Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture

In 1994, the Administrative Committee of the National Communication Association established the Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture. The Arnold Lecture is given in a plenary session each year at the annual convention of the Association and features the most accomplished researchers in the field. The topic of the lecture changes annually so as to capture the wide range of research being conducted in the field and to demonstrate the relevance of that work to society at large.

The lecture is named for Carroll C. Arnold, who was Professor Emeritus at The Pennsylvania State University. Trained under Professor A. Craig Baird at the University of Iowa, Arnold was the co-author (with John Wilson) of Public Speaking as a Liberal Art, author of Criticism of Oral Rhetoric (among other works), and co-editor of The Handbook of Rhetorical and Communication Theory. Although primarily trained as a humanist, Arnold was nonetheless one of the most active participants in the New Orleans Conference of 1968, which helped put social scientific research in communication on solid footing. Thereafter, Arnold edited Communication Monographs because he was fascinated by empirical questions. As one of the three founders of the journal Philosophy and Rhetoric, Arnold also helped move the field toward increased dialogue with the humanities in general. For these reasons and more, Arnold was dubbed “The Teacher of the Field” when he retired from Penn State in 1977. Arnold died in January of 1997.

Performing Freedom in Troubled Times

November 17, 2023 • National Harbor, Maryland
E. Patrick Johnson, Northwestern University

Introducing this year's fantastic lecture from E. Patrick Johnson: "Performing Freedom in Troubled Times," featuring the Howard University Gospel Choir! This is a must-watch lecture if you are interest in critical race scholarship, musicality, or performance studies!


Antiracism and the Complexity of Woke Politics

November 18, 2022 • New Orleans, LA
Ronald L. Jackson, II, University of Cincinnati

There is no easy way to say what needs to be said in a speech like this. While there is a necessary shifting between theory and emotion as I unravel a range of narratives, let there be no confusion that a lecture on racial trauma from the standpoint of one who has experienced racial trauma first-hand comes with a necessary re-traumatization. In fact, that is why it has taken me over six months to prepare this lecture. I do not relish the thought of reintroducing trauma; yet the stories herein need to be told; the experiences need to be understood. I will speak from my own positionality, so you will hear me talk a lot about African Americans or Black identities, but please understand that racism in America extends far beyond Black and White people. Black identities have just become the world’s primary racial target, a foundational part of the manufactured social logic upon which racism rests.

What you will witness today is an unveiling of my truth, the interspersing of my voice with others in order to get at my experience. To be clear, that is essentially what all scholarship tends to be at the end of the day —a reflection of our own individual interpretations of our social realities. The approach is phenomenological and the work you will see may be characterized as counter-disentanglement, a neologism I am defining as an intentionally defiant process of not losing one’s voice while trying to disentangle enough information to share a larger grand narrative about structural inequalities.

Intentional Transformation in the Midst of Change

November 19, 2021 • Seattle, Washington
Tina M. Harris, Louisiana State University

As we press beyond 2020, it is imperative that we, as communication scholars, engage our existence within and outside of academe with an approach and attitude that embodies intentional transformation. This intentional transformation requires a commitment to creating a new normal in response to the many inequities and imbalances that have for far too long impacted every facet of life. Undoubtedly, we have all engaged in self-reflexivity in an attempt to make sense of a turbulent year that forced us to recalibrate, reevaluate, and reassess. Personally, I have been challenged, inspired even, to embody what I believe is central to who I am as a person and a scholar: be a change agent who advocates a move from theory to practice. We are equipped with infinite knowledge and communication skills and theories that are at the core of intentional transformation. I hope that you all will join me in being intentional in facilitating the continued transformation in our field that squarely addresses the inequities responsible for the disparities that we can no longer deny. 

