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Scholarship: Lemons or Lemonade? in Women’s Studies in Communication

Matthew Salzano presenting his Women's and Gender Studies Capstone at Pacific Lutheran University, Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)
Matthew Salzano presenting his Women’s and Gender Studies Capstone at Pacific Lutheran University, Thursday, May 24, 2018. (Photo: John Froschauer/PLU)

I’m excited to announce the publication of my first sole-authored scholarly article, “Lemons or Lemonade? Beyoncé, Killjoy style, and Neoliberalism” in Women’s Studies in Communicaiton. You can read the whole article at T&F’s site. The abstract is below:

This article focuses on the controversy surrounding bell hooks and Lemonade to contend with the neoliberal constraints of digital, feminist, public intellectual argumentation. I argue that hooks’s critique reveals her killjoy rhetorical style. Drawn from Sara Ahmed’s theorization of the feminist killjoy, hooks’s killjoy style provides a rhetorical interruption that reshapes the affective orientations of feminist communities. Its snappy affect opens up the potentiality for critical feminist theory amid the challenges of neoliberalism.

This essay was originally written as my PLU Capstone (pictured above). Thanks to all the killjoys that helped me take this paper from there to here.

Digital humanities: #TeamRhetoric Twitter Bot

For my final project in MITH 610: Intro to Digital Studies, I created a Twitter Bot. It now (as of May 16, 2019) tweets once a day. You can read all about it on my medium post, “#TeamRhetoric, Time, and In(ter)vention: Twitter Bots, Tactical Media.”

As @RhetoricTweeter spews out formulaic criticism, it pushes on an existing paradigm of intervention. The tweets try to seem like they intervene in some ongoing theoretical or conceptual conversation in rhetorical criticism or in academic literature more broadly. In this way, I hope it asks us to think about how the form of academic writing might encourage a specific interventional approach.

But at the same time, as its tweets develop, it may be an inventional resource. The strange pairing of expansions that may not otherwise be placed together (e.g. in a test case, the bot wrote: “In my next paper, I will use decolonial theory to claim that Hilary Clinton’s emails frustrated the public sphere. #TeamRhetoric”) may lead to interesting new critical ideas. It may encourage a way of playing with how rhetoric and criticism happens on twitter, whether directly with the bot or inspired by it.

Here are a few of my favorite tweets it made and responses to it.

Continue reading “Digital humanities: #TeamRhetoric Twitter Bot”

Public humanities: “Women who ran for Congress avoided women’s issues in their campaign ads”

Authored by Shawn Parry-Giles, Aya H. Farhat, Matthew Salzano, and Skye de Saint Felix for The Conversation.

The journalistic story we wrote stems from research we did, along with other researchers, for the Political Action Research Center at the University of Maryland’s Rosenker Center for Political Communication. View the full-length research paper here.

Below is an excerpt from The Conversation; you can read the full journalistic summary of our report that we wrote on their website.

A record number of women were sworn into Congress on Jan. 3.

The influx of women candidates helped turn the midterm election into what many observers dubbed a “Year of the Woman.”

But despite a tide of voter sentiment favoring women, these winners got to Congress or a statehouse not by defining themselves as “women’s candidates,” but instead by sidestepping issues typically associated with their gender, from equal pay to reproductive freedom.

We are experts on women and politics, and in a recent study we conducted at the University of Maryland’s Rosenker Center for Political Communication & Civic Leadership, we examined 2018 political ads to understand how woman defined their candidacies and qualifications for office.

We found that, despite the momentum of the #MeToo movement, women were careful in playing the “gender card.” They avoided what are often construed as “women’s issues” that are associated with gender equality such as abortion, pay equity, sexual violence and harassment.

Journalism: “Finding Feminism”

Finding Feminism: Do the television and movies that we consume reflect who we are? Speakers Bureau presenter Amy Peloff describes the hidden role that feminism plays in popular television and movies.

I wrote some corporate journalism for Humanities Washington as a part of my internship in the communications office. In this Q-&-A with a public intellectual who serves on the HumWA speakers bureau, I helped the interviewee elucidate the value of feminist theory and criticism to their public audience. You can read the whole story on HumWA’s website.

Amy Peloff grew up believing in feminism as a “self-evident fact.”

When she was five years old, Peloff played in Louisville, Kentucky’s first co-ed T-ball league. The boys on her team were displeased about her presence, and they taunted her. “I have this very clear memory of calling these little boys ‘male chauvinist pigs,’” she said, laughing.

And thus, a vocal feminist was born.

Peloff, who got her Ph.D. in Women’s Studies from the University of Washington, is a member of Humanities Washington’s Speakers Bureau. Her free talk, Feminism and Popular Culture, explores what feminism means, how it is revealed in popular culture, and teaches how to take a critical approach to popular media.

Peloff’s remarkably articulate response to the insults of those five-year-old boys drove her interest in pop culture today. When she started her Ph.D. in 1999, she wondered: “How did I have the ideas and language to think about feminism from such an early age?”

