2021-2022 WFI Funded Projects
(listed in alphabetical order)
Grant Awarded ($9,425): Holding Space with Immigrant Women Faculty in Communication to Retreat, Relate, and Reflect: A Coauthored White Paper to Reimagine U.S. Academia
Principal Investigator: Yea-Wen Chen, San Diego State University
Additional Investigator(s)/Researchers: Brandi Lawless, University of San Francisco
Marwa Abdalla, UC San Diego
Living through the ongoing COVID-19 and multiple pandemics, many women and mother-scholars in particular have been juggling disproportionate work-life imbalances that could have both short-term and long-term consequences for their careers and families. Among women faculty, what is less known (yet more precarious) is how immigrant women faculty navigate the ongoing multiple pandemics (e.g., COVID-19, anti-Black and anti-Asian racism, heterosexism, xenophobia, and more). Straddled between at least two countries, immigrant women faculty are uniquely positioned to witness and experience unevenness and equity gaps of how the multiple pandemics might play out around the world. As an example, in May 2021, when COVID-19 cases were in retreat in the United States and European countries, countries like India and Taiwan suffered the worst surges, outbreaks, and deaths partly because of unequal access to and distribution of vaccines. Essentially, this proposal seeks support of and investment in immigrant women faculty in communication by funding a research retreat to bring together a small group of women across ranks and regions of origin to relate, reflect, and coauthor a white paper of concerns, hidden fractures, and strategic opportunities for the study of communication for social change. After the unprecedented four years of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies under the Trump administration and over 16 months of forced isolation while witnessing, if not personally experiencing racist/sexist/xenophobic COVID-19 rhetoric and/or violence, holding a space for and with immigrant women faculty is a necessary and much needed response for community and healing.
Grant Awarded ($10,000): The Monster in the Museum
Principal Investigator: James L. Cherney, University of Nevada, Reno
This book project revolves around a rhetorical analysis of several medicalor anatomical museums in North America and Europe. Adopting a theoretical framework grounded in rhetorical theory and museum studies, and informed by the general project of disability studies to locate and interrogate ableism and its cultural resources, the project will critique these museums and investigate how they frame a public memory of the body and disability. The work builds on my earlier research that examines how ableist rhetoric operates epistemically, ideologically, and visually. As public spaces in which patrons encounter “deviant” and “abnormal” bodies--including human “monstrosities”--these museums provide an opportunity to see how people can be oriented toward ableist thinking in identifying themselves in contrast with the displayed bodies.
Grant Awarded ($3,912): We’re Here, We’re Queer, and We’re Stressed: Using the Minority Stress Model to Explore the Impact of Queer Readings on Mental Health Among Sexual Minority Youth
Principal Investigator: Leah Dajches, University of Arizona
Additional Investigator(s)/Researchers: Jennifer Stevens Aubrey, University of Arizona
Research shows that sexual minority youth (e.g., Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual) are at increased odds for negative mental health outcomes (Goldbach & Gibbs, 2017; Kann et al., 2017; The Trevor Project, 2019). According to the minority stress model (MSM) (Meyer, 2003), such disparities are proportionately related to their experiences of sexual minority stress (e.g., discrimination, internalized homonegativity). The effects of minority stress on adverse mental health outcomes can be mitigated through coping and social support resources (Griffin et al., 2004; Toomey et al., 2018). While coping and support resources are empirically supported within the MSM, empirical research has yet to explore the role of rescripted or subverted mainstream media messages in such relationships. In light of this, the proposed dissertation project will examine a novel coping mechanism, queer readings, which are theorized to moderate the impact of minority stress on negative mental health among sexual minority youth. The proposed project suggests that queer readings may help alleviate the impact of minority stress on negative mental health outcomes. In other words, queer readings create opportunities and spaces for sexual minority youth to explore their inner needs and desires, which may provide unique coping resources and support. In particular, we theorize that queer readings may promote resilience by helping sexual minority youth to overcome a variety of marginalized experiences.
