The decolonization of nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the late 20th century made possible the arrival of postcolonial academics who engaged in a critical and thoroughgoing analysis of the ways in which colonial histories have affected and continue to influence not only our understanding of phenomena, such as culture, but have influenced the very frames and processes of the creation and dissemination of knowledge about phenomena such as culture. While this work was initiated by postcolonial scholars of literature, postcolonial theory and frameworks have been adopted by several allied fields, including the communication field. Since the 1990s, communication scholars have been using postcolonial frameworks to deconstruct the colonial and neocolonial representations and tropes present in news and popular culture discourses. They have also brought communication theory to bear upon key concepts within postcolonial study, such as hybridity and diaspora. In the mid-1990s communication scholars joined the larger debate on the continued relevance of the postcolonial framework, and as with postcolonial scholars in other fields, they have continued to insist that the interruptive and political impetus of postcolonial theory provides an important entry point for the study of a world still shot through with colonial and neocolonial power relations. Although there is still a lot of scope to make the postcolonial approach more central to the communication field and its subfields, communication scholars have continued to use postcolonial theory to shed important insight on several vital communication issues. Feminist scholars of communication have been at the forefront of the effort to increase awareness and use of postcolonial frameworks for the study of communication.
Christina R. Foust and Raisa Alvarado
What moves the social? And what is rhetoric’s relationship to social movement? Since 1950, scholars studying the art of public persuasion have offered different answers to these questions. Early approaches to social movements defined them as out-groups that made use of persuasion to achieve goals and meet persistent challenges. However, protest tactics that flaunted the body and spectacle (e.g., 1960s-era dissent) challenged early emphasis on social movements as nouns or “things” that used rhetoric. Influenced by intersectional feminist theories and movements that featured identity transformations (along with ending oppression) as political, rhetoric scholars began to view “a social movement” as an outcome or effect of rhetoric. Scholars treated movements as “fictions,” identifying the ways in which these collective subjects did not empirically exist—but were nonetheless significant, as people came to invest their identities and desires for a new order into social movements. Scholars argued that people manifested “a social movement’s” presence by identifying themselves as representatives of it. More recently, though, rhetoric scholars emphasize what is moving in the social, by following the circulation of rhetoric across nodes and pathways in networks, as well as bodies in protest. Inspired by social media activism, as well as theories of performance and the body, scholars concentrate on how symbolic action (or the affects it helps create) interrupts business as usual in everyday life. To study rhetoric and social movement is to study how dissent from poor and working-class people, women, people of color, LGBTQ activists, the disabled, immigrants, and other non-normative, incongruous voices and bodies coalesce in myriad ways, helping move humanity along the long arc of the moral universe that bends toward justice.
Critical communication studies of space and place consider the ways power becomes located within a wider topography of social relations. How a body thinks, its exposure to pollutants, or access to societal resources: these all depend, in part, upon where that body moves in relation to the other bodies that share their historical moment. The logic of power becomes manifest in the spatial organization of a society, and subsequently influences social practice. Emergent from multiple intellectual traditions—including humanistic geography, the spatial turn in the critical humanities, and postcolonial theory—spatial studies understand space and place as the product of social relations and maintain a critical, de-essentializing politics: Spaces are always being made and remade with consequences for marginalized populations. Moreover, as sites of public identification, certain spaces and places (a national park landscape or urban park) are imbued with epideictic significance. In order to understand and critique the relationship between communication, space, and place, scholars employ a number of concepts, many of which they share with neighboring fields, including mobility, globalization, affect, imagined geographies, place-making, critical regionalism, heterotopia, omnitopia, and memory places. Scholars of space and place, moreover, remain committed to mapping both as method and object of analysis. If a society’s spatial logic (who and what resides where and with what consequences) provides insight into power and subjugation, then mapping offers a potentially useful critical methodological practice. At the same time, mapping remains a technology of colonialism, a way of seeing space that stabilizes its movements and continues to enable colonial domination. Thus, critical communication scholars of space and place also analyze and critique the rhetoric of mapping, analyzing both the ways in which maps are used to uphold operations of domination as well as those “countermapping” efforts that employ and subvert the history of cartography towards more emancipatory ends.
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.
How events become news has always been a fundamental question for both journalism practitioners and scholars. For journalism practitioners, news judgments are wrapped up in the moral obligation to hold the powerful to account and to provide the public with the means to participate in democratic governance. For journalism scholars, news selection and construction are wrapped up in investigations of news values and newsworthiness. Scholarship systematically analyzing the processes behind these judgments and selections emerged in the 1960s, and since then, news values research has made a significant contribution to the journalism literature. Assertions have been made regarding the status of news values, including whether they are culture bound or universal, core or standard. Some hold that news values exist in the minds of journalists or are even metaphorically speaking “part of the furniture,” while others see them as being inherent or infused in the events that happen or as discursively constructed through the verbal and visual resources deployed in news storytelling. Like in many other areas of journalism research, systematic analysis of the role that visuals play in the construction of newsworthiness has been neglected. However, recent additions to the scholarship on visual news values analysis have begun to address this shortfall. The convergence and digitization of news production, rolling deadlines, new media platforms, and increasingly active audiences have also impacted on how news values research is conducted and theorized, making this a vibrant and ever-evolving research paradigm.