The Challenge of Global Whiteness

November 20, 2020 • Virtual Event (Indianapolis, IN)
Thomas K. Nakayama, Northeastern University

Whiteness has been and will continue to be a major force in communication and, more specifically. intercultural communication. Whiteness is not simply about racialization, but about a much larger and entrenched system that is shaped by local, national contexts. The specific ways that whiteness has functioned does vary from more local and national contexts. However, these local and national contexts cannot be understood in isolation as whiteness transgresses national borders. These networks of whiteness were rooted centuries earlier in the histories of expansion and colonialism that have built a global network of whiteness. It is imperative that we understand the global networks of communication that sustain and fuel the ways that whiteness is confronting contemporary issues. Looking to the past and the present, the global and the local, this presentation uses a dialectical approach to expose the ways that these tensions give rise to whiteness. Looking at anti-Asian attacks worldwide due to COVID-19, white nationalist/supremacist attacks and white migration patterns as touchstones to argue that the global character of whiteness is key to understanding how functions to normalize whiteness globally, as well as locally. Whiteness communicates internationally. Understanding the dialectical tension between the local and the global helps uncover an important, but often overlooked, aspect of whiteness.

Mobility, Containment, and the Racialized Spatio-Temporalities of Survival

November 15, 2019 • Baltimore Convention Center • Baltimore, MD
Lisa A. Flores, University of Colorado, Boulder

In recent years, U.S. discourse, from popular to political and cultural, has been filled with what we might name a border crisis - bans on travel, revocation of passport, separation of families, and detention of children. Each of these many disputes has been marked by race and the contested movement and arrest of racialized bodies, or by what I name "stoppage." What, I wonder, does it mean to think about survival through the intersecting prisms of mobility and containment? Surely survival is spatially located and temporally figured, but in what ways and with what discursive dynamics? Reflecting in this talk about what it means to locate survival as an already-raced and racialized practice, I ask how discourses of stoppage permeate and perhaps pollute survival. I explore survival both at the material level of physically stopped bodies and as a rhetorical mechanism in the making of race. That is, if, as I argue, race is made rhetorically through discourses of mobility and containment, might we say that while some stopped raced bodies will survive, race itself also survives via stoppage?


November 9, 2018 • Salt Palace Convention Center • Salt Lake City, UT
Joshua Gunn, University of Texas, Austin

The condition for communication is the primary helplessness of infancy, which leads inevitably (and hopefully) to a dependency on caretakers to deliver the yawps and farts of unwieldy orifices into the domain of meaning. Without the translation of these noises, mouths do not get fed and diapers do not get changed. In time play emerges in tandem with leveraging language as a way of coping with this primal dependency: As Jean Piaget has shown, the game of peek-a-boo teaches tots that a parent persists even when unseen. Although other communicative patterns come to dominate as we mature, play prevails as a primary modality of interaction throughout our lives, human and extra-human. Indeed, from the pioneering work of Jerome Bruner and D.W. Winnicott, to the boundary busting epiphanies of studies in performance, play is regarded as one of the most important ways in which we make our reality bearable.

Because play is so crucial for navigating the horrors of existence, however, André Green argues that we have a tendency to forget that play is also inseparable from cheating or "playing dirty." In this lecture, I attempt to temper the nostalgic connotations of play by highlighting its dark side and, in particular, the ways in which ingenuity is eclipsed by cultural scripts that pervert play into a rigged game. Insofar as mass shootings have become a predictable and deadly genre, from a critical perspective I examine their occurrence-including rhetoric about them-as perverse forms of play that insist on cocksure convictions instead of productive possibilities. The demanding, zero-sum character of playing dirty animates acting out in other arenas too, especially the political. Ultimately, I argue that understanding how play gets perverted in our time can help us toward more creative and humane alternatives to all-too-familiar forms of foul play.

