Revolutionary Voices: Marxism, Communication and Social Change

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National Communication Association Preconvention Seminar
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National Communication Association (NCA) Preconvention Seminar
"Revolutionary Voices: Marxism, Communication, and Social Change"
10:30 am-5:00 PM, Wednesday, November 16th.
New Orleans, LA

In the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse, and the subsequent worldwide retreat of the communist and socialist Left, the very concept of "revolution" was deemed by many theorists to be outdated and passé. Liberal, poststructuralist and conservative intellectuals jointly proclaimed Marxist project -with its emphasis on class struggle, anti-imperialism and a totalizing critique of capitalism-- no longer relevant to an understanding of our "postmodern" world. Today, with the popular uprisings associated with the "Arab Spring" roiling dictatorships in countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Yemen and with the global capitalist economy just barely emerging from the throes of its worst crisis since the Great Depression, Marxism is not so easily dismissed. The recent popularity of thinkers like Giovanni Arrighi, Alain Badiou. Antonio Negri, David Harvey and Slavoj Zizek suggests a renewal of scholarly interest in Marxist and post-Marxist theory. The fact that Karl Marx himself was featured on the cover of the February 2, 2009 TIME Magazine suggests that this revival of interest is not confined to the academy.

This preconvention conference aims to explore the continued relevance of Marxism and Marxist theoretical concepts (i.e. ideology, hegemony, class, dialectics, reification, commodification ) to the study of communication, focusing on communication's instrumental role in maintaining, perpetuating and contesting capitalism's structures of domination. Unlike other theoretical orientations within the social sciences and the humanities, Marxism has long insisted that theory be informed by and inform social and political praxis. Thus, one special emphasis of our discussions will be on the way that Marxist work in field of communication can help to advance and clarify current struggles for progressive social change in the US and around the world. Moreover, at a time when even the mainstream corporate press speaks openly of the revolutionary currents spreading across North Africa and the Middle East, we will devote special attention to the concept of "revolution" and the way that it can refine and enhance our understanding of communication, political conflict and social change. We hope that by bringing together a critical mass of scholars whose work is informed by Marxist theory, our seminar will "make a difference" both in our discipline and in the larger fight for social justice. Ultimately, we plan to publish an edited volume or a special issue of an academic journal as a way of bringing the scholarship produced by seminar participants to an even larger audience.

This mini-conference builds on a series of NCA panels, preconference seminars and publications about Marxism and communication that began with a well-attended panel at the 2003 NCA convention in Miami. Last year's miniconference "Bridging Theory and Practice" drew dozens of participants to a series of three inter-related panels at the national conference in San Francisco. The year before that, in Chicago, our panel "The 2009 Crisis of Neoliberalism: Marxist Scholars on Rhetorics of Stability and Change," drew a standing-room-only crowd. And in 2006, three of the co-organizers of this seminar (Artz, Cloud and Macek) published an anthology -- Marxism and Communication Studies: The Point is to Change It (Peter Lang)-composed almost entirely of conference papers delivered at our NCA panels and seminars. This seems to us an opportune moment for yet another preconvention seminar and yet another publication devoted to this topic.

The organizers invite potential participants to submit complete papers or extended abstracts (350-500 words) relevant to the subject of Marxism, communication and social change for inclusion in this preconvention seminar. Work in political economy of the media, cultural studies, rhetoric, critical theory, social movement studies and political communication is especially welcome. Send your submissions along with complete contact information (mailing address, e-mail and phone #) to both Steve Macek (at and Dana Cloud (at no later than August 8th, 2011.