NCA Bookshelf

Profiles of new and notable books written by Communication scholars

 

The Border Crossed Us book cover

The Border Crossed Us: Rhetorics of Borders, Citizenship, and Latino/a Identity

Josue David Cisneros
Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2014

The Border Crossed Us explores efforts to restrict and expand notions of U.S. citizenship as they relate specifically to the U.S.-Mexico border and Latina/o identity.

Borders and citizenship go hand in hand. Borders define a nation as a territorial entity and create the parameters for national belonging. But the relationship between borders and citizenship breeds perpetual anxiety over the purported sanctity of the border, the security of a nation, and the integrity of civic identity.

In The Border Crossed Us, Josue David Cisneros addresses these themes as they relate to the U.S.-Mexico border, arguing that issues ranging from the Mexican-American War of 1846–1848 to contemporary debates about Latina/o immigration and border security are negotiated rhetorically through public discourse. He explores these rhetorical battles through case studies of specific Latina/o struggles for civil rights and citizenship, including debates about Mexican American citizenship in the 1849 California Constitutional Convention, 1960s Chicana/o civil rights movements, and modern-day immigrant activism.

Cisneros posits that borders—both geographic and civic—have crossed and recrossed Latina/o communities throughout history (the book’s title derives from the popular activist chant, “We didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us!”) and that Latina/os in the United States have long contributed to, struggled with, and sought to cross or challenge the borders of belonging, including race, culture, language, and gender.

The Border Crossed Us illuminates the enduring significance and evolution of U.S. borders and citizenship, and provides programmatic and theoretical suggestions for the continued study of these critical issues. Writing about Cisneros's work, Darrel Wanzer-Serrano notes that “The Border Crossed Usmakes a unique and significant contribution to rhetorical studies and Latina/o studies by advancing an inclusive theoretical focus on the border and the intersections between rhetoric, borders, belonging, and Latinidad. The specific case studies provide a welcome breadth of textual material that will appeal to Latina/o rhetorical and communication scholars from myriad methodological orientations.”

On the Frontier of Science book cover

On the Frontier of Science: An American Rhetoric of Exploration and Exploitation

Leah Ceccarelli
East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2013

“The frontier of science” is a metaphor that has become ubiquitous in American rhetoric, from its first appearance in the public address of early 20th century American intellectuals and politicians who aligned a mythic national identity with scientific research, to its more recent use in scientists’ arguments in favor of increased research funding.

In On the Frontier of Science: An American Rhetoric of Exploration and Exploitation, Leah Ceccarelli explores what is selected and what is deflected when this metaphor is deployed, its effects on those who use it, and what rhetorical moves are made by those who try to counter its appeal. In her research, Ceccarelli discovers that “the frontier of science” evokes a scientist who is typically male, a risk taker, an adventurous loner—someone separated from a public that both envies and distrusts him, with a manifest destiny to penetrate the unknown. It conjures a competitive desire to claim the riches of a new territory before others can do the same. Closely reading the public address of scientists and politicians and the reception of their audiences, this book shows how the frontier of science metaphor constrains American speakers, helping to guide the ends of scientific research in particular ways and sometimes blocking scientists from attaining the very goals they set out to achieve.

Calling Ceccarelli's book "an outstanding model of what the next generation of rhetorical criticism can contribute to society," the University of Georgia's Celeste Condit credits Ceccarelli with creating "a broad and deep understanding of the variegated potentials of this metaphor and [using] that understanding to offer alternatives for the rhetorical construction of the futures of science in the context of globalization.” Carolyn Miller says thatOn the Frontier of Science "shows us why the rhetorical nature of science matters, and how it works." For Miller, this study "is characteristically purposeful, meticulous, and lucid, with careful attention to the burden of proof [Ceccarelli] bears for a multidisciplinary readership in public address, rhetoric of science, and science studies.”

Repeatedly calling On the Frontier of Science "fascinating," Catherine Newell, writing in Science, notes that "One of the book's most powerful lessons is the possibility that the frontier metaphor creates a culture of science that 'sees science as a contest for territory' rather than a global and collaborative effort."

Leah Ceccarelli is Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington. Her research focuses on interdisciplinary and public discourse about science. She also explores metacritical issues surrounding rhetorical inquiry as a mode of research. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in American Public Address, Public Debate, Rhetorical Criticism, Classical Rhetoric, and Rhetoric of Science. She helps coordinate Washington's Science Studies Network. She serves on the editorial boards of Rhetoric & Public Affairs and Philosophy & Rhetoric, is Vice Chair of the Public Address Division of the National Communication Association, serves on the Publications Committee of the Western States Communication Association, and is Co-Editor of Transdisciplinary Rhetoric (a book series sponsored by the Rhetoric Society of America and Penn State University Press).

Tell It Like It Is book cover

Tell It Like It Is: Women in the National Welfare Reform Movement

Mary E. Triece
Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2013

In Tell It Like It Is, Mary E. Triece brings to light a lesser known yet influential social movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s—the welfare rights movement, led and run largely by poor black mothers in the National Welfare Rights Organization (NWRO). Her study combines theory and critical analysis to explore rhetorical strategies and direct actions women employed as they argued for fair welfare legislation both in formal policy debates and in the streets. Triece focuses on how welfare recipients spoke for themselves in forums often marked by widely held stereotypes.

