Critical perspectives toward culture and communication address how power and macro historical, institutional, and economic structures shape and constrain interpersonal, intergroup, and mediated communication. Scholars critique forms of domination and examine how oppressed communities resist and subvert power structures to identify possibilities for change and emancipation; some strive to become public intellectuals engaged in activism in solidarity with disadvantaged communities. Analyses uncover multiplicity and fluidity of meanings and dislodge essentialist and ideological closures in interactions and discourses. This approach has been shaped by critical theory of the Frankfurt School, European poststructural and critical theories, British cultural studies, and postcolonial theories. Critical scholarship is diverse, interdisciplinary, and multimethodological. Critical scholars are self-reflexive of their own social positioning in relation to research topics and participants. Culture, the key concept, is conceptualized as a site of multiple meanings and differences that are loci of power struggles and contestations amidst daily practices and power structures. Culture is a site of mixing and fusions across borders as groups struggling for power attempt to restrict meanings, categories, and practices. Identity and its categories, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc., have multiple and shifting meanings that are nevertheless contingently fixed within structures supporting domination of some groups. Concepts such as diaspora, hybridity, and intersectionality address indeterminacy of belonging. Other main concepts include difference, articulation, ideology, hegemony, interpellation, and articulation.
Critical Perspectives Toward Cultural and Communication Research
Joshua F. Hoops and Jolanta A. Drzewiecka
The Birmingham School of Cultural Studies
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.
Becky R. Ford
The term political correctness (PC) has been used since the 1930s in Maoist China, where it meant fall in line with the Communist Party’s politics. In the 1980s, there was a revival of the use of the term. For some, PC now primes the prohibition of speech that is seen as derogatory toward historically marginalized groups, and well as the encouragement of more multicultural perspectives. Others see PC in a pejorative sense, thinking of liberal extremism. Since the start of the liberal PC movement in the 1980s, people ranging from sensationalist conservative politicians to serious and thoughtful academics have raised concerns about the negative consequences of PC. Those in support of PC claim that using more inclusive language representing more diverse voices in college classrooms helps improve the lives of members of marginalized groups. On the other hand, many professors and university health professionals have raised concerns that PC culture is too extreme, and the norms are preventing students from developing critical thinking skills. Despite the fact that the debate has being going on for nearly 30 years, little has been resolved. Though many have written their opinions of PC, few have theorized about why it exists or how it functions. Furthermore, although empirical research has peripherally examined the effects of some PC-related issues, very little empirical research has explicitly tested the effects of PC. In order to encourage further theorizing and empirical research about this topic, a short history of the PC movement is presented, a background on social norms and ideology helps provide useful insight for understanding PC, and the small amount of empirical research that explicitly examines PC, such as research on language and the pressure to appear PC, is presented to help with ideas for future research.
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.
Organizations, Power, and Resistance
Dennis K. Mumby
In the last 30 years or so, the relationship between power and resistance has been theorized as a defining feature of organizations and organizing. While there is little consensus around its definition, a useful starting point for thinking about the organization–power–resistance relationship is to view organizations as political sites of contestation where various stakeholder groups compete for resources—economic, political, and symbolic. Much of the research on power, resistance, and organizations has emerged out of a critical tradition that draws on numerous theoretical and philosophical threads, including Marxism, neo-Marxism, critical theory, poststructuralism, and feminism. Common to these threads are various efforts to link power and resistance to issues of meaning, identity, and discourse processes. In this sense—and particularly in the last 30 years—there have been multiple efforts to theorize power as intimately connected to communication. This connection has become particularly important with the shift from Fordist (bureaucratic, hierarchical, centralized, deskilled) organizational forms to post-Fordist (flexible, flat, dispersed, knowledge-based) organizations that place a premium on decentralized, “consensual” forms of power and control (as opposed to the coercive methods of Fordist regimes). Exploring communicative conceptions of power and resistance shows how these phenomena are closely tied to the regulation of meaning and identities in the contemporary workplace.