Tubman & Jackson on the Twenty Dollar Bill; Or, Ghosts, Gossip, Mediums and Debts

November 17, 2017 • Sheraton Dallas • Dallas, TX
Catherine R. Squires, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Considering the controversy over the redesign of the U.S. twenty dollar bill, I consult with ghosts and ghouls of the culture wars to imagine other ways of relating to traumatic histories. What discourses might emerge when our money --our main symbol and mode of accounting for value-- is engraved with the visages of ancestors who remind us of enslavement, settler colonialism and racial capitalism? I survey presidential and fugitive journeys to grave sites and school yards, then steal a glance at television shows and news headlines to ponder how the graphic Union of an escaped slave and the cartographer of the Trail of Tears could help us distinguish grief from grievance. Or, put another way, if money talks, how will the new twenty dollar bill gossip about U.S.?

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Dreams of Union, Days of Conflict: Communicating Social Justice and Civil Rights Memory in the Age of Barack Obama

November 11, 2016 • Marriott Downtown • Philadelphia, PA
Kirt H. Wison, Penn State University

On March 18, 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama stood before a podium at Philadelphia's Constitution Center and began a speech dedicated to the subject of white and black race relations with the words, "We the people, in order to form a more perfect union." Since that moment, scholars and citizens, journalists and activists have reflected on the promise of "A More Perfect Union" and asked, "What happened?" The President's election seemed to indicate a wide-spread desire for unity in the United States. At the time, claims of a post-racial America seemed overly optimistic; nevertheless, national polls indicated that most adults viewed relations between whites and blacks as either "somewhat good" or "very good." By 2015, however, public opinion had swung in the opposite direction. A majority of adults believed that race relations were "somewhat bad" or "very bad." In his 2016 Carroll C. Arnold lecture, Dr. Kirt H. Wilson contends that when we ask what happened to the hoped for unity of Obama's Philadelphia address, we first need to interrogate how society selectively remembers the struggle for black freedom in the United States.

Dr. Wilson argues that since the early 1990s, but especially with the civil rights movement's golden anniversary, public rhetoric in the United States has reframed a collective memory of the movement. Specifically, a set of narratives has emerged that reconfigures past racial and political conflicts into a demonstration of the nation's enduring commitment to equality and democracy. This memory is not entirely stable, but it is sufficiently coherent to influence not only our understanding of history but also our deliberations about social justice in the present. Today citizens communicate about racial divisions, social protests, and remedies to discrimination within a horizon of possible action that is constrained by what we remember about the civil rights movement's purpose, success and failure.

By analyzing the relationships among three communicative phenomena--the symbolic proposition of a more perfect union, commemorative rhetoric about the civil rights movement, and contemporary activism to remediate racial injustice--Dr. Wilson reinterprets the conditions that have led to a pessimistic view of current interracial relations. Contrary to what some suggest, he is optimistic that we have arrived at an important juncture. The unrealized hopes for Obama's presidency and recent instances of racial conflict invite us to consider what we have forgotten about our past. It is more possible today than it was in 2008 to construct different memories of the black freedom struggle. These alternatives provide new resources for political action and communication. While some of these memories force us to abandon the ideal of a "perfect union," they may offer a better foundation for creating a just society.

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FLIP IT: How Complex Social Problems Can be Solved Simply and Communicatively by Looking for Positive Deviance

Friday, November 20, 2015 • Rio Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, NV
Arvind Singhal, University of Texas, El Paso

In this lecture, Dr. Singhal argues that often the most complex of social problems have simple communicative solutions that are hidden from plain view. To uncover them, one needs to flip mindsets and ask flipped questions that allows us to identify and amplify positive deviance. Positive Deviance (PD) is a novel approach to individual, organizational, and social change based on the observation that in every community there exist certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing worse challenges. The PD approach has been employed in over 40 countries to decrease malnutrition and infant and maternal mortality; reduce school dropouts and improve graduation rates; prevent and control hospital-acquired infections and improve pain management; and boost respect and trust among prisoners and prison guards. Driven by data, the PD approach flips the normative ways of conducting expert-driven needs assessment and gap-analysis on its head, and follows a systematic process of uncovering cost-effective and culturally appropriate solutions from within the local community.

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What is Knowledge For? And What Does Communication Have to Do with It?

