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Article

Homonormativity  

Dawn Marie D. McIntosh

Homonormativity emerged as an interdisciplinary theory that rendered valuable understandings of power relations within and beyond the LGBTQ community. Homonormativity is a discursive and embodied practice, or set of practices, by sexual minorities that aligns with and reinforces power constructs. The transitions from macro-orientations (political strategies and movements) to microstructures (aesthetics and embodied performances) of homonormativity are arguably best located within the communication studies field. This article examines how communication studies contributes to and directs the workings of homonormativity. To accomplish that goal, the article articulates four trajectories of homonormativity: intersectional homonormativity, homonormative whiteness, transnational homonormativity, and homonormative possibilities. Embodied and/or intersectional homonormativity considers the theory of intersectionality in relationship to homonormativity. Next, homonormative whiteness details the role whiteness plays in homonormativity. Whiteness depends on the erasure of difference, and this erasure is critical to how sexually marginalized individuals as a community acquire power through racism, sexism, and classism. Homonormativity, then, is dependent on workings of whiteness to acquire power. Following this, transnational homonormativity explores the relationship between homonationalism, homo-colonialism, and homonormativity. Homonormativity is grounded in the understanding of queer bodies in relationship to nationalism, transnationalism, and xenophobia. Finally, homonormative possibilities articulates the potentialities that exist in the embodied critiques of homonormativity and possibilities provided by academic work that deconstructs it.

Article

Kuaer Theory  

Ryan M. Lescure

Although queer theory was profoundly influenced by the womanist feminism of the 1980s and its emphasis on the ways in which intersectionality affects lived experience, popular queer theorizing generally lost this as it became more popular in academic contexts during the 1990s. Generally, the popular queer scholarship that was being published in the 1990s did not pay much attention to the diversity of queer experiences and subjectivities. Because many popular queer theorists at the time were White, affluent, cisgender, and based in the United States, their scholarship, while anti-heteronormative, tended to reflect their privileged racial, socioeconomic, gendered, national, and cultural standpoints. Subsequently, this scholarship tended to construct a singular, definitive, and universal queer subject position as White, affluent, cisgender, and based in the United States. Wenshu Lee’s kuaer theory is an example of one of the first significant theoretical challenges to queer theory’s problematic universalizing tendencies. Initially advanced in 2003, kuaer theory is influenced by postcolonialism, womanism, and E. Patrick Johnson’s quare studies, which Lee characterizes as having advanced queer theory in a similar way that womanism did for feminism. Finding inspiration in the writing of Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Cherríe Moraga, and Gloria Anzaldúa, kuaer theory applies womanist concepts to expand on the foundation built by Johnson’s quare studies, which calls for queer theorists to focus on the particularity and diversity of sexualities as well as the ways in which sexualities relate to and are shaped by race, gender, socioeconomic class, and culture. Kuaer theory agrees with and advocates for all of these things, but it notably adds a transnational perspective and emphasizes that queer theorists must also highlight the relationships between sexualities and nation, nationality, power, and culture at the local, national, and transnational levels. Kuaer theory notes that queerness, queer activism, and queer knowledges are not exclusive to the United States or to the Western world. Because of this, kuaer theory encourages queer theorists to emphasize the local and intersectional particularities of people’s sexual experiences and subjectivities while simultaneously being critical of the ways in which queer theory itself often reproduces imperialism and cultural hierarchies at the global level. Kuaer theory continues to be influential among queer theorists, especially for its critique of queer theory’s often implicit reproduction of hierarchies. Like quare studies, kuaer theory is often cited by queer theorists who challenge queer theory’s continued general inattention to intersectionality and to the multiplicity of queer subjectivities. Finally, kuaer theory’s emphasis on transnational and transcultural perspectives as well as its criticism of queer theory’s imperialistic consequences has proven to be a substantial influence on critical intercultural communication and the emerging field of queer intercultural communication.

Article

Queering Colonialisms and Empire  

Roberta Chevrette

Scholarship engaging queer theory in tandem with the study of colonialism and empire has expanded in recent years. This interdisciplinary area of research draws from queer of color theorizing and women of color feminists who made these links during queer theory’s emergence and development in social movements and within the field of women’s and gender studies. Together, queer of color, (post)colonial, transnational feminist, and Indigenous scholars and activists have highlighted the centrality of gender and sexuality to colonial, settler colonial, and imperial processes. Among the alignments of queer and (post)colonial inquiry are their emphases on social transformation through critique and resistant praxis. In the communication discipline, scholarship queering the study of colonialism and empire has emerged in critical/cultural studies, intercultural communication, rhetoric, media studies, and performance studies. Two broad thematics defining this scholarship are (a) decolonizing queerness by identifying how queer theory, LGBTQ activism, and queer globalizations have reinforced Whiteness and empire; and (b) queering decolonization by identifying how heteropatriarchal, binary, and normative systems of sex, sexuality, and gender contribute to colonial processes of past and present.