Triece explains the influence of racism on welfare legislation throughout the early 1900s and explores how welfare recipients cultivated agency while challenging stereotypes such as the "welfare cheat" and the "welfare mother." To illuminate her study, Triece uses historical documents including pamphlets, flyers, position statements, and convention materials. She examines The Welfare Fighter, the official newspaper of the NWRO, and draws on the congressional testimonies of welfare recipients, providing the first in-depth look at the ways that these women represented themselves in this formal political forum.

Tell It Like It Is presents an interdisciplinary study touching on communication, rhetoric, politics, feminist theory, and the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality. It also engages in ongoing scholarly debate regarding language, knowledge, reality, and the potential for social change. Triece contributes to each of these disciplines as she explores how a marginalized and beleaguered people managed to mobilize a nationwide movement. Political scientist and Gender Studies scholar Laura Woliver remarks that Tell It Like It Is "fills in those large gaps in our knowledge about how even very poor, stigmatized, marginalized, and beleaguered people often do 'talk back' ... and dissent from the complacent status quo to 'set society straight.'" Reference and Research Book News calls Triece's book an "interdisciplinary study" that "integrates ideas from feminist theory, politics, communication, race studies, and social change. On a theoretical level, the book engages in ontological and epistemological debates regarding language, knowledge, and truth, emphasizing the relevance of lived experience for making claims to knowing."

Mary E. Triece is Professor in the School of Communication at the University of Akron. She is the author ofProtest and Popular Culture: Women in the U.S. Labor Movement, 1894–1917 and On the Picket Line: Strategies of Working-Class Women during the Depression, which received the Bonnie Ritter Book Award. Triece has also published in Critical Studies in Mass CommunicationRhetoric Society QuarterlyCommunication Studies,Women's Studies in Communication, and the Western Journal of Communication.

Anonymous Agencies, Backstreet Businesses, and Covert Collectives book cover

Anonymous Agencies, Backstreet Businesses, and Covert Collectives: Rethinking Organizations in the 21st Century

Craig R. Scott
Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013

Many organizations and their members devote extensive resources to promoting themselves and being known to others. However, not all organizations want or need their identity to be recognized, and not all organizational members want to have their membership or affiliation known by at least certain audiences. As we consider secret societies, anonymous support programs, hate groups, terrorist cells, covert military units, organized crime, gangs, parts of the underground economy, front organizations, stigmatized businesses, and even certain hidden enterprises tucked away in quiet office parks, we have to question what we think we know about the identity goals of organizations and their members.

Craig Scott's book, Anonymous Agencies, Backstreet Businesses, and Covert Collectives, offers a framework for thinking about how a wide range of organizations and their members communicate their identity to relevant audiences. Considering the degree to which organizations strategically make themselves visible, the extent to which members express their identification with the organization, and whether the relevant audience is more mass/public or local, we can describe various “regions” in which these collectives reside—ranging from transparent and shaded to more shadowed and dark. Importantly, organizations operating in these spaces differ in how they and their members communicate identity to others. Taking a closer look at groups like EarthFirst!, the Church of Scientology, Alcoholics Anonymous, the KKK, Skull and Bones, U.S. special mission units, men's bathhouses, and various terrorist organizations, this book draws attention to shaded, shadowed, and dark collectives as important organizations in the contemporary landscape.

"Drawing on his life-long interest in opaque organizations," Brigham Young University's Paul Godfrey notes, "Craig Scott combines the best of academic research and engaging writing to provide a rich, thoughtful, and thought-provoking examination of 'hidden' organizations. His topic is both timely and timeless, as backstreet businesses promise to become increasingly important in our world." Tracy Russo of the University of Kansas concludes that "Scott's engaging examination of hidden organizations makes a vivid argument that established ideas about organizations and their public communication do not apply uniformly. This is an important contribution demonstrating to organizational communication students and researchers that there's more to the organizational landscape than meets the eye."

Craig R. Scott is Professor in the Department of Communication at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. His research examines anonymity and identification in organizations and related communication contexts. More specifically, he is interested in hidden organizations, organizational communication, communication technologies in the workplace, issues of work-related identification, anonymous communication, and communication theory. Scott is the past director of the Ph.D. program in Communication at Rutgers, a member of the advisory board for Rutgers's Communication and Interaction Lab, and an affiliate with Rutgers's Center for Media Studies.

Exhibiting Patriotism book cover

Exhibiting Patriotism: Creating and Contesting Interpretations of American Historic Sites

Teresa Bergman
Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2013

Recipient of the Jane Jacobs Urban Communication Book Award

In Exhibiting Patriotism, Teresa Bergman analyzes exhibits, interpretive materials, and orientation films at major U.S. sites, from Mt. Rushmore to the USS Arizona Memorial, where controversy has erupted over the stories they tell about the past. She shows how historic narratives are the result of dynamic relationships between institutions and the public, and how these relationships are changing in an era when museums are becoming more visitor-centered, seeing visitors as partners in historical interpretation. Drawing on film theory, memory studies, visual communication, and visitor studies, Bergman offers an important analysis for scholars and professionals in American studies, museum studies, public history, and communication and media studies.

