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Article

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

Joan Faber McAlister

The phrase gender in rhetorical theory refers to how gendered identities and dynamics have shaped the conceptualizing of rhetorical performances and interactions. Scholars have attended to this dimension of rhetoric by examining problems relating to gendered norms and representations as contexts, conditions, and functions for rhetoric. Despite the different aims and times of these inquiries, they share central concerns about the gendered productions and exclusions of discourses and rhetorical practices. Scholars also contribute to work in both rhetorical scholarship and gender studies by bringing diverse projects into contact to create new insights. Scholarly attention to gender in rhetorical studies has often critiqued conventional theories of rhetoric for importing simplistic accounts of gender or for failing to address its importance at all. Many crucial contributions to rhetorical studies have worked to correct this problem by drawing on interdisciplinary literature—particularly from feminist theory, intersectional analysis, queer theory, trans theory, and masculinity studies—enriching understandings of how rhetoric functions. Such research has enabled rhetorical theory to begin to account for distinct embodied encounters, material conditions, and performative agencies. Scholars have drawn on interdisciplinary literature to advance a more nuanced account of gendered experiences and representations in rhetorical theory. This research has often related sexism and misogyny to a host of other forms of bias and bigotry that are evident in some of the scholarly assumptions and abstractions guiding the discipline of rhetorical studies. These include universal and neutral standards of rhetorical efficacy, individualistic accounts of the rhetorical agent, and definitions of rhetoric as a representation of (or response to) an external reality that appeals to a preexisting audience. Rhetorical theorists have also contributed to broader conversations engaging complexities of gender by highlighting the role of discourse in the production of biological essentialisms; gender binaries; interlocking oppressions; and multiple vectors of marginalization, discrimination, erasure, exclusion, and violence.

Article

Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz and Shui-yin Sharon Yam

The history, principles, and contributions of the reproductive justice (RJ) framework to queer family formation is the nexus that connects the coalitional potential between RJ and queer justice. How the three pillars of RJ intersect with the systemic marginalization of LGBTQ people—especially poor queer people of color—helps clarify how the RJ framework can elaborate the intersectional understandings of queer reproductive politics and kin.

Article

Elizabeth K. Eger, Morgan L. Litrenta, Sierra R. Kane, and Lace D. Senegal

LGBTQ+ people face unique organizational communication dilemmas at work. In the United States, LGBTQ+ workers communicate their gender, sexuality, and other intersecting identities and experiences through complex interactions with coworkers, supervisors, customers, publics, organizations, and institutions. They also utilize specific communication strategies to navigate exclusionary policies and practices and organize for intersectional justice. Five central research themes for LGBTQ+ workers in the current literature include (a) workplace discrimination, (b) disclosure at work, (c) navigating interpersonal relationships at work, (d) inclusive and exclusive policies, and (e) intersectional work experiences and organizing. First, the lived experiences of discrimination, exclusion, and violence in organizations, including from coworkers, managers, and customers, present a plethora of challenges from organizational entry to exit. LGBTQ+ workers face high levels of unemployment and underemployment and experience frequent microaggressions. Queer, trans, and intersex workers also experience prevalent workplace discrimination, uncertainty, and systemic barriers when attempting to use fluctuating national and state laws for workplace protections. Second, such discrimination creates unique risks that LGBTQ+ workers must navigate when it comes to disclosing their identities at work. The complexities of workplace disclosure of LGBTQ+ identities and experiences become apparent through closeting, passing, and outing communication. These three communication strategies for queer, trans, and intersex survival are often read as secretive or deceptive by heterosexual or cisgender coworkers and managers. Closeting communication may also involve concealing information about personal and family relationships at work and other identity intersections. Third, LGBTQ+ people must navigate workplace relationships, particularly with heterosexual and/or cisgender coworkers and managers and in organizations that assume cisheteronormativity. Fourth, policies structure LGBTQ+ workers’ lives, including both the positive impacts of inclusive policies and discrimination and violence via exclusionary policies. Fifth and finally, intersectionality is crucial to theorize when examining LGBTQ+ workers’ communication. It is not enough to just investigate sexuality or gender identity, as they are interwoven with race, class, disability, religion, nationality, age, and more. Important exemplars also showcase how intersectional organizing can create transformative and empowering experiences for LGBTQ+ people. By centering LGBTQ+ workers, this article examines their unique and complex organizational communication needs and proposes future research.