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

Difference, Intersectionality, and Organizing  

Jamie McDonald

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

Queer African Studies  

Godfried Asante

The main goals of the rapidly growing interdisciplinary field of queer African studies (QAS) are to (a) resist the continual (post)colonial perpetuation of “African culture” as a homogenous entity devoid of diverse nonnormative genders and sexualities, (b) seek to decenter universal Western epistemological framing of queerness, and (c) reveal the intersectional ways that queer African subjectivities are experienced. Drawing primarily from African/Africanist scholarship and queer theory/studies, QAS seeks to create more fluidities between a network of activists and university-based professors to produce contextually relevant and grounded studies that center African experiences in conversations on gender and sexuality. In particular, scholarship in QAS places Africans’ lived experiences as the starting point to theorize queerness. As an interdisciplinary field of study with scholars from history, anthropology, political science, sociology, legal studies, and African studies, QAS has emerged as an essential theoretical intervention in African studies, queer of color critique, and postcolonial studies. In this way, it opens up spaces to interrogate the theoretical and material concerns of queer theory and African studies beyond its westernized origins and focus. For same-gender-loving, queer, nonbinary, and trans Africans, for whom queer theory’s historical beginnings seem to have written them out of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex+ Euro American history, their emergent contributions to the now institutionally anchored discipline of queer theory, and queer studies in communication, provide a necessary corrective and decolonial endeavor to decentralize the Euro American lens in which queerness tends to be theorized and explored. In this regard, while “queering” Africa is a necessary project for some scholars, “Africanizing” queer studies equally provide the epistemological shifts needed to dislodge the West as the source and referent for queer theorizing. The field of communication studies is diverse in its formations and production of knowledge. However, the different subfields all cohere around the commitment to theorizing the symbolic and material systems of communication that enable individuals to make sense of their lives and their positionalities in both local and transnational contexts. QAS can invariably contribute to the various subfields of communication studies by providing an alternative epistemological framework for analyzing language and meaning, especially as they pertain to gender and sexuality.

Article

Speculative Fiction and Queer Theory  

Wendy Gay Pearson

Speculative fiction, like queer, can be an umbrella term; it can cover any writing in which reality is not mimetically represented. In other words, speculative fiction is a fuzzy set whose boundaries are permeable, capacious, and capable of definition and redefinition by readers and writers alike. The set includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, the Gothic, and most or all magic realist writing. Because of its focus on spaces and times that have not (yet) happened, may never happen, and may, indeed, be impossible, speculative fiction as a supergeneric category leaves open a great deal of room for queerness in all its forms. Queer theory illuminates depictions of sexuality, gender, and their intersectionalities as they are represented in speculative fictions of all kinds. In doing so, it traces several specific queer theoretical interventions, including: questions of queer representation; histories in which queer representation has been suppressed; queer dismantling of all types of normativity; queer theorizing about intimacy, kinship, reproduction, and family; questions of posthumanism and the queering of embodiment and/through technology; and issues of queer time versus the power of chrononormativity to reinforce assumptions about linear time and “normal” life. Speculative fiction is a powerful medium for both queer readers and queer writers because it empowers narratives, characters, and/or settings that disrupt the many ways in which dominant assumptions about race, gender, and sexuality are produced by, and in turn reinforce, colonial aspirations and expectations. Some speculative fiction may be dystopian, but some speculative fiction may also read the past reparatively in order to imagine more hopeful worlds.

Article

Queer Studies and Organizational Communication  

Jamie McDonald and Sean C. Kenney

As a subfield, organizational communication has been relatively slow to engage with queer theory. However, a robust literature on queer organizational scholarship has emerged over the past decade, since the 2010s, in both organizational communication and the allied field of critical management studies. Adopting a queer theoretical lens to the study of organizational communication entails queering one’s understandings of organizational life by questioning what is considered to be normal and taken for granted. Engaging with queer theory in organizational communication also implies exposing and critiquing heteronormativity in organizations, viewing difference as a constitutive feature of organizing, adopting an anti-categorical approach to difference, and understanding identity as fluid and performative. To date, organizational scholars have mobilized queer theory to queer how gender and sexuality are conceptualized in organizational research, queer dominant understandings of leadership, queer the notion of diversity management, queer the “closet” metaphor and understandings of how individuals negotiate the disclosure of nonnormative identities at work, and queer organizational research methods. Moving forward, organizational scholars can continue to advance queer scholarship by mobilizing queer theory to highlight queer voices in empirical research, interrogating whiteness in queer organizational scholarship by centering queer of color subjectivities, and continuing to queer organizational research and queer theory by subjecting both to critical interrogation.