Liberalism and Neoliberalism
Sean Phelan and Simon Dawes
Neither liberalism nor neoliberalism can be grasped coherently without talking about capitalism and democracy. If liberalism names the political ideology aligned to the historical emergence of “free market” capitalism and Western-style representative democracy, neoliberalism signifies a particular regime of liberalism, capitalism, and democracy that has been globalized since the 1970s, in the form of an active state promotion of market and competition principles that critics see as antithetical to democracy. Liberalism also can be described as the hegemonic common sense of communication research. The political philosophy and ideology that shaped the establishment and trajectory of American democracy was inscribed in the US-foundations of the field. It was internalized in a teaching curriculum—the vaunted liberal arts degree—that inculcated the liberal reflexes of the professions and institutions that employed communication graduates. However, for critical communication scholars—all the way back to the Frankfurt School—liberalism has functioned as an exemplary ideological antagonist: a signifier of political values inseparable from the workings and class dynamics of the capitalist system. This interrogatory view of liberalism underpinned the historical distinction between critical and administrative or empirical communication research; the former signified a desire to interrogate the presuppositions of a liberal democratic capitalist social order that were essentially taken for granted by the latter. It also textured the emergence of British cultural studies in the 1970s and 1980s, which questioned the pluralist assumptions and motifs of liberal media and journalism cultures. In contrast, neoliberalism is sometimes constructed as an ideological antagonist of both critical theorists and progressive liberal identities. Marxist scholars conceptualize neoliberalism as a particular historical regime of capitalism, more corrosive and iniquitous than the “embedded liberalism” of the post-war era in Europe and the United States. Similarly, socially progressive liberals criticize neoliberalism for subordinating public life to market forces and for displacing the welfare state commitments of the Keynesian era. Some on the political left collapse the distinction between liberalism and neoliberalism, seeing them as simply two ways of ideologically justifying capitalist rule. Conversely, some of those most likely to be identified as neoliberals are motivated by a deep hostility to political liberals, particularly in right-wing political discourses where liberal operates as code for left-liberal, even socialist, values that are opposed to a free market identity. Any discussion of the relationship between liberalism and neoliberalism must therefore start by recognizing the contested and nebulous nature of both categories, and their variegated use as signifiers of political identification and disidentification. This article begins by outlining some of the philosophical foundations of liberal thought, highlighting the historical tensions between discourses that privilege economic freedom and those that stress the social character of liberalism. The next section considers different critical perspectives on liberalism, including discussions of the limitations of the account of free speech and press freedom inherited from 19th century liberals. Neoliberalism’s status is examined as a distinct political project that reshaped Western and global political economy from the 1970s onwards, but which had its intellectual origins in 1920s and 1930s debates about the nature of liberalism and its antagonistic relationship with socialism. Following that is an overview of research on neoliberalism and media, where, as in other fields, neoliberalism is commonly invoked as a name for the dominant ideology and social formation. The penultimate section identifies the outlines of a future research program for critical communication researchers, based on critical interrogation of the relationship between neoliberalism and liberalism. The article ends with an overview of further reading suggestions for those interested in making their own contributions to the field. The nature of the topic necessitates an interdisciplinary register that moves between general reflections on liberalism and neoliberalism to questions of particular interest to communication, media, and journalism researchers. There is no attempt to refer to all the communication research of relevance to our topic; liberalism’s hegemonic status would make that an impossible task. Liberal assumptions are arguably most authoritative when they are not named at all, but simply presupposed as part of the common sense framing of the research question.
Stuart Hall and Communication Studies
Stuart Hall was a Jamaican-born, British-based theorist, critic, and activist, who flourished between the late 1950s and his death in 2014. Known both for his theoretical and empirical work on culture and communication and for his role as a public intellectual, Hall produced scholarly writings and charismatic teaching that were matched by his columns and interviews in magazines and newspapers and appearances on television and radio.
