The emerging subfield of queer communication pedagogy (QCP) marks an educative praxis that centers the liberation of queer and trans subjects and, specifically, those who are most violently impacted by racist cisheterosexism in the form of carceral logics and policing. Intersectional articulations of sex, gender, and sexual difference are disciplined and literally policed both in and out of the communication classroom. Course design, for instance, provides a disciplinary means for justifying the violent repression of sex, gender, and sexual difference in the classroom through activities that insist on a compulsory framing of gender in binary terms. Or, policing can emerge in the racist cisheterosexist pedagogue’s gaze that communicatively constitutes “incivility” out of racialized sex, gender, and sexual difference; this is evidenced in the violent policing of queer and trans students of color beginning with the school-to-prison pipeline and on into higher education settings where educators are empowered to call on campus police forces to remedy what they perceive as “unruly”—queer—students. QCP reflects histories comprising both critical communication pedagogy (CCP) and queer pedagogy. CCP, itself informed by critical pedagogy, is committed to liberatory educative ends driven by praxiological means derived of lived experience in historical context. That is, critical pedagogy takes as a point of departure lived experience as a means of resisting intersectional oppression and, in turn, enacting progressive social change. CCP strives toward these liberatory goals through communicative means, specifically dialogic encounters between/with/as students-and/as-teachers. Conversely, queer pedagogy refers to a destabilization of pedagogical presumption implicating the racist cisheteronormative foundation informing carceral-centered knowledge production and educative engagement. In turn, queer pedagogy labors toward the abolition of carcerality including the prison industrial complex and police state. Taken together, QCP marks an activist-oriented educative praxis that labors toward liberation of queer and trans subjects through the abolition of racist cisheterosexist carcerality.
Deanna L. Fassett and C. Kyle Rudick
Critical communication pedagogy (CCP) emerged from an interdisciplinary exploration of the relationships between communication and instruction that draws from and extends critical theory. This critical turn has influenced how the communication studies discipline defines and practices communication education (i.e., learning in communication or how best to teach communication) and instructional communication (i.e., communication in learning, or how communication functions to diminish or support learning across a broad array of contexts), from the one-on-one tutoring session to training and development, and beyond. This critical turn in communication and instruction is characterized by 10 commitments of critical communication pedagogy refigured here along three themes: (1) communication is constitutive, (2) social justice is a process, and (3) the classroom is a site of activism and interpersonal justice. Critical communication pedagogy is defined by three primary criticisms: (1) CCP focuses on postmodern and constitutive philosophies of communication to the detriment of critical theory, (2) CCP focuses too much on in-class communication to the detriment of activist learning, and (3) CCP is over-reliant on autoethnographic and performative methodologies. An expanded, reinvigorated, and radicalized critical communication pedagogy for communication studies scholars entails greater attention to and extension of critical theory; sustained engagement in and with activism (both within and beyond the classroom); and a more robust engagement of diverse methods of data collection and analysis. Critical communication pedagogy scholarship as militant hope is more relevant than ever in the post-Trump era, signaling a way for communication scholars to cultivate ethics of equity and justice at all levels of education.
Sean Johnson Andrews
The Birmingham School of Cultural Studies refers to the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), which was housed at Birmingham University from 1964 to 2002. The shorthand “Birmingham School” refers to a site, a moment, a movement, and a method. Emerging alongside other intellectual and activist currents in the British New Left, it posed a radical democratic alternative to traditional higher education and the available methods and methodologies of communication and media studies. Centre researchers expanded the possible objects worthy of critical academic research—arguing it was imperative that we look at the products of the mass media or so-called popular arts—as well as the means through which those objects and their potential effects were understood. Central to the methodological approach espoused by CCCS scholars is the need to look at the way the meanings and values of cultural texts are articulated to and through a “cultural circuit”: A text emerges from a context, and its meanings are contingent on the frameworks of ideology and experience of both that context and audiences that read it. Under the leadership of Stuart Hall, and then Richard Johnson, the CCCS developed pathbreaking research into cultural politics more generally, looking at the way identities and subjectivity were developed, reinforced, and lived, and intersecting with emergent theories from and research in postcolonialism, poststructuralism, nationalism, feminism, gender and sexuality studies, science and technology studies, studies of race and ethnicity, and a variety of other subfields in the humanities and social sciences. Despite the closure of the Centre, these tendencies and emphases remain important, especially to the many academic monographs, journals, and conferences in cultural studies each year.
