Research

Books
The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015.Cover Small

Reviews: Advances in the History of Rhetoric(reviews forum with 3 separate reviews); Rhetoric and Public Affairs; Quarterly Journal of Speech;Sociology of Race and Ethnicity;Journal of American History;Centro Voices; La Respuesta Magazine; Gotham: A Blog for Scholars of New York City

Recognition/Awards: 2017 Book of the Year Award from the Critical/Cultural Studies Division of the National Communication Association; Official Selection of the American Association of School Librarians’ 2016 University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries guide;First Runner-Up, 2015 Inside Higher Education Readers’ Choice Award; Featured in Centro Voices’ “Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season”

Interviews: “Ep 66 – The Church Offensive w Darrel Wanzer-Serrano” hour-long podcast episode on The Magnificast at https://soundcloud.com/themagnificast/ep-66-the-church-offensive; “Darrel Wanzer-Serrano: El mundo académico debe hacer de los latinos una prioridad” on ViceVersa Magazine at https://www.viceversa-mag.com/darrel-wanzer-serrano-the-young-lords/; “A Writer with Writers: Connecting the Roots of Activism from New York to Baltimore” on the Maryland Humanities Blog at https://www.mdhumanities.org/2016/10/a-writer-with-writers-connecting-the-roots-of-activism-from-new-york-to-baltimore/; “On The New York Young Lords: An Interview with Darrel Wanzer-Serrano” on the African American Intellectual History Society Blog at http://www.aaihs.org/young-lords/; “The Young Lords Of New York” hour-long radio interview on WORT 89.9FM (Madison, WI) at http://www.wortfm.org/the-young-lords-of-new-york/

The Young Lords: A Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2010.
The Young Lords: A Reader

Recent Articles & Chapters
“The Futures of Latina/o/x Communication Studies: A Platica with Senior Scholars.” Co-authored with Bernadette Marie Calafell, Karma Chávez, Fernando Delgado, Lisa Flores, Alberto Gonzalez, Michelle A. Holling, Stacey Sowards, & Angharad Valdivia. In Latina/o Communication Studies: Theories, Methods, and Practice, edited by Leandra H. Hernandez, Diana I. Bowen, Sarah Upton, and Amanda R. Martinez. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, forthcoming (2019).

“Against Canon: Engaging the Imperative for Race in Rhetoric.” Co-authored with Sara Baugh (first author) for a special forum in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 15, no. 4 (2018): 337-42. doi:10.1080/14791420.2018.1526386

“Decolonial Rhetoric and a Future Yet-to-Become: A Loving Response.” Advances in the History of Rhetoric 21, no. 3 (2018): 326-30. doi:10.1080/15362426.2018.1526551.

“The Young Lords Organization (Chicago).” In Latina/o Midwest Reader, edited by Claire F. Fox, Omar Valerio-Jimenez, and Santiago Vaquera-Vasquez, 229-31. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2017.

Delinking Rhetoric, or Revisiting McGee’s Fragmentation Thesis Through Decoloniality.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 15, no. 4 (2012): 647-57. doi: 10.1353/rap.2012.0043.

Decolonizing Imaginaries: Rethinking ‘the People’ in the Young Lords’ Church Offensive.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 98, no. 1 (2012): 1-23. doi: 10.1080/00335630.2011.638656.

Tropicalizing East Harlem: Rhetorical Agency, Cultural Citizenship, and Nuyorican Cultural Production.” Communication Theory 21, no. 4 (2011): 344-67. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2885.2011.01390.x.

Race, Coloniality, and Geo-Body Politics: The Garden as Latin@ Vernacular Discourse.Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture 5, no. 3 (2011): 363-71, doi:10.1080/17524032.2011.593535.

Gender Politics, Democratic Demand and Anti-Essentialism in the New York Young Lords.” In Latina/o Discourse in Vernacular Spaces: Somos de Una Voz?, edited by Bernadette Marie Calafell and Michelle A Holling, 59-80. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011.

Barack Obama, the Tea Party, and the Threat of Race: On Racial Neoliberalism and Born Again Racism.Communication, Culture & Critique 4, no. 1 (2011): 23-30. doi:10.1111/j.1753-9137.2010.01090.x.