Article

In organizational scholarship, difference is broadly conceptualized as the ways in which individuals differ from each other along the lines of socially significant identities and characteristics. As such, difference encompasses social identities related to gender, race, class, sexuality, ability, and national origin. In addition to social identities, difference also encompasses individual characteristics, such as education level, family type, and health conditions. Organizational scholarship increasingly considers difference to be a constitutive feature of organizing. As such, difference is not merely one aspect of organizing that is only relevant in some circumstances, but a defining feature of organizing processes to which it is always important to attend because dominant discourses and value systems privilege certain differences over others. Central to difference scholarship is the concept of intersectionality, which holds that various identities intersect with each other to shape social and organizational experiences in ways that are intertwined with privilege and/or disadvantage. Scholarship on difference, intersectionality, and organizing has drawn from multiple critical theoretical frameworks, such as critical race theory, standpoint feminism, postmodern feminism, queer theory, and postcolonial theory. A growing amount of scholarship on difference, intersectionality, and organizing is also empirical and sheds light on how overlapping, intersectional identities matter in organizational settings and how they are embedded in power relations.

Article

Taisha McMickens, Miranda Dottie Olzman, and Bernadette Marie Calafell

Queer intercultural communication is the study of sexuality in intercultural communication. It is a critical, interdisciplinary field that explores identity (i.e., race, gender, sexuality, nationality, and class) across political, historical, transnational, and social spheres. Queer intercultural communication is grounded in using an intersectional lens and embodiment, and in understanding the way power functions both systemically and individually. Historically, intercultural communication has lagged in including intersectional works that center on queer and transgender voices, theorizings, and methodologies. Queer intercultural communication has worked to expand the voices that are being centered as a way to theorize about potential and hope. As this work continues, scholarship on sexualities must remain open to broadening discourse, theory, and methodologies that are inclusive of multiple stories that evoke queer possibilities.

Article

Gloria Anzaldúa was a Chicana feminist, queer, cultural critic, author, and artist who is well-known for her concept of the borderlands, physically referring to the U.S.–Mexico border, but also incorporating psychological aspects to describe the spiritual, sexual, or other boundaries that, although arbitrary and painful, guide one’s identity. Using her experiences as a means to create art and social thought, Anzaldúa calls the process of using struggles resulting from sexism, racism, and homophobia a starting point; she explained how theories of the flesh were born out of this necessity. Often, this process involves creating art or writing poetry, fiction, and theoretical essays that require adopting or crafting new terms and categories to more fully explain the lived experiences of people of color. In her writing, she used autohistorias—a term that describes using biographical stories interspersed across genres of writing—and often switched between English, Spanish, and Náhuatl languages. Noticing that scholars tended to use her theory of the borderlands almost exclusively to discuss the geographic tensions between the United States and Mexico, for example, she adopted the Náhuatl term nepantla to more succinctly describe the spiritual dimensions of experience. Scholars interested in Anzaldúa’s work have observed the importance of acknowledging intersectionality and standpoint theories as central to exploring Chicana feminist thought. While her work connects her to the Chicana/o movement and to the women’s movement, Anzaldúa also discusses how the Chicana/o movement excluded women and the women’s movement excluded voices of women of color. Centering experiences of women of color and bringing marginalized voices to the center highlights Anzaldúa’s strategy for gaining awareness of one’s marginal status, reclaiming one’s identity through this knowledge, making use of everyday and structural acts of resistance, and creating theories of social change. These spaces of in-between are uncomfortable but also provide opportunities for social transformation.

