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date: 28 May 2017

Critical Perspectives Toward Cultural and Communication Research

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Please check back later for the full article.

Critical perspectives towards culture and communication address how power and macro historical, institutional, and economic structures shape and constrain interpersonal, intergroup, and mediated communication. Scholars critique forms of domination and examine how oppressed communities resist and subvert power structures to identify possibilities for change and emancipation; some strive to become public intellectuals engaged in activism in solidarity with disadvantaged communities. Analyses uncover multiplicity and fluidity of meanings and dislodge essentialist and ideological closures in interactions and discourses. This approach has been shaped by Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, European post-structural and critical theories, British Cultural Studies, and postcolonial theories. Critical scholarship is diverse, interdisciplinary, and multi-methodological. Critical scholars are self-reflexive of their own social positioning in relation to research topics and participants.

Culture, the key concept, is conceptualized as a site of multiple meanings and differences that are loci of power struggles and contestations amidst daily practices and power structures. Culture is a site of mixing and fusions across borders as groups struggling for power attempt to restrict meanings, categories, and practices. Identity and its categories, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, etc., have multiple and shifting meanings that are nevertheless contingently fixed within structures supporting domination of some groups. Concepts such as diaspora, hybridity, and intersectionality address indeterminacy of belonging. Other main concepts include difference, articulation, ideology, hegemony, interpellation, and articulation.