Grant Awarded ($10,318): Black Lives Matter: Perspectives from the Ground
Principal Investigator: Amanda Nell Edgar, University of Memphis
Additional Investigator(s)/Researchers: Andre E. Johnson, University of Memphis
DiArron Morrison, University of Memphis
Curtis Chamblee, University of Memphis
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May of 2020, protests broke out in Minneapolis and quickly spread across the country. These protests added to the calls for justice in Louisville, Kentucky, where Breonna Taylor had been killed by police only months earlier. Spreading first across the country, from Los Angeles to Atlanta to Tulsa, and later into the streets of Vancouver, Paris, Berlin, and London, calls to make Black lives matter quickly spanned the globe. During this time, support for Black Lives Matter skyrocketed, increasing by 68% in just two weeks. This increase in support following widespread protests is not necessarily predictable. In fact, across history, every major social movement has been met with countermovement activity bent on suppressing activists’ messages. Nor does previous research on social movements help to explain the increasing numbers of BLM supporters, given the field’s typical focus on movement leaders. Without a clear sense of the unique influences of the current moment on the surge in support for Black Lives Matter, racial justice advocates are less equipped to harness this energy for the future actions necessary to truly maintain momentum in achieving equity and justice. Our project Black Lives Matter: Perspectives from the Ground fills this gap by collecting the stories of the individual participants who contributed to the movement’s popularity during the summer and fall of 2020. Through these stories, we will piece together a picture of how communication worked to unite protesters behind the cries for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other victims of police and white supremacist violence.
Grant Awarded ($3,385): Politics of Tanning in Asia: Neoliberal and Neocolonial Discourse Constructed on Tanned Female Bodies in Korea
Principal Investigator: Seonah Kim, University of Washington
In this dissertation project, I examine issues of racialization and sexualization as they pertain to Korean women who consume and perform non-mainstream beauty and cultureof tanning in Korea. By conducting discourse analysis, autoethnography, and in-depth interviews, I will record, listen to, and participate in Korean women’s lived experience of tanning beauty and culture. The potential social benefit that this research will yield is twofold. First, this project introduces Korean women’s new desire for dark skin to de-/re-construct the long-lasting racialized beauty discourse in Korea that has been based on the Western-centered understandingof race, gender, beauty, modernity, and cosmopolitanism. In doing so, this project aims to produce resistive cultural narratives to dominant discourses of whiteness, speaking against histories of racialization and understanding of blackness/darkness in Korea. Second, this research also involves a critique of race and gender inequality prevalent in and among Asian countries and cares about living conditions and experiences of dark-skinned immigrant women with marriage migrant visas in Korea. By juxtaposing immigrant women’s brown/dark bodies with Korean women’s tanned/bronze bodies, I not only challenge Koreans’ internalization of developmental racism that places them closer to white westerners but also seek out strategic feminist alliances between Korean women and migrant women in Korea. This study focuses on representations, performances, and narratives of tanning as an attempt to unpack the neoliberal and neocolonial discourse constructed on and around women's dark/brown bodies in Korea. To map the discursive configuration of tanning performance in Korea, I include television media, new media, websites, and local shops as observation, analysis, and interpretation sites. Additionally, I also interview Korean women to include their lived experiences and personal voices as a critical site of investigation.
Grant Awarded ($7,689): Paths of Acceptance for Parents of Gender Minority Youth: Hastening Acceptance Through Narrative Persuasion
Principal Investigator: Katrina L. Pariera, The George Washington University
There is an urgent need for research aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of gender minority youth (GMY), who experience high rates of stigma, bullying, suicide, substance use, discrimination, and violence. Parental support of GMY is a crucial buffer against those experiences, yet many parents have a slow or non-existent path of accepting their gender minority child. One factor that contributes to this is a lack ofopportunities to learn about how other parents came to accept and advocate for their child. Research suggests that exposure to narratives can be a powerful mechanism for behavior change, yet parents rarely see or hear these stories and thus do not have narratives to guide them. Little is known about how parents arrive at a state of being supportive, and whether highlighting such stories to other parents can help them envision their own path to acceptance. The specific aims of my two-part project are to understand parents’ paths of acceptance of their gender minority children and to subsequently use this information to develop and test an experimental intervention aimed at increasing parents’ support behaviors through narratives. The goals of this mixed method study are to 1) understand parents’ paths of acceptance of their gender minority children, and 2) using this information, develop and test an experimental intervention designed to increase parents’ gender-affirming and support behaviors through narratives.