She turned to pop culture to start answering that question. Her research focused on women like Dolly Parton, who embodied feminist ideals without ever saying they were feminists. “Feminist ideas already exist in the popular imagination,” Peloff said. That presence is the focus of her talk. She uses contemporary examples from film and TV to explore the expected and unexpected locations where one can find feminism: from Black-ish to Mad Max: Fury Road.

“Even if you might not be comfortable with the term feminism,” Peloff says, “you might actually be a lot more comfortable with the ideas than you believe.”

Public humanities: interview on Philosophy Bakes Bread podcast

Philosophy as Play — Ep. 64 of Philosophy Bakes Bread

After presenting our paper at the Public Philosophy Network conference, Eric Thomas Weber (co-host of PBB) asked Sergia Hay, Mike Rings, and me to talk about our paper for their podcast. The show airs in Lexington, Kentucky, and is available online. You can read more about the episode and listen on SOPHIA’s (the Society for Philosophers in America, which sponsored the panel and sponsors the podcast) website.

Journalism: Native advertising and college media

Navigating native advertising in college media: Sponsored content finding a niche in college media marketing

I was asked by College Media Review editor Lisa Lyon Payne to do some reporting on college reporting for CMR. I reported on how student journalists and their advisers are starting and managing native advertising in their newsrooms. You can read the whole story here. 

Essay: “Please, condemn me!”

Please, condemn me! 

Writing in Pacific Lutheran University’s student social justice journal, The Matrix: 

Without creating the environment for people to say what’s on their mind, people keep their guards up. And without letting slip (or just directly stating) whatever homophobic ideologies that have been so that it can be caught, they miss out on learning about the full breadth of human life.

You can view the entire essay here.

Essay: “Belonging” and universities

ABCs of PLU: U is for University

I was the co-editor of a Matrix edited volume that, in the fashion of a child’s alphabet book, used a different university/social justice word for each letter of the alphabet as a jumping off point for further reflection. My contribution was “U is for University,” which I have replicated below. You can read the whole volume online here.


“I think that every student, every faculty member, and every administrator should ask her or himself everyday, ‘what is a university for?’ […]

I always thought what was supposed to happen was something called ‘education,’ which is a kind of transformation and (from educare in Latin) a ‘leading forth’: [your teachers] lead you out of your state, and you leave University different, as someone else, other than theyou who came in. […] We may be shifting to an idea of universities as ‘expressive’ spaces, where students come in and try to discover and express their identity in a supportive environment. […]

I tend to think that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what a university can, let alone must, be in a free society.”

– Dr. Teresa Bejan, Associate Professor of Politial Theory at the University of Oxford

(Virginia Review of Politics, April 2017)

I have had a few professors laugh at me recently when I mention that Ithink I have changed a lot since starting at PLU. It’s a knowing laugh, a “no shit” laugh, a “thank god” laugh. It’s an acknowledgement that I take longer to think before I speak and that the words come out a little slower, a little quieter. It’s a recognition that some of my impatienceand insecurity was left on the hairdresser’s floor with the faux hawk that accompanied me that first September.

This laugh is also their awareness that I have only reached an early benchmark, foreshadowing much more learning and changing and transformation.

I think it is tempting to think about a college education (following Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos) in a neoliberal way: how much more incomecan I make because I took these four years off from the labor market? Following this line of thought, the growth I found in my four years atPLU only mattered if it resulted in a boost to my lifetime income.

I want to explore a concern I have about this impulse as it intersects with the popular word “belonging” on campus. Surely, it would be easyfor a university simply interested in turning profit and pedigree through students to emphasize belonging as a feeling of comfort — a lack ofunease, a lack of discomfort with the status quo.

But at an institution that cherishes “thoughtful inquiry,” this proves difficult.

Inquiry, especially self-discovery, is incredibly uncomfortable. To echo Molly Munsterman (see “O is for Outing”), self-directed inquiry requires the uncomfortable, active, critical look at what dominant narratives we believe about ourselves and our growth. As I step out of the closet, I pickup a rainbow flag, a pronoun pin from the CGE, and an application to the Lavender wing: my pre-packaged identity can comfortably rest largelyunchallenged by folks who understand similar marginalization. I learnlittle about myself and those around me, satisfied with all the trappings ofmy new identity.

But if we want to stick to that mission statement, our sort of belonging must require the willingness to “know nothing,” critically examining our positionalities and the entire system of identity labels. It requires feeling deeply uneasy because of our awareness about how much more growthwe have yet to find.

This is not to argue that marginalized groups — especially students of color — should be ignored when they seek changes to fight issues of systemic inequality. Instead, the sort of belonging that counters the prejudices of the outside world should help address racism in ways that go beyond simply accommodating any of the racial, gendered, or sexualized codes that enable all the “isms.” That’s why we must be careful that when we say “belonging”: we don’t mean creating an environment where any student can enter and leave without questioning the ideologies they brought with them.

How can we make belonging about feeling accepted, valued, and supported while questioning exactly what one wants acceptance, value, and support to be attributed to? How do we conceptualize a belongingwhere the personal and social qualities required to fit in aren’t tied to whiteness but to questioning the status quo? How can we resist categorization that limits one’s ability to explore their wholeness without invalidating people experimenting with new ways of being?

Let’s make a community where we can all laugh with one another while we transform.