Program Information

Special Series  

Annual Series   

NCA 100th Annual Convention Call for Participation 

In 2014, we mark the centennial year of the National Communication Association. What we think of as NCA’s origin story (although not the exclusive origin story told among communication scholars) was the creation of the National Association of Academic Teachers of Public Speaking at a meeting of a handful of college teachers in Chicago, in 1914. Hence, the site of this year’s convention and also its theme: The Presence of Our Past(s): NCA at 100.

The centennial is a time to celebrate the resilience of our place in the intellectual world. It is also a prompt for us to reexamine, to seriously engage with what we take to be “the past(s)” of both the Association and the now vast intellectual field comprising Communication Studies. So, in addition to the convention’s annual array of provocative scholarship, this special moment calls for us to reflect together on the study, teaching, and practices of communication over the past 100 years.

Why celebrate and reexamine backward? And why think of “the past” in the plural?  This special anniversary is a time to study how our history has wrought our present and to provoke an assessment of how well (or not) past achievements and attachments have contributed to the formation and fulfillment of current aspirations. The centennial is an opportunity for us to think and rethink the group’s sources of identity as well to acknowledge that unity is not always or even often a corollary of robust collective identity. NCA’s centennial year invites us to celebrate our affiliation, to examine what binds us together as an “association,” and to consider the interests that distribute us among enclaves like “divisions,” “sections,” and “caucuses.”

What questions might we consider beyond our differential origin stories? What conditions have given rise to the evolution or devolution of particular theories, concepts, and research practices over the past century? How have our intellectual interests been prompted by political or economic conditions, by social unrest, by new or once-new technologies, by our field’s increasing diversity, and by other institutional or cultural forces? How can we think through our past(s) not just as old ideas giving rise or giving way to new ones, but also how old ideas sometimes lurk in the shadows only to reemerge again in different guises? In what different ways can we write our pasts, in terms of the crucial importance of intellectual relationships and coalitions, contested issues, collaborations, conflicts, or even gossip and feuds? In thinking thus, might we even be led to a different level of abstraction to pose useful questions about what a disciplinary history is or should be, with such an inquiry also perhaps calling into question our understanding of disciplinarity itself, particularly in relation to communication studies?

There are so many questions about our rich past(s), and this moment seems the propitious one to raise those questions and seek answers—multiple answers—to them. Please join your colleagues where it all started a hundred years ago, in Chicago. Let’s contemplate our history and make a bit of our own! 

2014 Convention: Carole BlairCarole Blair
NCA Second Vice President
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill