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Race as Intervention in Media/Communication Studies

Sun, May 28, 14:00 to 15:15, Hilton San Diego Bayfront, 3, Aqua 309

Session Submission Type: Panel

Abstract

Consistent with the conference theme this year, “interventions,” this panel asks how a focus on race intervenes in prevailing theories and methodologies in media and communication studies. Often race is conceived of as defining a population on the margins that needs to be brought into the fold of mainstream society and its institutions. Conceptual terms such as “inclusion,” “civic participation,” or the “digital divide” assume that race is a condition of otherness that requires educational, financial or cultural assistance to integrate or assimilate into society’s political and opportunity structures. Other concepts including “diversity,” “multiculturalism,” and “pluralism” often treat race as one of a variety of particular cultures that must be appreciated in humanity’s patchwork quilt. Such orientations to race can lend themselves to, rather than challenge, the periodization that we live in a post-racial society, or that color-blind thinking and values are important for moving beyond racial discrimination. They too are ill-equipped to address the complexities of our current moment when Black lives matter only when they are made visible through protests of state sanctioned violence.

Scholarship focused on race has challenged these conceptualizations of race as additive or vanishing. Critical Race Theory has questioned assumptions of race neutrality in law and policy. Post-colonial studies has exposed understandings of modernity as racialized concepts. And critical race studies has problematized identity politics while exposing ongoing structures of racism. This panel draws from critical race scholarship to interrogate conceptual currents in media and communication studies. In case studies of the U.S. media industries, the U.S. Census, and Black production and use of digital technologies, this panel questions conceptual assumptions in media industry studies and political economy, theories of civic participation, democracy and citizenship, theories of representation, and theories of digital media innovation, production and use. The panel suggests that considerations of race and ethnicity within complex, intersectional contexts is significant not only to combat historical forces of discrimination, but to situate race and ethnicity as central to developing, extending and revising theories and methods in media and communication studies.

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