Feminist Dilemmatic Theorizing: New Materialism in Communication Studies

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21 Scopus citations


Feminist communication scholars often adopt seemingly incommensurate stances to navigate tensions among agency, discourse, materiality, and history. I argue that valuing these "contradictions" is a hallmark of feminist communication research, a tradition I label feminist dilemmatic theorizing. Because feminists seek to describe and transform the world, they employ constitutive and representative understandings of communication. Rather than assert these approaches as paradoxical, I reread existing scholarship for nascent feminist new materialisms. Using sexual violence as an example, I argue that feminist communication theory develops a distinct approach to the force of communication, one in which discourse is not all-powerful. Accordingly, I suggest communication theorists draw upon existing feminist scholarship to meet critiques of social construction and develop a material turn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-170
Number of pages21
JournalCommunication Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Agency
  • Discourse
  • Feminist theory
  • New materialism
  • Social construction
  • Violence


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