A Radical Democratic Style? Tradition, Hybridity, and Intersectionality.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 11, no. 3 (2008): 459-65. doi:10.1353/rap.0.0055.

Trashing the System: Social Movement, Intersectional Rhetoric, and Collective Agency in the Young Lords Organization’s Garbage Offensive.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 92, no. 2 (2006): 174-201. doi:10.1080/00335630600816920.

Research Perspectives/Interests
My research interests address questions about the relationships between race and ethnicity, political possibilities, and rhetoric in the United States. I am deeply interested in the way that theories of race and problematics of difference can and do inform our conceptualizations of public culture. I have particular interests and expertise in Latina/o/x studies, rhetorical theory, and the coloniality of power, knowledge, and being. Through my research, I seek to intervene in scholarly and social normalizations of what Sylvia Wynter calls the “genre of Man” in a manner that aims to delink humanity from modernity/coloniality and its constitutive linkages to what scholars call the “long sixteenth century,” including the transatlantic slave trade. To the best of my knowledge, I am currently the only Puerto Rican with a doctorate doing rhetorical studies (within communication studies, at least) at a PhD-granting institution in the country. I’m one of two Latino men in Latina/o/x communication studies at AAU institutions. As such, I present my research regularly at the National Communication Association’s annual convention and at smaller conferences nationwide. In 2012, I was awarded the Córdova & Puchot Award for Scholar of the Year by the Latino/Latina Communication Studies Division and La Raza Caucus of the National Communication Association. In 2017, I won “Book of the Year” honors from the Critical and Cultural Studies Division of the National Communication Association—one of the largest divisions in the organization.

My research interests have coalesced in my recent book on the New York Young Lords, entitled The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation (Temple University Press, 2015). The Young Lords was a revolutionary nationalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist street political organization who advanced a thirteen-point political program featuring support for the liberation of all Puerto Ricans (on the island and in the U.S.), the broader liberation of all “Third World people,” equality for women, U.S. demilitarization, leftist political education, socialist redistribution, community control, and other programs as they fit into their platform. A U.S. colony since 1898, Puerto Rico has a complex relationship with the United States and the Young Lords sought to address a host of concerns on the island and within the greater diaspora (today, more than half of Puerto Ricans live on the mainland) through their activism. Although this began as a dissertation project, the book is substantially different from that and from nearly all articles/chapters I have published on the Young Lords in two main ways. First, this book employs a theoretical frame that is both new to my project and largely new to the discipline of rhetorical studies. I treat the Young Lords as a critical and representative example of decolonial, anti-systemic social movement struggling against modernity and coloniality.Inquiry about coloniality reaches beyond examining direct colonial administration or neo-colonialism, to consider the ways in which the epistemic and ontological legacies of colonialism are perpetuated once people are removed from immanent colonial control. What makes the Young Lords particularly interesting is the way in which they advanced their agenda through a political style that operated functionally at the intersections of competing socio-rhetorical traditions and through various discourses including speech, poetry, images, and embodied performance. Their critical geo- and body politics targeted the intersections of oppression along gendered, raced, and classed axes from the late 1960s until the mid 1970s.

Second, the book uses a set of archival and interview materials that go far beyond the scope of my earlier work. Research for the Young Lords project was a welcomed challenge because of the lack of scholarly literature on U.S. diasporic Puerto Rican political discourse generally and the Young Lords in particular. As such, research on the Young Lords required numerous trips to New York City to conduct archival research at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (located at CUNY-Hunter College), NYU’s Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Archives, the Schomburg Center, the New York Public Library Special Collections, as well as dozens of interviews with former Young Lords. I spent my early time at Iowa processing those archival and interview materials and developing my analysis for the book. In working closely with archival institutions and assembling my own archive of materials on the Young Lords and Puerto Rican radicalism, my research is guided by a concern for faithfully producing a rhetorical history of the Young Lords that resists romanticization. Part of that task was completed before my arrival at Iowa through my first book, The Young Lords: A Reader (New York University Press, 2010), a well reviewed critical edition of primary textual documents produced originally by the organization. Additional scholarship has made it into journal articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries (see my CV). Most notably, I have two articles (one of them the lead essay) in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, which is the journal of record for my disciplinary home. I also have another Latina/o/x studies themed article (completely unrelated to the Young Lords project) in Communication Theory, the leading theory journal in the broader communication discipline.