Grant Awarded ($8,574): Precarious Societies, Collective Solidarity: Feminist Economic Organizing of Mutual Aid Organizations and Resilience Discourses During COVID-19
Principal Investigator: Brett Robertson, University of South Carolina
Additional Investigator(s)/Researchers: Sean Eddington, Kansas State University
Lauren Berkshire Hearit, Hope College
Timothy Betts, University of South Florida
The COVID-19 pandemic destabilized and disrupted communities across the United States, underscoring the vulnerability of existing social structures like housing, medical, financial, and social safety net systems to exogenous shocks like pandemics, natural disasters, economic crises, and the like. Community-based, mutual aid responses to the COVID-19 crisis received national media attention, especially in the early stages of stay-at-home orders. As 3,000 New York City restaurant workers organized to raise $25,000 and distributed the funds as weekly stipends to other out-of-work restaurant employees during the early days of the stay-at-home orders, or librarians worked together to feed food insecure children in their communities, mutual aid systems and organizations (MAOs) underscored how existing inequities were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, much like how Hurricane Katrina, for example, highlighted deep inequities in U.S. housing policies for marginalized communities. The increased recognition that MAOs play a vital role when economic and political systems fail certain populations highlights a need to examine how both centering marginalized voices (e.g., women, BIPOC) and transforming economic systems can create more equitable economic realities for those historically left out of traditional, neoliberal economies. This project examines the role that mutual aid organizations (MAOs) play in disrupting traditional, neoliberal economic systems through communication processes, and explores how mutual aid organizations constitute equitable economic systems for communities in need. Using a multi-phase approach, we collaborate with four MAOs in our own communities (two based in the Midwest, two based in the Southeast). Following a needs-assessment approach, we conduct semi-structured interviews with key MAO volunteers and social media managers to ask how MAOs work to build equitable economic systems in their communities, how crises have marred efforts for equity, and how communication enables (or constrains) resilience processes within and outside their organization. We also implement photo-elicitation interview questions to capture social media posts and image-based data to better understand volunteers’ experiences organizing on-and offline.
Grant Awarded ($10,000): Identity Gaps and Approach-Oriented Social Media Coping: Mediators Between COVID Racial Discrimination and Stress
Principal Investigator: Jiun-Yi Tsai, Northern Arizona University, School of Communication
Additional Investigator(s)/Researchers: Chia-chen Yang, Oklahoma State University
Research has documented that COVID-linked discrimination against Asians was associated with poor mental health among Asian Americans. However, the social and health inequities facing diverse Asian groups remain largely invisible, unacknowledged, and understudied, relatively to other racial minorities. This project represents one of the first to develop a communication-centered framework for unpacking the roles of personal-enacted identity gaps and approach-oriented social media coping in Asians’/Asian Americans’ reaction to anti-Asian discrimination. Utilizing a mixed-methods approach involving survey data and focus group interviews with Asians/Asian Americans in the United States, we aim to explore (1) how three types of discrimination (direct, vicarious, and media) engenders the personal-enacted identity gaps and motivate social media use as a way to cope with discrimination, (2) how personal-enacted identity gaps and approach-oriented social media coping mediate the relationship between racial discrimination fueled by COVID and race-based traumatic stress, and (3) the moderating role of perceived social support. The project builds on the two Principal Investigators’ collaborative work on how the spike of racism amid the COVID-19 pandemic negatively influenced Asian people’s mental well-being.This work will generate important implications for promoting mental health for the Asian communities. First, we will provide health service organizations with a better understanding of Asians’ experiences of discrimination. Specifically, the results will reveal how discrimination imposes identity threats and engenders identity gaps, which, in turn, induce stress. Second, our findings will provide empirical evidence showing whether and how using social media as a coping tool may benefit Asians after they encounter discrimination. Third, this project will raise the visibility of Asians’ well-being needs to call for more institutional resources and funding devoted to culturally appropriate health services. Culturally appropriate care will be achieved by ensuring that providers are sensitive to Asians’ unique needs, identity challenges, and racism-related experiences.