Hegemony in Marxist Traditions
Marco Briziarelli and Jeff Hoffmann
Hegemony generally refers to the mechanisms and dynamics describing how a determinate group comes to organize its ruling at multiple levels, such as the political economic, social, cultural, and linguistic. In communication studies, the term is almost automatically associated with the particular conceptualization of Marxist thinker Antonio Gramsci, who provides a way to describe and explore the critical link between “power,” culture, and communicative practices. However, different readings of Gramscian hegemony, mediated by different traditions inside the discipline, have produced competing and evolving definitions. The common trait of all these approaches is an interpretation that tends to privilege “consent” over “coercion,” “leadership” over “domination,” and “civil society” over the “state.” Finally, a narrative is provided regarding how the concept gradually moved out of its Marxist origin to become a more sociologically abstract account of organized asymmetric power relations.
Althusser and Structuralism in Communication Studies
Matthew S. May and Kate Siegfried
Louis Pierre Althusser (1918–1990) is widely recognized as one of the most significant and influential Marxist philosophers associated with the structuralist turn in the middle of the 20th century. The ongoing publication of scholarly monographs that develop his conceptual legacy, the depth of his impact in disciplinary debates in fields across the humanities and social sciences, and the continued translation of his work from French into multiple languages, to offer only a few examples, testify to the consensus regarding the enduring importance of his theoretical innovations and often controversial interventions. He devoted tremendous intellectual energy toward a critique of humanism and phenomenological-based Marxism even as he eschewed traditional positivist economic explanations of history and exploitation—engaging in what amounts to nothing less than an effort to fundamentally shift the way the West reads and interprets Marx. Despite the controversial aspects of his interventions, there is little disagreement that the concepts produced by Althusser irreversibly affected and continue to affect the trajectory of Marxist and post-Marxist thought throughout the world, albeit often through the back door, smuggled in and unrecognized—in his lexicon: as an embedded but nevertheless absent cause.
Ideology in Marxist Traditions
Mary E. Triece
The term ideology originated in 1796 and has been taken up in a variety of ways by scholars in disciplines including communication, sociology, anthropology, and economics. Generally understood as an organized set or system of belief, the term over the past 200 years has been variously situated vis à vis material relations and processes of production; has been assigned negative, positive, and neutral connotations; has been rejected as outmoded and replaced by the more sweeping term discourse; and has been revived as once again being relevant by contemporary scholars. Ideology is closely associated with the economic theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who first used the concept in The German Ideology, published in 1845–1846. Marx and Engels discussed ideology specifically in terms of the economic means and relations of production and framed it largely in negative terms, as the ideas of the ruling class intended to distort or mystify processes of capitalist exploitation. Early 20th-century Marxist followers like Vladimir Lenin, Georg Lukács, and Antonio Gramsci expanded the understanding of the word to include the belief systems of either dominant or resistant groups. Throughout the 20th century, the structuralist theories of Louis Althusser lent the word ideology a deterministic quality. Althusser and others explored how Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs), such as schools, churches, and media, constitute subject positions for individuals, leaving them little room for agency or struggle against oppressive thought systems. Structuralism’s emphasis on the primacy and force of ideology reached its apex in poststructuralist, postmodernist, and post-Marxist theories that discursified the material—that is, it made no distinction between belief systems and the real world of relations, processes, systems, etc. These theories invigorated discussions surrounding epistemology, ontology, and the role of communication in forming identities and shaping social struggles. Critics of poststructuralist, postmodernist, and post-Marxist theories have attempted to resituate ideology within its original theoretical context of Marxist dialectical materialism. These efforts attempt to show the importance, for theory and for democratic struggle, of distinguishing between ideas and real-world experience.