Noted documentary film scholar Bill Nichols says of Exhibiting Patriotism: "Our national monuments, and the onsite films that frame our understanding of them, receive well-deserved scrutiny in Teresa Bergman's book. The sometimes strained efforts to acknowledge multiple constituencies and unrepresented minorities reveal how the Lincoln Memorial, Mt. Rushmore and other treasures possess chameleon-like identities that continue to evolve."

Teresa Bergman is Associate Professor in the Communication Department at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, and a former documentary filmmaker. She earned her B.A. at the University of California, Berkeley, her M.A. at San Francisco State University, and her Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis. She teaches courses in documentary film criticism and production as well as critical theory and qualitative research methods. Her research focus is on the intersection of location, memory, and representation at sites of public memory.

Race Appeal book cover

Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns

Charlton McIlwain & Stephen M. Caliendo
Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2011

In our evolving American political culture, whites and blacks continue to respond very differently to race-based messages and the candidates who use them. Race Appeal examines the use and influence of such appeals on voters in elections for federal office in which one candidate is a member of a minority group.

Charlton McIlwain and Stephen Caliendo use various analysis methods to examine candidates who play the race card in political advertisements. They offer a compelling analysis of the construction of verbal and visual racial appeals and how the news media covers campaigns involving candidates of color. Combining rigorous analyses with in-depth case studies—including an examination of race-based appeals in the historic 2008 presidential election—Race Appeal is a groundbreaking work that represents the most extensive and thorough treatment of race-based appeals in American political campaigns to date.

The University of Michigan's Robin Mean Coleman calls Race Appeal "well-researched [and] intellectually sophisticated." "It is an exhaustive study," Coleman notes, "that covers the full range of what might be considered race in the U.S. political campaign process." Michael Tesler, writing in Political Communication, concludes that Race Appeal "makes a significant contribution to the racial politics literature by shedding much needed light on the nature of the racialized communications environment encountered by candidates of color and showing that race is still a major issue in their campaigns—a contribution that will surely become even more important as the demographic composition of candidates for elected office changes in the decades ahead."

Race Appeal received the 2012 Ralph Bunche Award from the American Political Science Association, given to the best book published in the United States during the previous calendar year that explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism. In its citation, the APSA Award committee noted that the book "is not only a groundbreaking work that represents the most extensive and thorough treatment of race-based appeals in American political campaigns to date, but also an outstanding example of multi-disciplinary work that integrates research and theory across the fields of communication and political science."

Charlton D. McIlwain is Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University. He is the author of When Death Goes Pop: Death, Media and the Remaking of Community and Death in Black and White: Death, Ritual and Family Ecology. He is also coeditor of The Routledge Companion to Race and EthnicityStephen M. Caliendo is Professor of Political Science at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. He is the author of Inequality in America: Race, Poverty and Fulfilling Democracy's Promise and Teachers Matter: The Trouble with Leaving Political Education to the Coaches. He is also coeditor of The Routledge Companion to Race and Ethnicity.

We Are the Union: Democratic Unionism and Dissent at Boeing book cover

We Are the Union: Democratic Unionism and Dissent at Boeing

Dana L. Cloud
Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011

Dana L. Cloud engages union reformers at Boeing in Wichita and Seattle to reveal how ordinary workers attempted to take command of their futures by chipping away at the cozy partnership between union leadership and corporate management. Taking readers into the central dilemma of having to fight an institution while simultaneously using it as a bastion of basic self-defense, We Are the Union offers a sophisticated exploration of the structural opportunities and balance of forces at play in modern unions, told through a highly relevant case study.

Focusing on the 1995 strike at Boeing, Cloud renders a multi-layered account of the battles between the company and the union and within the union led by Unionists for Democratic Change and two other dissident groups. She gives voice to the company's claims of the hardships of competitiveness and the entrenched union leaders' calls for concessions in the name of job security, alongside the democratic union reformers' fight for a rank-and-file upsurge against both the company and the union leaders.

We Are the Union is grounded in on-site research and interviews and focuses on the efforts by Unionists for Democratic Change to reform unions from within. Incorporating theory and methods from the fields of organizational communication as well as labor studies, Cloud methodically uncovers and analyzes the goals, strategies, and dilemmas of the dissidents who, while wanting to uphold the ideas and ideals of the union, took up the gauntlet to make it more responsive to workers and less conciliatory toward management, especially in times of economic stress or crisis. Cloud calls for a revival of militant unionism as a response to union leaders' embracing of management and training programs that put workers in the same camp as management, arguing that reform groups should look to the emergence of powerful industrial unions in the United States for guidance on revolutionizing existing institutions and building new ones that truly accommodate workers' needs. Drawing from communication studies, labor history, and oral history and including a chapter co-written with Boeing worker Keith Thomas, We Are the Union contextualizes what happened at Boeing as an exemplar of agency that speaks to both the past and the future.