Article

Gender in Rhetorical Theory  

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

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

Queering the Study of U.S. Military Family Communication  

Erin Sahlstein Parcell and Danielle C. Romo

Military families in the United States reflect diverse family forms. They include not only “traditional” families but also single service members, women service members, dual-career couples, service member mothers, single-parent service members, service members of color, cohabitating military service members (i.e., nonmarried couples), LGB service members, and transgender service members. However, the research primarily reflects white, heterosexual, cisgender, different sexed, married couples who are able-bodied with biological children as well as postpositivist and interpretivist perspectives; trends that parallel interpersonal and family communication studies broadly speaking. Given calls for new approaches within these areas, and in particular military family communication research, scholars should consider “queering” the study of military family communication by including individuals who identify as queer but also varying the research theoretically. Studies that bring attention to different types of military families (e.g., LGBTQ+ military families) would make significant contributions to the scholarship and make these families as well as their unique experiences visible. Informed by calls for critical military studies and the critical interpersonal and family communication framework (CIFC), recommendations are offered for future queer military family communication inquiry. First, a brief history of queer families in the military as well as the current state of military family communication scholarship are presented. Next, the CIFC framework, discourse dependence, and relational dialectics theory are discussed as conceptual paths for engaging in critical military family communication studies.

Article

Diffusion of Concepts of Masculinity and Femininity  

Rebecca S. Richards

For much of human history, “femininity” and “masculinity” were unknown terms. But that does not mean that the concept of gender did not exist. Indeed, many societies in recorded history had conceptions of what it means to be a gendered person—most often noted in the binary of “man” and “woman”—but these conceptions were normative and perceived as intrinsic to human behavior and culture. Masculinity and femininity were naturalized concepts, assumed to be the ways in which men and women should act, look, or communicate. In the 19th and 20th centuries, scholars and activists noted that femininity and masculinity are social constructions of a gendered society, often denoting the ways in which people, objects, and practices conform to or transgress gendered expectations. Both terms are highly contingent upon the cultural, historical, and geopolitical locations in which they are used, meaning that they can only be accurately understood or defined for a given time or context; it is impossible to define either term in a universal manner. Femininity, as an articulated concept, has a longer history of being visible and enforced by communities. Masculinity, on the contrary, historically elided critique or visibility because its attributes were often the normative and prized values and characteristics of a given social context. However, feminist movements and intellectual projects have brought masculinity to light, showing the ways in which masculinity, just as much as femininity, is a learned and enforced way of viewing actions, people, and things. In communication studies, current scholarship on masculinity and femininity examine how they circulate in a globalized world, picking up new definitions and often restructuring people’s lives. Even though both terms are abstractions with shifting definitions and applications, they create the conditions for people’s sense of identity and limit or enhance their ability to engage in communicative acts. Differently stated, while abstract concepts, they have material consequences. To understand how an abstract social construction creates material consequences, communication scholars have looked at several research locations where masculinity and femininity most obviously manifest, such as leadership and authority, media representations, rhetorical style and delivery, and interpersonal communications.

Article

Queer Perspectives in Communication Studies  

Isaac N. West

Queer perspectives in communication studies vary greatly, but they tend to share some common assumptions about the communicative force of norms, including those related to sexualities, genders, bodies, races, ethnicities, abilities, and desires. In general, queer perspectives question the legitimacy of hegemonic assumptions about bodies and sexualities, opting instead for more fluid and porous discourses and norms. Influenced by Michel Foucault’s theories about the productive and generative nature of discourses and Judith Butler’s elaboration on the performativity of identity and agency, communication studies scholars have mined queer theory for insights into our collective and individual investments in naturalized norms as well as efforts to resist them. One of the difficulties in corralling the varied meanings of “queer” into an encyclopedia entry is that it can operate as a noun, adjective, or verb, which has different implications for critics interested in its employ.

Article

Queer Music Practices in the Digital Realm  

Ben De Smet

The relevance of music in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other sexually nonnormative (LGBTQ+) lives and identities has been extensively established and researched. Studies have focused on queer performances, fandom, night life, and other aspects of music to examine the intimate, social, and political relations between music and LGBTQ+ identities. In a time where music culture is produced, distributed, and consumed increasingly in digital spaces, relations between music and LGBTQ+ identities are meaningfully informed by these spaces. As this is a relatively recent development and offline music practices remain profoundly meaningful and relevant, the amount of research on queer digital music practices remains modest. However, a rich body of literature in the fields of popular music studies, queer studies, and new media studies provides an array of inspiring angles and perspectives to shed light on these matters, and this literature can be situated and critically linked. For over half a century, popular music studies have directed their attention to the relations between the social and the musical. Under the impulse of feminist studies, gender identities soon became a prominent focus within popular music studies, and, driven by LGBTQ+ studies, (non-normative) sexual identities soon followed. As popular music studies developed a rich theoretical basis, and feminist and queer studies evolved over the years into more intersectional and queer directions, popular music studies focusing on gender and/or sexuality gradually stepped away from their initial somewhat rigid, binary perspectives in favor of more open, dynamic, and queer perspectives. Following a similar path, early new media studies struggled to avoid simplistic, naïve, or gloomy deterministic analyses of the Internet and new media. As the field evolved, alongside the technologies that form its focus, a more nuanced, mutual, and agency-based approach emerged. Here, too, scholars have introduced queer perspectives and have applied them to research a range of LGBTQ+-related digital phenomena. Today, popular music, sexual identities, and new media have become meaningful aspects of social life, and much more remains to be explored, in particular on the intersection of these fields. A diverse array of queer fan practices, music video practices, and music streaming practices are waiting to be examined. The theory and the tools are there.