Announcement: #NCA11 Precon on Social Movements and Counterpublics

At the upcoming National Communication Association Convention in New Orleans in November, I’ll be part of a preconference on social movements and counterpublics. Called “Voicing Connections, Contradictions, and Possibilities in Social Movement and Counterpublic Theories,” the day-long precon (which take place on the Wednesday before the main convention) will engage the possibilities and potentials of social movement and counterpublics theories — pushing the boundaries of what each has to offer communication scholars interested in exploring dissenting, transgressive, and resistive public “voice.” Read on to see what all this shall entail.

I will be presenting in the third section of the precon (see below), a paper tentatively titled “Delinking Rhetoric: Theorizing Vernacular (Counter)Public Discourse Through the Colonial Difference.” As a whole, the precon will address the following themes and issues. Everything from here on is straight from the call/announcement.

Key Themes/Questions

  • What are the definitional, conceptual, historical, epistemological or methodological distinctions and similarities between counterpublic and social movement study, in the discipline of Communication Studies?
  • What are the politics of studying social movements versus counterpublics? What is the value added by choosing one theoretical path over the other and has the discipline tacitly chosen one preferred theory over another?
  • Given the literature traditions, where do related terms (e.g., resistance, vernacular discourse), find a home in our discipline? How might scholars interested in social change from many different literature backgrounds come together to augment each others’ work?
  •  What is the future of social movement and counterpublic scholarship in light of the economic, political, cultural climate of the 2000s and especially related to resistance within a technologized, post-industrial, global context?

Taking a more traditional conference format, “lead” scholars will frame each 90 minute thematic session with presentations or position statements, followed by discussion, dialogue and debate with the attending participants. Further information about our lead scholars and schedule is included below.  For more information or to express your interest in the pre-con, please contact Amy Pason ( To participate, you will need to remember to register for this preconference along with your general NCA convention registration.

Lead Scholars

Bernadette Marie Calafell (University of Denver) Kevin M. DeLuca (University of Utah) Darrel Enck-Wanzer (University of North Texas) Christina R. Foust (University of Denver, co-organizer) Josh Hanan (Temple University) Christina Harold (University of Washington) Raymie McKerrow (Ohio University) Kristie Maddux (University of Maryland) Amy Pason (University of Nevada – Reno, co-organizer) Catherine Palczewski (University of Northern Iowa) Kate Zittlow Rogness (Monmouth College, co-organizer)

Tentative Schedule:

  1. Opening Session:  Why am I a Social Movement or Counterpublic scholar?
    The goal of this session is to lay out why one concept or literature is pursued over others, while gaining conceptual clarity about what it means to study the communication of “social movement(s)” and “counterpublics.”
  2. “Disciplining” Scholarship on Movements and Counterpublics
    Building upon the distinctions in conceptual vocabulary identified in session one, this session will problematize disciplinary boundaries and debates that have guided research on dissident rhetoric and discourse. Particularly, this session considers how social movement scholarship had an affinity with social scientific (sociological approaches) in the 1970s, and how challenges to the functional approach have led to postmodern social movement scholarship. Likewise, the session follows a humanistic turn toward the study of counterpublics in the 1980s and 1990s. In the process, this session also considers the relationship of critical rhetoric to advancing the study of dissident rhetoric, whether in terms of social movements or counterpublics. Finally, this session invites consideration as to how scholarship on new social movements/identity-related movements, groups, or discourses (notably, feminist, Latino/a, Black, and queer politics and performances) relates to the disciplinary treatment of social movements or counterpublics.
  3. Staking out a Research Agenda via Alliances
    Building upon the first two sessions, the post-lunch/break session will engage lines of research and theory which have their own traditions in Communication, and consider how they may augment the study of social movements and counterpublics: notably, vernacular rhetorics/discourses, and resistance. The goal for this session will be to outline important affiliated concepts, and demonstrate how counterpublics and social movements may contribute to studying them.
  4. Staking out a Research Agenda in Context: Resistance in Empire/Information Economies
    The fourth session considers how emergent, interdisciplinary debates in the study of social change (e.g., debates over hegemonic and transgressive modes of resistance, as described by Foust, 2010) may factor into, and ultimately advance, the study of social change in communication. Particularly, this session is designed to address changing contextual conditions, which may give rise to resistance that relies upon networks, circulating of information, antagonisms outside of the classic “society versus the state” configuration, and the accession to material rhetoric. This session considers emergent lines of thinking (e.g., netwars, transgression, anarchistic politics, the “commons,” sabotage, and other situationist-inspired tactics) as they may advance the study of counterpublics and social movements.

For more information, contact: Amy Pason, PhD; Assistant Professor, Division of Communication Studies University of Nevada, Reno

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