Grant Awarded ($10,000): Creating While Purple: Prince, Intellectual Property, and Black Capitalism
Principal Investigator: Anjali Vats, University of Pittsburgh
In contrast to settler colonial period of global conquest, in which civilizations were built primarily on the extraction of raw materials, wealth today is accumulated through ownership of raw knowledge, including copyrighted works, patented inventions, and graphical marks. These valuable intellectual properties, which take the form of movies, music, games, software, biotechnologies, mascots, and more, have become increasingly important to the US economy in its transition from being a producer of goods to a producer of services. This proposal addresses the catastrophic hoarding of informational wealth in the context of rock music and the industry surrounding it, through a communication, rhetoric, and media focused approach to the area of study called Critical Race Intellectual Property (CRTIP). The project that I propose here continues along the path of inquiry that scholars in law and critical race studies have laid out, while also building out in new and novel directions. Creating While Purple: Prince, Intellectual Property, and Black Capitalism, asks multiple layers of questions about how intellectual property laws are raced in the context of music, how celebrities such as Prince have changed the landscape of those laws, and what implications they have for communication and media studies, as well as racial equality in this fraught moment. The project engages with music and race, capitalism and personhood, Afrofuturism and privacy, topics that are increasingly central to the future of communication and the humanities. It also has the potential to contribute to a generative and transformative conversation about race, creatorship, and law that has become increasingly mainstream since Marvin Gaye’s Estate sued Robin Thicke, Pharrell, and T. I. for infringing on “Gotta Give It Up.” Reading Prince as an important figure in the conversations about race and intellectual property can help scholars, creators, lawyers, and activists to understand and implement anti-racist measures that protect creators of color. In Creating While Purple, I develop a method focused on communicative practice that draws on scholarship about race, law, and celebrity in order to investigate the contours of anti-Blackness in knowledge production via Prince.
Grant Awarded ($5,341):Communicating Queer Chinese Identities: A Qualitative Investigation of the Visibility and Intelligibility of Transnational Queer Women in the United States
Principal Investigator: Terrie Siang-Ting Wong, Penn State Brandywine
Additional Investigator(s)/Researchers: Shuzhen Huang, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania
Despite the progress made in LGBTQ rights since Stonewall, sexual non-conformity is still stigmatized in many societies today. In communication interactions, diasporic sexually non-conforming individuals (henceforth queer) navigate nationality and race, in addition to sexual orientation, as intersecting markers of marginality. For diasporic queer Asians in the United States, the navigation of these intersecting markers of marginality takes place in the context of viral racism and anti-Asian hate. In the current zeitgeist, how and when do diasporic queer Asians (choose to) make themselves visible and intelligible? What are their challenges and considerations when performing their identities in the United States? This project investigates transnational queer women of Chinese descent’s (henceforth queer Chinese women) performance of identity in the United States. Dominant Euro-American LGBTQ discourse narrates the United States as progressive and the ultimate destination for queer people, while Asian nations such as China are cast as queerphobic. Queer Chinese women are both sexually fetishized and vilified in current pandemic-era discourse, as epitomized in the Atlanta spa-shootings in March 2021. Community advocate group Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council identifies anti-Chinese sentiment as a key reason for anti-Asian hate and violence in COVID-pandemic times. Given the above, it is imperative in current times to uncover counter narratives and images of what communication of identity looks like in daily life for diasporic queer Chinese females in the United States. Amplifying the voices of queer Chinese women is important for encouraging a positive self-image for queer Chinese individuals and for more equitable intercultural relations in the United States; with multiple narratives of what “being Chinese” could look like, one may begin to see the Chinese as layered, complicated individuals beyond media stereotypes.