, conservation, public health, environmental justice, sustainability, climate science, and resilience. Despite historical reluctance, future possibilities for scholarship on the environment are exigent and expanding, including communication-based research on climate justice, as well as digital environmental communication and archives.