For Paulo Freire, the Brazilian activist educator and philosopher of education, communication is at the heart of pedagogy, teaching, and learning through praxis that involves reflection and action ultimately to address social injustice and dehumanization. Dialogue is at the center of his pedagogical approach, as means to individuation and humanization. Dialogue assumes participants to be on an equal level even in the presence of difference. In his literacy work, Freire required teacher-facilitators to co-investigate the most important themes in the lives of students. These themes were codified into pictures and brought to dialogue that animated the re-creation of knowledge of participants’ world and themselves in it and, in the process of learning how to read, achieving knowledge of the word. The objective of this approach was not to reproduce “banking” education but to promote revolutionary emancipation of individual and society. Freire developed his work in the context of life in the state of Pernambuco, in the challenging circumstances—socially, historically, and geographically—of the Brazilian Northeast Region. He experienced poverty and hunger and was lucky in his access to education thanks to the efforts of his mother. He rose through the ranks of civil service, serving at state and national levels, addressing the literacy and emancipatory needs of the population, particularly adults in rural areas. Exiled during the military dictatorship in Brazil, Freire lived in Chile, the United States, and Switzerland, where he worked on education projects worldwide.
Education in society occurs across both formal and informal spheres of communication exchange. It extends from schools to diverse cultural apparatuses such as the mainstream media, alternative screen cultures, the Internet, and other spaces actively involved in the construction of knowledge, values, modes of identification, and agency itself. The modern era is shaped by a public pedagogy rooted in neoliberal capitalism that embraces consumer culture as the primary mechanism through which to express personal agency and identity. Produced and circulated through a depoliticizing machinery of fear and consumption, the cultural focus on the pursuit of individual desires rather than public responsibilities has led to a loss of public memory, democratic dissent, and political identity. As the public sphere collapses into the realm of the private, the bonds of mutual dependence have been shredded along with the public spheres that make such bonds possible. Freedom is reduced to a private matter divorced from the obligations of social life and politics only lives in the immediate. The personal has become the only sphere of politics that remains. The rise of the selfie as a mode of public discourse and self-display demands critical scrutiny in terms of how it is symptomatic of the widespread shift toward market-driven values and a surveillance culture, increasingly facilitated by ubiquitous, commercial forms of digital technology and social media. Far from harmless, the unexamined “selfie” can be viewed as an example of how predatory technology-based capitalism socializes people in a way that encourages not only narcissism and anti-social indifference, but active participation in a larger authoritarian culture defined by a rejection of social bonds and cruelty toward others. As with other forms of cultural and self-expression, the selfie—when placed in alternative, collective frameworks—can also become a tool for engaging in struggles over meaning. Possibilities for social change that effectively challenges growing inequality, atomization, and injustice under neoliberalism can only emerge from the creation of new, broad-ranging sites of pedagogy capable of building new political communities and drawing attention to anti-democratic structures throughout the broader society.
Annamária Neag, Çiğdem Bozdağ, and Koen Leurs
Since the 1980s, media literacy has been a central topic in the field of communication, media, and education studies as a result of a parallel growth of polarization between societal groups and use of digital technologies for self-representation. In this article, we present a brief overview of the evolvement of media literacy and other competing terms and discuss emerging approaches that incorporate issues related to the politics of difference, representations and voice of marginalised groups. Although existing concepts and projects focus on singular aspects such as representation and media production by minorities, they do not commonly integrate concerns of diversity and media literacy education from a critical and holistic perspective. Building on critical pedagogy, feminist and decolonial theory, there is a need for a more inclusive and intersectional approach to media literacy education. Such an approach should focus not only on marginalized groups but also on society as a whole, it should advocate a critical understanding of the mediated construction of reality and offer grounds to successfully challenge dominant representations, and it should equip people with the skills not only to participate and raise their own voices but also to pay more attention to practices of listening to work toward a level playing field between mainstream and marginalized groups.