Writing in Labour/Le Travail, Duke University's Michael Stauch calls We Are the Union a "valuable contribution to the growing literature on the conflict between union officials and workers they purport to represent." The review in the Journal of American History notes that "Cloud poignantly portrays the exhausting costs of activism—personal, financial, and political," while labor historian Peter Rachleff concludes that We Are the Union "raises vital, critical questions [and] will be a widely read and passionately contested contribution to contemporary labor history."

Dana L. Cloud is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Texas. Cloud’s research interests lie in the areas of rhetoric and social movements, critique of representations of race and gender in the mass media, and the defense of historical materialist theory and method in communication studies. Her work has appeared in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, the Quarterly Journal of Speech,Critical Studies in Media CommunicationRhetoric & Public Affairs, and the Western Journal of Communication. Among other awards, Cloud is a recipient of the National Communication Association's Karl Wallace Memorial Award.

Hearing the Hurt: Rhetoric, Aesthetics, and Politics of the New Negro Movement book cover

Hearing the Hurt: Rhetoric, Aesthetics, and Politics of the New Negro Movement

Eric King Watts
Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2012

Hearing the Hurt is an examination of how the New Negro movement, also known as the Harlem Renaissance, provoked and sustained public discourse and deliberation about black culture and identity in the early twentieth century.

Borrowing its title from a W. E. B. Du Bois essay, Hearing the Hurt explores the nature of rhetorical invention, performance, and mutation by focusing on the multifaceted issues brought forth in the New Negro movement, which Watts treats as a rhetorical struggle over what it means to be properly black and at the same time properly American. Who determines the meaning of blackness? How should African Americans fit in with American public culture? In what way should black communities and families be structured? The New Negro movement animated dynamic tension among diverse characterizations of African American civil rights, intellectual life, and well-being, and thus it provides a fascinating and complex stage on which to study how ideologies clash with each other to become accepted universally.

Watts, conceptualizing the artistic culture of the time as directly affected by the New Negro public discourse, maps this rhetorical struggle onto the realm of aesthetics and discusses some key incarnations of New Negro rhetoric in select speeches, essays, and novels.

Noting that Watts' book has "great strengths," the review in Research & Reference Book News highlights how Watts "quietly notes that American ideas of color, race, sexuality, and power are deeply connected, and we can't talk productively about the New Negro movement until we accept that many of its artists and thinkers were both black and gay/lesbian/bisexual. It is okay to say so, and it is both possible and necessary to talk about those things together. He [Watts] gives us one good model of what it looks like to do that." CallingHearing the Hurt a "fine achievement in a scholarly landscape focused on fiercely-defended single-issue categories," this review concludes that the books is "a valuable one for scholars and students of African-American culture, 20th century art, rhetoric, or identity studies from any perspective." Robert Terrill, the author ofMalcolm X: Inventing Radical Judgment, notes that Watts's book "attends to a significant historical movement that is woefully understudied among rhetorical critics." Watts's "intensity is palpable," Terrill continues, and "his textual analyses are insightful, and his sometimes lyrical turns of phrase both enliven his arguments and invite the reader to share his commitment to the material.”

Eric King Watts is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of North Carolina. Watts has also taught at the University of Dayton and Wake Forest University. A former editor of Critical Studies in Media Communication, Watts received the New Investigator Award from the NCA Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division in 2002, and the 2002 Outstanding Journal Article Award and the 2004 Outstanding Book Chapter Award from the African American Communication & Culture Division of NCA.

Ralph Ellison and Kenneth Burke: At the Roots of the Racial Divide book cover

Ralph Ellison and Kenneth Burke: At the Roots of the Racial Divide

Bryan Crable
Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012

Ralph Ellison and Kenneth Burke focuses on the little-known but important friendship between two canonical American writers. The story of this 50-year friendship, however, is more than literary biography; Bryan Crable (left) argues that the Burke-Ellison relationship can be interpreted as a microcosm of the American "racial divide." Through examination of published writings and unpublished correspondence, he reconstructs the dialogue between Burke and Ellison about race that shaped some of their most important works, including Burke's A Rhetoric of Motives and Ellison's Invisible Man. In addition, the book connects this dialogue to changes in American discourse about race. Crable shows that these two men were deeply connected, intellectually and personally, but that the social division between white and black Americans produced hesitation, embarrassment, mystery, and estrangement where Ellison and Burke might otherwise have found unity. By using Ellison’s nonfiction and Burke’s rhetorical theory to articulate a new vocabulary of race, the author concludes not with a simplistic "healing" of the divide, but with a challenge to embrace the responsibility inherent to our social order.

Penn State's Jack Selzer notes that Crable's work is "a scholarly work of exceptional depth." "It offers considerable and original insight into the work and careers of two of the most important cultural figures in America during the 20th century," Selzer writes, while it also illuminates a fundamental argument, "that the relationship between Ellison and Burke epitomizes the larger racial issue that lies at the heart of American culture." Ralph Ellison and Kenneth Burke is "Highly Recommended" by CHOICE.