Bryan J. McCann
The term materialist rhetoric refers to scholarly approaches that seek to account for the relationship between rhetoric and the world that it inhabits. Rhetoricians have differed sharply on the character of this relationship and how it should inform rhetorical theory, criticism, and practice. To be a materialist is to insist that there exists a world outside of human agency that exerts force on human affairs. Marxism is the most influential philosophical tradition for materialist rhetoric, although rhetoricians vary in terms of their adherence to and interpretation of its principles. Karl Marx argued that the antagonistic class relations at the core of capitalism were the chief material determinant for social being. Historical materialism is the primary methodology of Marxist critique, and it rests on the premise that the character of class relations is not governed solely by human volition. Rather, these relations create the conditions of possibility for and shape the trajectory of social life. While Marxism has informed the liveliest debates regarding materialist rhetoric, not all materialist rhetoricians are Marxists. The earliest iterations of materialist rhetoric drew on Marxism for inspiration, but did not adopt an explicitly anticapitalist orientation. Rather, materialist rhetoric initially referred to calls for rhetoricians to better account for the material character of rhetoric itself. Later developments in materialist rhetoric emerged from debates regarding the nature of Marxism as a rhetorical method, the question of whether rhetoric is representational or constitutive, the character of rhetorical agency, and the existence of a knowable material world outside of rhetoric. Classical Marxists in rhetoric have argued that scholars should predicate their work on the presumption of an experiential reality outside of discourse that exerts force on human symbolic activity. They argue that grounding rhetorical critique in a nondiscursive materiality is necessary for ethical judgment and political practice. Others who reject classical Marxism embrace the claim that rhetoric is material—so much so, in fact, that it comprises every dimension of social being. Debates between these perspectives hinge largely on how different scholars theorize contemporary capitalism. Whereas classical Marxists retain faith in the revolutionary agency of the working class, their critics contend that rhetoric itself has become the central modality of labor in the modern economy and, therefore, the chief resource for resistance. Other materialist perspectives do not dwell on theoretical debates regarding Marxism, but instead attend to other dimensions of being beyond human symbol use. Whereas some scholars are interested in rhetoric’s relationship to the human body and physical spaces, others theorize rhetoric in ways that reach beyond the limits of human cognition.
Acculturation and Intergroup Communication
Richard Y. Bourhis
Acculturation is the process of bidirectional change that occurs when two ethnolinguistic groups come in sustained contact with one another. Acculturation usually occurs between groups of unequal power, status, and demographic background. At stake for the unity of multilingual states are intergroup relations between language minorities and majorities that yield harmonious to conflictual outcomes. The Interactive Acculturation Model (IAM) is adapted to intergroup relations between language communities in four parts. The first part of the model provides an overview of the ethnolinguistic vitality framework accounting for the strength of minority/majority language communities as they struggle to gain the institutional support they need to develop as distinctive and thriving language communities. The second part of the IAM offers an analysis of the pluralist, civic, assimilationist, and exclusionist ideologies that underpin language policies regulating the co-existence of minority/majority language communities. The third part examines the acculturation orientations endorsed by majority and minority language group speakers. The fourth part of the IAM proposes that the interaction of majority and minority acculturation orientations yield intergroup communication outcomes that may range from harmonious, problematic, to conflictual. Taken together, the IAM model offers a conceptual tool for analyzing the fate of linguistic minorities as they seek to survive in the dominant majority group environments of post-modern globalizing states.
Routines in Journalism
Edson C. Tandoc, Jr. and Andrew Duffy
News routines refer to patterns of outcome-oriented behavior, structured by ideological and organizational contexts, regularly enacted or invoked by newsworkers engaged in constructing the news, acting individually but thinking collectively. They are enacted by journalists to make their daily work more efficient and invoked to preserve their autonomy. They help make newswork more predictable and journalism more stable. Studies have documented various routines at different stages of news construction. In the access and observation stage, studies have focused on the beat system and journalists’ sourcing patterns, which determine the range of information and events they get to know about. In the selection and filtering stage, studies have examined how news values shape news selection and even deselection of articles. In the editing and processing stage, studies have examined practices associated with writing, such as the use of the inverted pyramid format and the use of direct quotes, as well as with editing and verification. Scholars have also focused on the impact of automation on news writing and editing. In the distribution stage, studies have explored live coverage as well as the use of social media to disseminate news. Finally, in the interpretation stage, studies have explored the tracking and monitoring of audience feedback via web analytics and social media, which also affect editorial decisions. But aside from making work more manageable, news routines also have two main consequences on news work: They drive newsworkers into the arms of authorities who are set up to give them information, and they increase the risk of compromising journalists’ autonomy. While they structure how journalists do their work, news routines are also structured by larger forces. The need for efficiency stems from the motivation for profitability in market-oriented news organizations. News routines also prescribe how news processes ought to be done, distinguishing news construction from other forms of work but also functioning as a form of control. Since they arise out of the practical needs of the organization and the field, news routines will adapt and emerge as journalists are confronted by a changing set of practical needs. Such adaptation opens the way to new information structures and new ideologies.