My second book, The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation, was released in May 2015. This book is the first scholarly monograph on arguably the most significant grassroots political organization ever to emerge from the Puerto Rican diaspora. The book details the numerous community initiatives that advanced decolonial sensibilities in El Barrio and beyond. Using archival research and interviews, I craft an engaging account of the Young Lords’ discourse and activism. I rescue the organization from historical obscurity and make an argument for its continued relevance, enriching and informing contemporary discussions about Latina/o/x politics and decolonial theory. As we approach the Young Lords’ 50th anniversary in 2019, the book was released at the perfect time. The book has also been widely reviewed in several disciplines and given universal acclaim. The most recent review, by Kent Ono (part of a three-review forum on the book in Advances in the History of Rhetoric 21:3 [2018]), concludes, “Professor Wanzer-Serrano has made a significant contribution to scholarship through his book. His sophisticated discussions of theory and praxis, his bold move to challenge contemporary conceptions of coloniality, and his detailed case study … render this not only a book worth reading, but also one that becomes part of the canon of rhetorical studies, a hallmark of the best work rhetoric has to offer. This kind of contribution, once realized by others, will have longevity. In short, I would say that it is now not possible to talk about race, otherness, marginality, or power seriously in rhetorical studies without having to confront Wanzer-Serrano’s suggested optic of decoloniality” (317). In addition to reviews, the book has received numerous honors (including the aforementioned “Book of the Year” award and first-runner-up in Inside Higher Education’s inaugural “Readers’ Choice” competition) and has been the subject of interviews across multiple media (radio, magazine, blogs, and podcasts). I believe scholars, especially in Latina/o/x studies, should be publicly engaged and have appreciated the opportunities to do such work, which is part of the reason I’ve recently begun co-hosting the podcast Imagining Latinidades.

At present, I’m working on three projects. The first, tentatively titled Possession: Crafting Americanity in Congressional Debates over Puerto Rico’s Status, will be a book monograph that examines the rhetoric of “Americanity” that emerges in public and congressional debates over the Treaty of Paris (1898), the Foraker Act (1900), the Olmsted Amendment to Foraker (1909), and the Jones Act (1917). In my Young Lords project, I was interested in the ways in which people challenge coloniality; but in this new project, I am concerned with the ways in which coloniality manifests itself in political discourse about Puerto Rico and is in some ways central to the U.S. American national imaginary. While other scholars have done exemplary work examining the implications of key pieces of Congressional legislation, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive branch decision- making for the island of Puerto Rico, little work has flipped the lens around to engage in detailed analysis of the legislative (rhetorical) history that undergirds one of the few remaining direct colonial relationships in our contemporary world. Instead of asking (as many existing studies do), What does this legislation mean for Puerto Rico? I ask, What do the debates over this legislation mean for the United States? Drawing connections between the logics of possession, master morality, and the rhetoric of modernity, my aim is to build upon Aníbal Quijano and Emmanuel Wallerstein’s “Concept of Americanity” and elucidate the evolving contours of the rhetoric of Americanity—an ideology built on the articulations of racism, capitalism, coloniality, and constitutionalism—in the United States, post-1898. This is a longer-term project that I intend to complete once a full professor because the scope requires a great deal of time and attention to the thousands of pages of US Congress debates and hearings. Archival research (conducted at several sites across three states and the Washington, D.C.) is nearly complete.