Bryan Crable is Professor of Communication at Villanova University and the Founding Director of the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society. Crable is the only two-time winner of the Charles Kneupper Award for best article of the year from the Rhetoric Society of America (2003, 2009), and, for his scholarly and professional contributions to the discipline, was awarded the Kenneth Burke Society’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. His essays have appeared in leading rhetoric and communication journals, including The Quarterly Journal oSpeech, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Rhetoric Review and Argumentation & Advocacy.

Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights book cover

Racial Innocence: Performing American Childhood from Slavery to Civil Rights

Robin Bernstein
New York: New York University Press, 2012

Beginning in the mid-19th century in America, childhood became synonymous with innocence—a reversal of the previously-dominant Calvinist belief that children were depraved, sinful creatures. As the idea of childhood innocence took hold, it became racialized: popular culture constructed white children as innocent and vulnerable while excluding black youth from these qualities. Actors, writers, and visual artists then began pairing white children with African American adults and children, thus transferring the quality of innocence to a variety of racial-political projects—a dynamic that Robin Bernstein calls “racial innocence.” This phenomenon informed racial formation from the mid-19th century through the early 20th century.

Racial Innocence takes up a rich archive including books, toys, theatrical props, and domestic knickknacks which Bernstein analyzes as “scriptive things” that invite or prompt historically located practices while allowing for resistance and social improvisation.  Integrating performance studies with literary and visual analysis, Bernstein offers singular readings of theatrical productions, from blackface minstrelsy to Uncle Tom’s Cabin to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; literary works by Joel Chandler Harris, Harriet Wilson, and Frances Hodgson Burnett; material culture including Topsy pincushions, Uncle Tom and Little Eva handkerchiefs, and Raggedy Ann dolls; and visual texts ranging from fine portraiture to advertisements for lard substitute. Throughout, Bernstein shows how “innocence” gradually became the exclusive province of white children—until the Civil Rights Movement succeeded not only in legally desegregating public spaces, but in culturally desegregating the concept of childhood itself.

Writing in Children’s Literature, Philip Nel notes that Racial Innocence is “one of those rare books that shifts the paradigm—a book that, in years to come, will be recognized as a landmark in children’s literature and childhood studies.” In the journal Cultural Studies, reviewer Aaron C. Thomas says that Bernstein’s “theory of the scriptive thing asks us to see children as active participants in culture, and, in fact, as expert agents of the culture of childhood into which they have been interpellated. In this way, Bernstein is able not only to describe the effects of 19th-century radicalization on 21st century US culture, but also to illuminate the radicalized residues of our own childhoods in our everyday adult lives.” Racial Innocence was awarded the 2012 Outstanding Book Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, and the award committee noted that the book “is a historiographic tour de force that traces a genealogy of the invention of the innocent (white) child and its racialized roots in 19th and 20th century U.S. popular culture.”

Robin Bernstein is a cultural historian who specializes in U.S. performance and theatre from the 19th century to the present. Her interests include formations of race, age, gender, and sexuality, and her research integrates the study of theatrical, visual, material, and literary evidence. A graduate of Yale's doctoral program in American Studies, Bernstein is an Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University where she is also a faculty member in the doctoral program in the History of American Civilization.

Collective Action in Organizations: Interaction and Engagement in an Era of Technological Change book cover

Collective Action in Organizations: Interaction and Engagement in an Era of Technological Change

Bruce Bimber, Andrew Flanagin, & Cynthia Stohl
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012

Challenging the notion that digital media render traditional, formal organizations irrelevant,Collective Action in Organizations offers a new theory of collective action and organizing. Based on extensive surveys and interviews with members of three influential and distinctive organizations in the United States - The American Legion, AARP, and MoveOn - the authors reconceptualize collective action as a phenomenon in which technology enhances people's ability to cross boundaries in order to interact with one another and engage with organizations.

By developing a theory of Collective Action Space, Bimber, Flanagin, and Stohl explore how people's attitudes, behaviors, motivations, goals, and digital media use are related to their organizational involvement. They find that using technology does not necessarily make people more likely to act collectively, but contributes to a diversity of "participatory styles," which hinge on people's interaction with one another and the extent to which they shape organizational agendas. In the digital media age, organizations do not simply recruit people into roles; they provide contexts in which people are able to construct their own collective experiences.

Peter Monge, of USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Marshall School of Business, writes thatCollective Action in Organizations “combines solid, new theorizing with crisp, well-executed data analysis.” “The results are surprising,” Monge concludes, noting that scholars with various interests “will find Collective Action in Organizations a thought-provoking and idea-generating experience.” The University of Illinois’s Marshall Scott Poole calls the book a “pathbreaking analysis,” and Michael Delli Carpini from Penn’s Annenberg School of Communication labels the book “a major contribution to both our empirical understanding of and our theorizing about civic and political engagement in the new information age.”