Marxist Traditions in Cultural Studies
Cultural studies seeks to understand and explain how culture relates to the larger society and draws on social theory, philosophy, history, linguistics, communication, semiotics, media studies, and more to assess and evaluate mass media and everyday cultural practices. Since its inception in 1960s Britain, cultural studies has had recognizable and recurring interactions with Marxism, most clearly in culturalist renderings along a spectrum of tensions with political economy approaches. Marxist traditions and inflections appear in the seminal works of Raymond Williams and E. P. Thompson, work on the culture industry inspired by the Frankfurt School in 1930s Germany, challenges by Stuart Hall and others to the structuralist theories of Louis Althusser, and writings on consciousness and social change by Georg Lukács. Perhaps the most pronounced indication of Marxist influences on cultural studies appears in the multiple and diverse interpretations of Antonio Gramsci’s concept of hegemony. Cultural studies, including critical theory, has been invigorated by Marxism, even as a recurring critique of economic determinism appears in most investigations and analyses of cultural practices. Marxism has no authoritative definition or application. Nonetheless, Marxism insists on materialism as the precondition for human life and development, opposing various idealist conceptions whether religious or philosophical that posit magical, suprahuman interventions that shape humanity or assertions of consciousness, creative genius, or timeless universals that supersede any particular historical conjuncture. Second, Marxism finds material reality, including all forms of human society and culture, to be historical phenomenon. Humans are framed by their conditions, and in turn, have agency to make social changing using material, knowledge, and possibilities within concrete historical conditions. For Marxists, capitalist society can best be historically and materially understood as social relations of production of society based on labor power and capitalist private ownership of the means of production. Wages paid labor are less than the value of goods and services produced. Capitalist withhold their profits from the value of goods and services produced. Such social relations organize individuals and groups into describable and manifest social classes, that are diverse and unstable but have contradictory interests and experiences. To maintain this social order and its rule, capitalists offer material adjustments, political rewards, and cultural activities that complement the social arrangements to maintain and adjust the dominant social order. Thus, for Marxists, ideologies arise in uneasy tandem with social relations of power. Ideas and practices appear and are constructed, distributed, and lived across society. Dominant ideologies parallel and refract conflictual social relations of power. Ideologies attune to transforming existing social relations may express countervailing views, values, and expectations. In sum, Marxist historical materialism finds that culture is a social product, social tool, and social process resulting from the construction and use by social groups with diverse social experiences and identities, including gender, race, social class, and more. Cultures have remarkably contradictory and hybrid elements creatively assembled from materially present social contradictions in unequal societies, ranging from reinforcement to resistance against constantly adjusting social relations of power. Five elements appear in most Marxist renditions on culture: materialism, the primacy of historical conjunctures, labor and social class, ideologies refracting social relations, and social change resulting from competing social and political interests.