In the shorter term, I am working on two projects that I intend to complete within the next two-to-three years. Initially, “Imagining Latinidades: Articulations of National Belonging” is a Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures funded by a $225,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Over the course of the 2019/2020 academic year, the award will support a series of events—including over 20 lectures by renowned visiting scholars and artists, a film series, and public art performances that engage with questions of national identity, national belonging, intersectional identities (related to race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, etc.), and Latina/o/x peoples. “Imagining Latinidades” draws from critical approaches in the humanities and social sciences to address how peoples of Latin American and Caribbean descent see themselves and are seen by others in the United States. “Latinidades” is a panethnic label meant to get at the heterogeneous ways in which Latino-ness/Latina-ness/Latinx-ness is crafted both from within Latina/o/x communities and from without. As such, the Seminar will move across different geographies and histories to explore how Latina/o/x communities consistently and continuously disrupt and are disrupted by dominant and dominating articulations of nation, nationhood, and belonging. The Seminar will also proceed through a set of questions related to civic and social identities, migration, representation, and constructions of U.S. Latinidades, while still remaining cognizant of ever-shifting hemispheric ties across the Americas. Given the recent jolting shifts in discourse, public policy, and persistent everyday lived effects of coloniality, the place of Latina/o/x peoples in the United States has never been more uncertain. Thus, the Seminar’s interest in how articulations of national belonging (particularly those that exclude Latina/o/x folks) puncture the social fabric of the United States, underscores a productive tension that resists historical amnesia while imagining and creating alternative practices of identification. For this project, I serve as PI and Co-Director. Currently, my Co-Directors and I are planning an edited volume of a selection of the lectures, which we plan to compile after the 2019-2020 academic year is complete.

Additionally, I am working on a book monograph about Puerto Rican assertions of life within contexts marked by social death. Tentatively titled Struggling to Live Amidst Social Death: Disrupting the Zone of Nonbeing, this project examines key moments of struggle through which Puerto Ricans enact fugitive, ephemeral moments of life against all odds. Bookended by a theoretically nuanced introduction and a speculative conclusion, the body chapters examine four key moments on the island and in the mainland. Chapter one, “Crying Desperation: El Grito de Lares and the Pre-Rhetoric of the Cry/Grito,” engages the 1868 revolt against Spain in Lares, Puerto Rico, in order to theorize the discursive functionality of the cry/grito as a means of disrupting what Franz Fanon calls the “zone of nonbeing.” Chapter two, “Delinking Citizenship: The Puerto Rican House of Delegates’ 1914 Letter to Congress,” examines the form and content of the House of Delegates’ letter rejecting US citizenship in order to discern the ways in which a subjugated people might engage questions of “citizenship” in a manner delinked from modernity/coloniality. Chapter three, “Playing to Live: Music, Theater, and Poetry in the New York Young Lords’ Church Offensive,” interrogates the performative dimensions of playful struggle that sustain the Young Lords and their followers during their occupation of an East Harlem church in 1969. Chapter four, “Ride or Die: Sculpture as Social Intervention in the Work of Miguel Luciano,” looks at the artwork of a Nuyorican artist and the ways in which he elevates quotidian objects and icons to rupture artistic and community spaces. This is a project that has existed in fragmented form until recently, and I intend to finish it over the next couple of years.

In Progress
“#RhetoricSoWhite.” Forum in the Quarterly Journal of Speech slated for v. 105, no. 4 (2019), edited with an introduction by Darrel Wanzer-Serrano. Contributors include Stacey Sowards, Vincent Pham, Tiara Na’puti, and Godfreid Asante.

“Introduction: Rhetoric’s Rac(e/ist) Problem.” Introduction for special forum in Quarterly Journal of Speech 105, no. 4 (2019). Article manuscript under preparation.

“The Pasts, Present, and Futures of Latina/o/x Studies at the University of Iowa.” Article manuscript under preparation for submission to Latino Studies in Fall 2019.

Imagining Latinidades: Articulations of National Belonging. Anticipated edited collection based on upcoming 2019-2020 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures. Co-edited with Ariana Ruiz and Rene Rocha.

Struggling to Live Amidst Social Death: Puerto Ricans Disrupting the Zone of Nonbeing. Book manuscript in the research and drafting stages.

Possession: Congressional Debates over Puerto Rico’s Status, 1898-1917. Book manuscript in the research and drafting stages.

“The Foraker Act, Albert Beveridge, and the Rhetoric of Americanity.” Article manuscript under revision for resubmission.

“#BlackLivesMatter is Not a ‘Social Movement.’” Co-authored with Matthew Houdek. Article manuscript under preparation.

(updated 8/2019)