Bruce Bimber is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is also affiliated with the Department of Communication, and is founder and former Director of the Center for Information Technology and Society. His interest in digital media and society arises from his training as an electrical engineer and from many years of observing the interconnections between social and technological innovation. Andrew J. Flanagin is Professor of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he is also Director of the Center for Information Technology and Society. His research focuses on processes of collective organizing, particularly as influenced by the use of contemporary technologies; people's perceptions of the credibility of information gathered and presented online; the use of social media and social metadata for information sharing and assessment; and organizational technologies. Cynthia Stohl is Professor of Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an affiliate faculty member of the Center for Information Technology and Society. Her work focuses on organizing and network processes across a wide range of global contexts, including workplace participation programs, corporate NGO partnerships, activist organizing, and clandestine organizations.

Queer Temporalities in Gay Male Representation book cover

Queer Temporalities in Gay Male Representation: Tragedy, Normativity, and Futurity

Dustin Bradley Goltz
New York: Routledge, 2010

Through the analysis of more than 70 films and 30 television series, ranging from ShortbusSweet Home Alabama, and Poseidon to Noah’s ArcBrothers & Sisters, and Dawson’s Creek, Dustin Bradley Goltz examines recurring narrative structures in popular media that perpetuate the extreme value placed upon "young" gay male bodies, while devaluing health, aging, and longevity. Alienated from the future–outside of limited and exclusionary systems of marriage and procreation—the gay male is narrated within a circular tragedy that draws upon cultural mythologies of "older" gay male predation, the absence of gay intergenerational mentorship, and the gay male as sacrificial victim.

Using a Burkean framework, Goltz makes a theoretical, rhetorical, and cultural investigation of how the increased visibility of “positive” gay representation in dominant media shapes contemporary meanings of gay aging, heteronormative future, homonormative future, and queer potential.

The research at the foundation of Queer Temporalities in Gay Male Representation formed the basis of a full-scale multimedia performance project called Blasphemies on Forever: Remembering Queer Futures, recently published in LiminalitiesBlasphemies on Forever: Remembering Queer Futures was written, directed and performed by Goltz and also features Jason Zingsheim, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Governors State University. The performance premiered at DePaul University in the Spring of 2009. It was also presented at Davenport's Piano Bar in Chicago in September 2009 and The Empty Space Theater at Arizona State University in March 2010. The performance documentation was recorded in November 2009, at DePaul University, as part of the National Communication Association Performance Series. The documentation was recorded by Rae Langes and edited by Dustin Goltz.  

Dustin Bradley Goltz is Assistant Professor in the College of Communication at DePaul University where he teaches courses in performance of literature, performance for social change, and the rhetoric of popular culture, with additional interests in gender and communication, rhetorical methods, queer theory, critical theory, and cultural studies. His research examines and explores issues of queer temporalities and futurity, queer popular culture, the performance of personal narrative, the rhetoric of gay male aging, and performative research methods. Goltz’s research has been published in Text & Performance QuarterlyGenders,LiminalitiesWestern Journal of CommunicationCritical Studies in Media CommunicationReview of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies and Qualitative Inquiry.

Militant Citizenship book cover

Militant Citizenship: Rhetorical Strategies of the National Woman’s Party, 1913-1920

Belinda Stillion Southard
College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2011

Between 1913 and 1920, the National Woman’s Party (NWP) waged a campaign to write women’s voting rights into the U.S. Constitution. Unlike the more moderate campaign strategies adopted by other woman suffrage organizations of the Progressive Era, the NWP remained committed to militant agitation—that is, holding political party leaders responsible for social change and doing so through nontraditional means of protest. Some of these militant strategies included heckling President Wilson, protesting silently outside the White House gates, and publicly burning his speeches in “Watch Fires.”

In light of the NWP’s militant identity and its demonstrated political viability, Belinda A. Stillion Southard treats the party’s campaign for woman suffrage as an example of how a relatively powerless group of women constituted themselves as “national citizens” through rhetoric. To this end, she uses volumes of NWP discourse, including correspondence, photographs, protests, and publications, to situate the NWP in the historical and ideological forces of the period, particularly as they are inflected by meanings of nationalism, citizenship, and social activism. In addition to the project’s historical focus, this study features the critical concept of political mimesis to help explain the ways in which the NWP mimicked political rhetorics and rituals to simultaneously agitate and accommodate members of the political elite.

Militant Citizenship received an honorable mention designation for the 2012 Winifred Bryan Horner Outstanding Book Award, presented by the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. Writing in the American Historical Review, Ruth Crocker notes that “Southard’s [sic] study focusing on the rhetoric as well as the enactment of protest adds an important dimension to our appreciation of the more radical wing of the woman suffrage movement. This monograph demonstrates the rich possibilities of approaching social movement history not only through an analysis of the rhetoric of public addresses, but also through the interpretive lens of visual culture.” Rhetorical scholar Cheryl Jorgensen-Earp remarks that “Stillion Southard has produced a well-argued study of depth and nuance that transforms our understanding of militancy, the National Woman's Party, and the broader strategy of political mimesis.” 

Belinda Stillion Southard is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Georgia. She studies rhetorical criticism, U.S. public address, and women’s discourse. While her research and teaching interests are grounded in the public address tradition, they are also guided by questions regarding the processes of identity-formation amidst political and social movements. Dr. Stillion Southard’s work has appeared in theRhetoric & Public Affairs, Communication Quarterly and elsewhere.