Arjun Appadurai and Critical Cultural Studies
Globalization as a phenomenon was seen by scholars as a compression of the world, where the world comes together as a global village in thought and in action. Arjun Appadurai, in his theorization of globalization, challenges this view. He argues that globalization is primarily disjunctive, scalar, and contextual. He defines five basic landscapes that are about people and their migration (ethnoscapes), technology (technoscapes), media (mediascapes), ideology (ideoscapes) and finance (finanscapes). Globalization, according to Appadurai, occurs at the points of rupture and disjuncture between these different landscapes. In this context he defines “imagination as a social practice” and situates the work of imagination at the center of all globalization processes. Media flows decidedly play a large role in shaping the imagination, therefore mediascapes are critical to the understanding of globalization in any given context. Similarly, the flows of capital, of people, of ideologies and technology help create new imagined worlds that are fluid and capable of producing a “globally variable synesthesia.” That is, one type of imagined world can trigger similar imaginaries in other parts of the world, yet they possess different shapes and forms. Appadurai’s theorization was later criticized for presenting too optimistic a view of globalization, for ignoring its dark side. So, in his later work Appadurai explores the “dark” side of globalization. In Fear of Small Numbers, he addresses the widespread global violence against minorities and uses Freud’s “anxiety of incompleteness” to explicate the majority group’s predatory behavior. Globalization has deepened this behavior and thought because it intensifies the possibility and related fear of the majority morphing into the minority and vice versa. Collective group identities, therefore, are forever under threat as “volatile morphing” becomes a reality brought about by rapid global migrations across national boundaries. Appadurai’s later work also points in the direction of hope by presenting the idea of grassroots globalization which is happening alongside the pervasive violence. Grassroots globalization is the idea of globalization from below that is done by non-governmental organizations and transnational advocacy networks that work toward redressing lack of access, injustice and inequity. Appadurai also offers scholars a new framework for how to do globalization research which is not fixated on its “internationalization” but is focused on questions and is inclusive of other worldviews and approaches from around the world.
Slavoj Žižek and Communication Studies
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.
Power and Control in Communication Studies
Mohan Jyoti Dutta
Power constitutes discourse and is in turn, constituted by discourse. Power mediates the relationship between economics and discourse, working through discourse to reproduce the extractive interests of capital. It is on hand, embedded in economic structures; on the other hand, it is often enacted through discursive processes, discursive spaces, and discursive tactics. A conceptual framework for theorizing power is offered in this overview in order to understand the various approaches to power in communication studies, the divergences between these approaches and the convergences between them. A Marxist analysis of power as rooted in economic structures and exerted in oppression is positioned in relationship with post-structuralist reading of power as fragmented and multi-sited. Reading power and control through a framework of intersectionality foregrounds the intersections between class, race, gender, caste, and colonial formations. The various sites of workings of power are examined, from interpersonal relationships, to groups, to organizations and communities, to mediated spaces. The roles of communication strategy, communicative inversions, and communicative erasure are articulated in the context of power, depicting the ways in which power plays out through communication. These concepts then grapple with the contemporary context of power and communication in the realm of the digital, and outline potential anchors for communication scholarship seeking to explain & resist power amid the digital turn in the neoliberal transformation of the globe. Attention is paid to the extractive industries, poor working conditions, big data industries driving behavior change, and digital development markets that are continually consolidating new forms of capitalist profiteering.
Antonio Gramsci and Communication Studies
Marco Briziarelli and Eric Karikari
The strong affinity between the work of Antonio Gramsci and communication is based on several Gramscian communication-related themes and particular modes of his thought that significantly resonate with this field of studies. They include his drawing on the rhetorical tradition inspired by Vico, his assumptions of the constitutive role of language in creating an intersubjective reality that shapes common sense, and the fact that language provides the conditions of possibility for a hegemonic project. The strong tie between communication and Gramsci’s thought creates a vantage point for understanding both how Gramsci developed his political theories based on communication concerns and how those theories in turn advanced the field of communication. On the one hand, Gramsci by his intellectual formation, as well as via life experiences, became extremely receptive of theories that linked language, culture, and society. Those theories can help illuminate Gramsci’s key ideas, such as hegemony, common sense, national popular, the strategic concept of translation, and the relational nature of concepts. On the other hand, Gramsci’s own reflection on the nexus between language and history significantly contributes to a theorization of language as a cultural practice resisting hypostases, an important qualification of Saussurian structural linguistics, and finally can offer the basis for a materialist approach to communication. Thus, the common denominator of a Gramscian perspective on communication must be found in the consistent use of dialectical thinking, which mediates binarisms like diachronic–synchronic, stability–change, individual–collective, unity–diversity, and symbolic–material. This article discusses the above-mentioned connection between Gramsci and communication in more detail. First, it explicates the ways in which Gramsci’s work was influenced by communication concerns, and then it analyzes how Gramsci’s work influences the realm of human communication today.
