The Time is Right. The Time is Now.
Communication professors and scholars are in a unique position to guide the next generation in reshaping the values of our society to be more equitable and just. To that end, Patricia S. Parker and Lawrence R. Frey, series coeditors for the Communication for Social Justice Activism Series, discuss the goals of the series, what they look for in proposals, and share a sneak preview of upcoming books.
What inspired you to develop the Communication for Social Justice Activism series?
Pat: Executive Editor Lyn Uhl approached me about a potential new book series on communication and advocacy. She was looking for series editors and asked to meet with me at NCA 2015. I was excited about the opportunity to work with one of the top academic presses to affirm the efforts of colleagues in communication who were working alongside activist and others in communities to advance social justice via communication theories, principles, and practices.
I saw the series as an important outlet for this important work—and an opportunity for these scholars’ work to take part in shaping the discourse in this urgent area of scholarship going forward. Additionally, I was completing my own community-based activist research project and I believed I could use my experiences to support other scholars as they navigated the process of publishing their work in book form. Most importantly, I felt the urgency to find multiple outlets for this scholarship and to affirm the rise of communication and social justice activism in response to social injustices.
Larry: When Pat approached me about coediting this series, I was tremendously excited, as I saw this series as an extremely important way to infuse the communication for social justice activism perspective into the communication discipline. I had edited four books and numerous journal articles and chapters about communication activism, and I was one of the founders of the Activism and Social Justice Division in NCA, and, thus, this book series was the next step in promoting social justice activism research and teaching in the communication discipline.
Can you speak to the three book types in the series? What opportunities do these categories offer to potential authors?
Larry: There are three types of books we are looking to publish: textbooks, course content-focused books, and case study books. The textbooks seek to infuse communication for social justice activism throughout the communication curriculum, from introductory, first-year courses (e.g., public speaking) to mid-level sophomore and junior courses (e.g., organizational communication and research methods), and even advanced courses for juniors and seniors (e.g., communication activism).
The course content-focused books explore particularly important content that is covered in communication courses. These books are intended for educators who are not quite ready to adopt a communication activism textbook but who want to expose students to that perspective. These books explain what communication activism means for the topic being examined (e.g., health communication activism) and they identify concrete communicative practices that can be employed to intervene into inequitable systems and structures to promote social justice. Additionally, these books aid discussion by scholars and students of how critical issues, tensions, and communication entanglements influence the process and outcome of communicative practices in social justice activism.
Pat: The case study books offer scholars the opportunity to demonstrate how communication theories, principles, and practices are applied as real-world examples of social justice activism. Our hope is that the case study books will inspire students, teachers, and researchers to pursue communication as social justice activism in their projects.
Who are some of the forthcoming authors? And what perspectives and expertise will they bring?
Pat: We have clearly struck a chord of interest among communication scholars doing social justice activism in their research and teaching. So far, we have signed six book contracts, and we are in various stages of proposal development and external reviews with twenty-five potential authors. Here’s a sampling for each of the book types:
- Textbooks: Erica Scharrer (UMass Amherst) and Srividya Ramasubramanian (Texas A&M) will write The Power of Numbers: Quantitative Methods for Social Justice Research in Communication. The authors introduce quantitative methodologies with an eye toward not just showing the emerging researcher how to conduct quantitative research but also why to do so, using examples of quantitative research in communication positioned toward addressing questions of social justice and the transformation of structures, practices, and understandings in society through community and civic engagement and policy formation. They intend to do so with a particular emphasis on imbalances experienced by marginalized groups defined by race, gender, religion, class, and sexual identity as well as on the agency and voice of the members of these groups.
- Course Content Books: Caty Borum Chattoo (American University) and Lauren Feldman (Rutgers University) are writing A Comedian & An Activist Walk into a Bar: The [Serious] Role of Comedy in Social Justice. The book will offer a typology of contemporary comedy formats for social justice and change – satire, scripted entertainment storytelling, documentary, social marketing and public service advertising, stand-up, and sketch – and include rich examples and research to illustrate these distinct types at work, along with interviews with comedians and comedy writers in the U.S. and across the globe. One of the reviewers of Chattoo’s and Feldman’s proposal excellently sums up the timeliness of this important work: “The current zeitgeist is one in which scholars, practitioners and laypeople all have substantial interest in both comedy and social justice. For a book to see the former as a tool to achieve the latter, and to make explicit recommendations for achieving this, is highly relevant and meets a market demand.”
- Case Study Books: Two of our most recently contracted authors are Marianne LeGreco (UNC-Greebsboro) and Niesha Douglas (Educate. Activate. Transform). They are writing: Everybody Eats: Communicating Food Justice Activism in a Time of Food Hardship. Written from the perspective of a scholar-activist (LeGreco) and a community-based practitioner (Douglas), Everybody Eats tells the story of how one regional community responded to a designation at the top of Food Research and Action Center’s 2015 list of Food Hardship in America. The case study illustrates communication-based processes for engaging communities to promote food security through campus and community partnerships working to engage neighborhoods, mobilize resources, convene stakeholders, and scale up their efforts to local and regional food systems.