Letters to Power: Public Advocacy without Public Intellectuals book cover

Letters to Power: Public Advocacy without Public Intellectuals

Samuel McCormick
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2011

Although the scarcity of public intellectuals among today’s academic professionals is certainly a cause for concern, it also serves as a challenge to explore alternative, more subtle forms of political intelligence. Samuel McCormick’s Letters to Power accepts this challenge, guiding readers through ancient, medieval, and modern traditions of learned advocacy in search of persuasive techniques, resistant practices, and ethical sensibilities for use in contemporary democratic public culture.

At the center of Letters to Power are the political epistles of four renowned scholars: the Roman Stoic Seneca the Younger, the late-medieval feminist Christine de Pizan, the key Enlightenment thinker Immanuel Kant, and the Christian anti-philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Anticipating much of today’s online advocacy, their letter writing helps would-be intellectuals understand the economy of personal and public address at work in contemporary relations of power, suggesting that the art of lettered protest, like letter writing itself, involves appealing to diverse, and often strictly virtual, audiences. In this sense, Letters to Power is not only a nuanced historical study, but also a book in search of a usable past. 

In 2012, McCormick received the Everett Lee Hunt Award (given to a work that offers a “major contribution to the understanding of rhetoric and communication as a human function in the contemporary world; a means of explaining and realizing public responsibilities beyond the discipline of communication; and/or an intellectual and humane instrument for merging diverse fields of knowledge in a way that infuses them with moral purpose and public significance”) from the Eastern Communication Association for Letters to Power.

Robert Hariman notes that Letters to Power’s “skillful readings provide numerous insights regarding the predicaments and strategies shaping learned advocacy. By focusing on things small and sly, [McCormick] shows how public culture can be improved by careful thinkers doing humble work.”

Samuel McCormick is Assistant Professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue University. He studies rhetoric and public advocacy, especially as these topics intersect with broader issues in communication and social theory, intellectual and cultural history, and contemporary American civic life. His work has appeared in the Quarterly Journal of SpeechPhilosophy & RhetoricAdvances in the History of Rhetoric, and elsewhere.

Scientific Characters: Rhetoric, Politics, and Trust in Breast Cancer Research book cover

Scientific Characters: Rhetoric, Politics, and Trust in Breast Cancer Research

Lisa Keränen
Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010

Moving back and forth between news coverage, medical journals, letters to the editor, and oncology pamphlets, Lisa Keränen draws insights from rhetoric, literary studies, sociology, and science studies to analyze the roles of character in shaping the outcomes of the “Datagate” controversy, a scientific dispute that erupted after a 1994 Chicago Tribune headline: “Fraud in Breast Cancer Research: Doctor Lied on Data for Decade.” Throughout the scandal, debates about the character of surgeon and researcher Dr. Bernard Fisher and other key players endured, showing how scientific knowledge is shaped by perceptions of the personal temperament, trustworthiness, integrity, and transparency of those who produce it. As administrators, politicians, scientists, patients, journalists, and citizens attempted to make sense of what had happened, and to assess the integrity of the research, they raised questions, assigned blame, attributed responsibility, and reshaped the norms of scientific practice.

Scientific Characters thus addresses what happens when scientists, patients, and advocates are called to defend themselves in public concerning complex technical matters with direct implications for human life. In assessing the rhetoric that animated “Datagate,” Scientific Characters sheds light on the challenges faced by scientists and citizens as science becomes more bureaucratized, dispersed, and accountable to varied publics.

In 2011, Keränen received the Marie Hochmuth Nichols Award from the NCA Public Address Division forScientific Characters. Nicole Parker, in the New York Journal of Books, calls Scientific Characters “articulate, engaging, and insightful,” and Victor Vogel, the editor of Management of Patients at High Risk for Breast Cancer, says the book “captures all of [the] complexities,” of the case it analyzes and “does a great service,” to the research and health care communities that are concerned about breast cancer.

Lisa Keränen is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado-Denver. She researches the interface between science, publics, and the state in biomedical controversies, end-of-life discourse, and the biodefense industry. Her research concerning rhetoric, medicine, bioethics, and terrorism has appeared in outlets such as Academic Medicine, Accountability in ResearchArgumentation & Advocacy, the Communication YearbookCultural Studies-Critical Methodologies,Journal of Applied Communication ResearchJournal of Medical Humanities, Quarterly Journal of Speech,Rhetoric and Public Affairs, and the Western Journal of Communication. Keränen’s website features a useful discussion guide for classroom use of Scientific Characters.

Invoking the Invisible Hand book cover

Invoking the Invisible Hand: Social Security and the Privatization Debates

Robert Asen
East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009

Robert Asen’s Invoking the Invisible Hand examines the rhetoric hiding beneath the debates over Social Security through careful scrutiny of contemporary debates over proposals to privatize this federal program. Asen argues that a rights-based rhetoric employed by Social Security's original supporters enabled advocates of privatization to align their proposals with the widely held belief that Social Security functions simply as a return on a worker's contributions and that it is not, in fact, a social insurance program. By analyzing major debates over a preeminent American institution, Asen reveals the ways in which language is deployed to identify problems for public policy, craft policy solutions, and promote policies to the populace. He shows how debate participants seek to create favorable contexts for their preferred policies and how they connect those policies to idealized images of the nation.  