Theories of Economic Justice in the Rhetorical Tradition
Catherine Chaput and Joshua S. Hanan
Depending on how you approach it, economic justice is either an extremely old intellectual tradition or a relatively new one. From the first perspective, economic justice is part and parcel of classical political philosophy—Plato’s The Republic and Aristotle’s The Politics, for instance, both discuss property distribution in an ideal society, emphasizing the philosophy of justice over economic precepts. From the second perspective, the one we embrace, economic justice is a uniquely modern inquiry that emerged with the writings of Karl Marx and his revolutionary critique of the capitalist political economy. For Marx, economic justice can be understood as a critical enterprise that attempts to locate contradictions between universal and particular conceptions of human freedom and intervene politically into these contradictions with the aim of creating a more just, equitable, and egalitarian society. So conceived, economic justice liberates the collective potential of humanity from its exploitation and degradation by capitalism as well as the various legal institutions it develops to control human behavior for the purpose of extracting of surplus-value. It is this Marxist perspective and the various historical reformulations that it has authorized that influence the way rhetoricians and scholars of cultural studies conceptualize economic justice in the discipline of communication. While not all of these scholars endorse an explicitly Marxist line of thought, they all attempt to conceptualize economic justice as a normative political category that influences various models of rhetorical agency and social change.
Limited English Proficiency as a Consideration When Designing Health and Risk Messages
Maricel G. Santos, Holly E. Jacobson, and Suzanne Manneh
For many decades, the field of risk messaging design, situated within a broader sphere of public health communication efforts, has endeavored to improve its response to the needs of U.S. immigrant and refugee populations who are not proficient speakers of English, often referred to as limited English proficient (LEP) populations. Research and intervention work in this area has sought to align risk messaging design models and strategies with the needs of linguistically diverse patient populations, in an effort to improve patient comprehension of health messages, promote informed decision-making, and ensure patient safety. As the public health field has shifted from person-centered approaches to systems-centered thinking in public health outreach and communication, the focus in risk messaging design, in turn, has moved from a focus on the effects of individual patient misunderstanding and individual patient error on health outcomes, to structural and institutional barriers that contribute to breakdown in communication between patients and healthcare providers. While the impact of limited proficiency in English has been widely documented in multiple spheres of risk messaging communication research, the processes by which members of immigrant and refugee communities actually come to understand sources of risk and act on risk messaging information remain poorly researched and understood. Advances in risk messaging efforts are constrained by outdated views of language and communication in healthcare contexts: well-established lines of thinking in sociolinguistics and language education provide the basis for critical reflection on enduring biases in public health about languages other than English and the people who speak them. By drawing on important findings about language ideologies and language learning, an alternative approach would be to cultivate a deeper appreciation for the linguistic diversity already shaping our everyday lives and the competing views on this diversity that constrain our risk messaging efforts. The discourse surrounding the relationship between LEP and risk messaging often omits a critical examination of the deficit-based narrative that tends to infuse many risk messaging design efforts in the United States. Sociolinguists and language education specialists have documented the enduring struggle against a monolingual bias in U.S. education and healthcare policy that often privileges proficiency in English, and systematically impedes and discriminates against emerging bilingualism and multilingualism. The English-only bias tends to preclude the possibility that risk messaging comprehension for many immigrant and refugee communities may represent a multilingual capacity, as patients make use of multiple linguistic and cultural resources to make sense of healthcare messages. Research in sociolinguistics and immigration studies have established that movement across languages and cultures—a translingual, transcultural competence—is a normative component of the immigrant acculturation process, but these research findings have yet to be fully integrated into risk messaging theory and design efforts. Ultimately, critical examination of the role of language and linguistic identity (not merely a focus on proficiency in English) in risk messaging design should provide a richer, more nuanced picture of the ways that patients engage with health promotion initiatives, at diverse levels of English competence.