Friday, November 21, 2014 • Hilton Chicago • Chicago, IL
John Durham Peters, University of Iowa

One hundred years supplies us with a good body of evidence for appraising what we have done. In this talk I examine several nested questions: what is knowledge for? what is the nature of professional knowledge? what has communication studies accomplished? These questions invite us both to reflect on how we care for our field and to ponder the role of the university and even the purpose of life.

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“The Incessant Moan”: Reanimating Zombie Voices

Friday, November 22, 2013 • Wardman Park Marriott • Washington, DC
Eric King Watts, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

In his popular parody of survivalist culture, The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks indexed a persistent challenge to communication studies. Brooks warned that while hunkered down in one’s fortress during a zombie apocalypse, one should use earplugs to muffle the zombie wail penetrating the walls because the zombie sound is “deadly.” Eric King Watts, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill argued the ideals of communication studies compel us to instead amplify the “incessant moan” and endow “zombie voice.”

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Paradoxes of Collaboration

Friday, November 16, 2012 • Dolphin Hotel • Orlando, FL
Marshall Scott Poole, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Marshall Scott Poole, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign delivered the 2012 Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture "Paradoxes of Collaboration." The lecture considered collaboration as a fundamental communicative process that is simple, yet complex, beneficial yet dangerous, safe yet risky, everyday yet mysterious.

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Voice Lessons for Social Change

November 18, 2011 • Sheraton New Orleans • New Orleans, LA
Brenda J. Allen, University of Colorado, Denver

The Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture, "Voice Lessons for Social Change," was delivered by Brenda J. Allen, University of Colorado, Denver. Professor Allen explored how communication scholarship about voice can inform efforts to effect social change. She reviewed relevant research and share lessons learned for addressing pressing social problems.

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Seduction and Sustainability: The Politics of Feminist Communication and Career Scholarship

November 15, 2010 • Hilton San Francisco • San Francisco, CA
Patrice M. Buzzanell, Purdue University

The Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture, "Seduction and Sustainability: The Politics of Feminist Communication and Career Scholarship," was presented by Patrice M. Buzzanell, Purdue University. This lecture acknowledged the work that communication scholars and researchers across academe have done toward enhancing better quality of life and inclusionary processes on individual, group, and institutional levels. These efforts have known no methodological, theoretical, epistemological, or contextual boundaries. Buzzanell explored both struggles and possibilities as communication scholars work toward enhancing inclusion and creating sustainable institutional change in academe and other life realms.

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Discursive Struggles of Relating

November 12, 2009 • Hilton Chicago • Chicago, IL
Leslie A. Baxter, University of Iowa

The Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture, "Discursive Struggles of Relating," was presented by Leslie A. Baxter, F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor at the University of Iowa. Relating is a cacophony of disparate, often competing, discourses. Meaning-making emerges out of this dialogic agitation in which discourses bump up against each other in ongoing interplay. This view of relating is the central tenet of Relational Dialectics Theory, a theory of communication and relationships developed by Baxter and her colleagues and grounded in the philosophy of dialogism articulated in the 1930s by Russian literary and cultural theorist Mikhail Bakhtin. Baxter discussed the discursive struggles that animate relating in a variety of relationship types, as well as some broader implications for how we can approach the study of communication from a dialogic lens.

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Coming to Terms with Cultures

November 21, 2008 • Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel • San Diego, CA
Gerry F. Philipsen, University of Washington

The Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture, "Coming to Terms with Cultures," was presented by Gerry F. Philipsen, University of Washington. We all live in a world not only of culture, but of cultures, and in our lives we face moments when we struggle to come to terms with the cultures that surround us. In the 2008 Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture, Gerry F. Philipsen, University of Washington, presented a framework, grounded in research, for how individuals can come to terms with the cultures of their life worlds. The talk emphasized communication strategies for dealing with four different situations in which: (1) a dominant culture can work against your purposes, (2) you seek to challenge or undermine a dominant culture, (3) you seek to integrate within one life two cultures that are crucial to your identity, or (4) you seek to reconstruct your life when a culture that had been a source of strength to you begins to crumble around you.