Invoking the Invisible Hand is a “rich and compelling work,” writes Melanie Loehwing in Rhetoric & Public Affairs. “The careful research, provocative analysis, and thoughtful insights Asen offers throughout the book distinguish it as an invaluable resource for scholars of public policy rhetorics,” Loehwing concludes. Internet Bookwatch said of Asen’s book: “Revealing the manner in which debate participants tend to manipulate language and perception to favor their side, Invoking the Invisible Hand is strongly recommended not only to college libraries, but also anyone involved in the Social Security debate, the better to fully understand all sides of the issue, and the fine details that advocates on each side tend to leave out.”

In 2010, Asen received the NCA Winans-Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address, and the Marie Hochmuth Nichols Award from the NCA Public Address Division. And in 2011,Invoking the Invisible Hand received the Kohrs-Campbell Prize in Rhetorical Criticism, one of the largest awards ever established to sustain and advance the study of rhetoric in American higher education.

Robert Asen is Professor in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to Invoking the Invisible Hand, Asen is the author of Visions of Poverty: Welfare Policy and Political Imagination (Michigan State University Press, 2002) and the co-editor of Public Modalities (University of Alabama Press, 2010) and Counterpublics and the State (SUNY Press, 2001).

Public Forgetting: The Rhetoric and Politics of Beginning Again book cover

Public Forgetting: The Rhetoric and Politics of Beginning Again

Bradford Vivian
University Park: Penn State University Press, 2010

Forgetting is usually juxtaposed with memory as its opposite in a negative way: It is seen as the loss of the ability to remember or, ironically, as the inevitable process of distortion or dissolution that accompanies attempts to commemorate the past. The civic emphasis on the crucial importance of preserving lessons from the past to prevent us from repeating mistakes that led to violence and injustice, invoked most poignantly in the call of “Never again” from Holocaust survivors, tends to promote a view of forgetting as verging on sin or irresponsibility. In this book, Bradford Vivian hopes to put a much more positive spin on forgetting by elucidating its constitutive role in the formation and transformation of public memory. Using examples ranging from classical rhetoric to contemporary crises such as 9/11, Public Forgetting demonstrates how, contrary to conventional wisdom, communities may adopt idioms of forgetting in order to create new and beneficial standards of public judgment concerning the lessons and responsibilities of their shared past.

In Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Greg Dickinson noted that “Vivian’s attention to the historical understandings of the relations of memory and forgetting ground his study while his astute textual readings of instances of public forgetting offer nuanced and textured elaborations of his theoretical concerns.”

“The signal contribution of Public Forgetting,” writes Katherine Mack in Rhetoric & Public Affairs, “is its reminder of the intimate relationship of remembrance and forgetting. Appeals to remember are simultaneously, implicitly or explicitly, appeals to forget (and vice versa). By inviting readers to adopt this more complex appreciation of their interplay, Vivian sets a new critical standard for future scholarship in the field.”

In 2011, Vivian received the National Communication Association's Winans-Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address for Public Forgetting.

Bradford Vivian is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies at Syracuse University. In addition to Public Forgetting, Vivian is the author of Being Made Strange: Rhetoric Beyond Representation (SUNY Press, 2004) and the co-editor of Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form: Sighting Memory (Routledge, 2012).

Reality Television and Arab Politics: Contention in Public Life book cover

Reality Television and Arab Politics: Contention in Public Life

Marwan Kraidy
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010

What does it mean to be modern outside the West? Based on a wealth of primary data collected over five years, Reality Television and Arab Politics, by the University of Pennsylvania’s Marwan M. Kraidy, analyzes how reality television stirred an explosive mix of religion, politics, and sexuality, fueling heated polemics over cultural authenticity, gender relations, and political participation in the Arab world. The controversies, Kraidy argues, are best understood as a social laboratory in which actors experiment with various forms of modernity, continuing a long-standing Arab preoccupation with specifying terms of engagement with Western modernity. Women and youth take center stage in this process. Against the backdrop of dramatic upheaval in the Middle East, this book challenges the notion of a monolithic “Arab Street” and offers an original perspective on Arab media, shifting attention away from a narrow focus on al-Jazeera toward a vibrant media sphere that compels broad popular engagement and contentious political performance.

Writing in Political Communication, Paddy Scannell called Reality Television and Arab Politics a “pioneering study of the impact of Arab RTV entertainment genres,” that “is an important contribution to our understanding of the global impact of media and communication.” The book, Scannell concludes, “deserves the widest possible readership across the humanities and social sciences." Reality Television and Arab Politics received the 2011 Diamond Anniversary Book Award from the National Communication Association.

Marwan M. Kraidy is Professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. A scholar of global communication and an expert on Arab media and politics, Kraidy was previously a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the founding director of the Arab Media and Public Life (AMPLE) project at American University.