Article

Within the field of communication studies, critical cultural scholarship examines the interarticulation of power and culture. Drawing from critical theory and cultural studies, this research offers analysis of texts, artifacts, practices, and institutions in order to understand their potential to promote or preempt equality and social justice. Critical theory, which has Marxist origins, uses theory as a basis for critiquing and challenging systems of domination or oppression. The field of cultural studies focuses on social formations with a particular emphasis on media texts and the reception practices of audiences. Both critical theory and cultural studies emphasize the important interrelationship between ideology, or structures of belief, and the material conditions in which people live. Critical cultural research examines discourse and representation, including language and visual culture, as well as social relations, institutional structures, material practices, economic forces, and various forms of embodiment. Central to critical cultural scholarship is attention to the construction, regulation, and contestation of categories of identity, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, and class. A significant branch of critical cultural studies examines how ideas about gender and sex develop and circulate, asking how and why some constructions of gender and sex become normative and gain hegemony—or, cultural privilege—in a particular context. For example, such scholarship might critique the idealization of certain performances of masculinity and the attendant devaluation of femininity or other subordinated masculinities; or, this research might consider how particular iterations of masculinity or femininity may be counter-hegemonic, operating in opposition to prevailing ideologies of gender and sex. Critical cultural approaches also emphasize the intersectionality of gender and sex with other categories of identity. For instance, ideas about masculinity or femininity can rarely be separated from assumptions about race and/or sexuality; as such, prevailing ideologies of gender and sex often reflect the presumed normativity of whiteness and heterosexuality.

Article

Lore/tta LeMaster

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.

Article

Social support is an important resource that can help reduce stressful situations or buffer the impact of stressful situations for LGBTQ+ individuals. Many definitions of social support exist, but researchers often focus on emotional, informational, or practical support provided to a person. Social support is communicated by people close to a person as well as through institutional practices and policies and in communities. General trends around the world show increasing support for sexual-minority individuals—and to a lesser extent gender-minority individuals—but there are many countries still hostile to LGBTQ+ individuals. A number of individual-level and country-level variables are related to positive attitudes toward LGBTQ+ individuals. Social support is operationalized in many ways in quantitative research on LGBTQ+ individuals, usually used as a predictor of health outcomes. Some quantitative measures look at general social support, whereas others study social support within particular settings, or very specific ways in which support is communicated. Measures of social support specific to LGBTQ+ populations have been developed, such as The Gay and Lesbian Acceptance and Support Index. Research also looks at support at the community level—the broader community (often referred to as community climate) as well as LGBTQ+ communities. Qualitative research is valuable for exploring what social support means to various groups and for understanding how different social identities interact with each other. Many factors influence expectations and experiences of social support; thus, research should be contextualized. Rather than studying LGBTQ+ as a group, subgroups can be studied, along with intersectional research. When this is carried out, unique findings can appear. For example, lesbians in adulthood can include ex-partners and ex-lovers in their social support networks, and Black lesbian parents describe complex ways in which they interact with their families and religious communities. Different life course changes such as same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ parenting provide opportunities to explore if and how social support is communicated to LGBTQ+ individuals. Who support is received from is also a key area of interest—families of origin, chosen families, friends, work colleagues, LGBTQ+ communities and broader communities, and so on. Later-life circumstances of LGBTQ+ individuals need focus, as these individuals often have smaller social support networks due to lifetime discrimination and cumulative life course experiences. Political situations involving elevated anti-gay rhetoric are also relevant contexts in which to study how social support can ameliorate minority stress. Research is starting to look at social support in formal organizations, many of which have developed guidelines for developing inclusive environments for sexual- and gender-minority groups.

Article

While there are many contestations surrounding the significance, meanings, and interpretations of dis/ability in the field of critical cultural studies, the author presents a variety of foundational as well as emergent concepts, structures, and histories in order to situate these debates. The 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2020, increasingly frequent criticisms of the “sea of whiteness” in disability critique, and an attendant call for equitable attention to intersectional theorization and practice, accompanied by a variety of frameworks, are employed to introduce the relevance of these contestations as well as to equip readers with opportunities to engage and study further.