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Past Lectures

Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture Fund

NCA thanks Pearson/Allyn & Bacon for its continued support of the Arnold Lecture. NCA also thanks the many friends, colleagues, and students of Carroll Arnold who honored his scholarly contributions with their personal donations to the Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture Fund.

Janis Andersen
Peter Andersen
Kenneth Andersen
Ronald Applbaum
Susan Applbaum
Carroll C. Arnold
Deborah Atwater
Robert Avery
Wallace Bacon
Harold Barrett
Charles L. Bartow
Samuel Becker
Thomas W. Benson
Roy Berko
Goodwin Berquist
Erwin Bettinghaus
Jane Blankenship
Don Boileau
John Waite Bowers
Irving Brown
Robert Brubaker
Joseph Bulsys
Karlyn Kohrs Campbell
Noreen M. Carrocci
Ingeborg G. Chaly
Kristin F. Chaudoin
Sister Joan Chittister
Timothy Y. Choy
Kenneth Cissna
Herman Cohen
Celeste Condit
Martha Cooper
E. Sam Cox
Ralph B. Culp
John Daly
Arlie Daniel
Suzanne M. Daughton
Arthur F. Dauria
Robert Doolittle
Nancy Dunbar
Robert Dunham
Margaret Eadie
William Eadie
Flo Beth Ehninger
Lois Einhorn
Donald Ellis
Keith Erickson
Walter Fisher
Paul Friedman

Gustav Friedrich
Linda Fuller
D. C. Gila
Susan Gilpin
James Golden
Dennis S. Gouran
Richard Gregg
Leland Griffin
Bruce Gronbeck
Roderick P. Hart
Kenneth Harwood
Gerard Hauser
Nola Heidelbaugh
Kathryn Hening
Thomas Hopkins
Robert Hopper
Fredric Jablin
Carol Jablonski
Anita C. James
Kathleen Hall Jamieson
J. Vernon Jensen
Bonnie Johnson
Christopher Johnstone
Henry Johnstone
Lynne Kelly
Corwin P. King
Dennis R. Klinzing
Mark Knapp
Roberta L. Kosberg
Kathleen Kougl
Manuel I. Kuhr
Robert Kully
Reiko Kuramoto
James M. Lahiff
Dale Leathers
Beverly Whitaker Long
Stephen Lucas
Jeanne Lutz
Cheryl Malone
A. Jackson McCormack
James McCroskey
Sherrie L. McNeeley
Martin Medhurst
Paul Messaris
N. Edd Miller
Ray Nadeau
Mary Newman
Thomas Nilsen
Victoria O’Donnell

Thomas Olbricht
Thomas J. Pace
Arlie Parks
Stanley Paulson
Douglas Pedersen
Sue D. Pendell
Mary Pettas
Gerald Phillips
Darrell T. Piersol
Linda Putnam
Sharon Ratliffe
Loren Reid
Beatrice Reynolds
Richard D. Rieke
Stanley Rives
Lawrence Rosenfeld
Alan Rubin
Rebecca Rubin
Akira Sanbonmatsu
Joan Sanbonmatsu
Father Leo Sands
Thomas Scheidel
Patricia Schmidt
Robert L. Scott
David Seibold
Barbara Sharf
Daniel Shurman
Malcolm Sillars
Herbert Simons
Craig R. Smith
Jo Sprague
Hermann Stelzner
Nathan P. Stucky
Jerry Tarver
Anita Taylor
Robert Tiemens
Kathleen J. Turner
Richard Vatz
Paul A. Walwick
Steven A. Ward
Robert Welch
Molly Wertheimer
Eugene White
Harold E. Wisner
James A. Wood
Julia Wood
Margaret Wood
David Zarefsky


If you are interested in supporting the Carroll C. Arnold Distinguished Lecture as one of its benefactors, please send your contribution to The Arnold Lecture Fund, National Communication Association, 1765 N Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036.