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2017 Samuel L. Becker Memorial Conference

Sam Becker, black and white

"Interesting questions are the lifeblood of any field. In our case, they must be questions that make a difference, that puzzle and stimulate, and that give some intellectual coherence to this field of communication studies."
—Sam Becker, 1984

Interesting Questions: Movements and Networks

Saturday, October 21, 2017
8:30 a.m.—4:00 p.m.; reception to follow View full schedule
Old Capitol Museum Senate Chamber on the University of Iowa campus
Iowa City, Iowa

This conference honors the life and work of Samuel L. Becker (1923–2012), noted communication scholar and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the University of Iowa Department of Communication Studies. In his 1984 keynote address to the Central States Speech Association, Sam took up the theme of "interesting questions" to argue for more sustained intradisciplinary conversations among communication studies scholars, which will better enable them to address critical issues in our time. In that spirit, we've assembled a day of speakers to address the themes of bodies and technologies, which are issues that Sam addressed in his own work, are of central concern to communication studies, and represent thematic areas of inquiry in our own Department.

The  theme for the 2017 Becker Conference is Movements and Networks. Featuring prominent scholars Lisa Flores, Lori Kido Lopez, and Rachel Smith, the 2017 conference will examine interesting questions at the cutting edge of Communication Studies scholarship. The 2017 theme invites exploration of the ways that movements and networks—broadly conceived—challenge our thinking about social influence, political resistance, borders and belonging, and modes of community and citizenship. Movements and Networks considers a range of contemporary and historical cultural phenomena for its communicative import, raising new questions about what communication is and how it shapes our world.  

View the conference schedule. The 2017 Samuel L. Becker Memorial Conference is free; advance registration is required and available here.

Staying the night? We have a room block at the Hampton Inn, with a special $149 rate (code: UIC). Several hotels in neighboring Coralville have rooms available, too, if you book soon.



  • Lisa Flores

    Lisa Flores, University of Colorado Boulder

    "The Promise of Race and the Whiteness of Nation"

    Lisa Flores is Associate Professor of rhetoric and culture in the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research and teaching are guided by her belief that public discourse is a central site through which citizens come to occupy the worlds we envision. Her research and teaching interests lie in rhetoric, critical race studies, and gender/queer studies. Her most recent work examines historic narratives of immigrants and immigration, mapping an argument of race making, particular at the intersections of nation, citizenship, and labor.


    The Promise of Race and the Whiteness of Nation

    In the mid 1940s the United States and Mexico embarked on an unprecedented and controversial project to bring Mexican workers to the United States as contract laborers. The “Bracero Program” would last for 22 years, involve over 1,000,000 Mexicans, and undergo numerous transitions and revisions. Drawing on rhetorical analysis of public discourse, including popular periodical accounts as well as governmental and special interest publications and records, I trace the figuration of Mexican braceros as welcome allies who eagerly came to the U.S. and willingly endured the arduous work of agriculture. In so doing, Mexican braceros emerge as saviors within the crisis of war. I attend, as well, to the framing of the bracero program as an ideal program premised on absolute control. I argue that the intersection of welcome and control sustains what Sara Ahmed might name a happy promise of race. That is, Mexican braceros are racialized as a variant of happy slave narratives and in that contented happiness, they ensure the centrality of race to the nation and absolve whiteness of its racial guilt.

  • Lori Kido Lopez

    Lori Kido Lopez, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    "Asian American Networks on Twitter: Building a Backstage Movement"

    Lori Kido Lopez is Assistant Professor of Media and Cultural Studies in the Communication Arts department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is also affiliate faculty in the Asian American Studies Program and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies. Dr. Lopez is the author of Asian American Media Activism: Fighting for Cultural Citizenship with NYU Press and a co-editor of the Routledge Companion to Asian American Media with Vincent Pham. Her work examines race and ethnicity in the media through a feminist/cultural studies lens. She is particularly interested in examining the way that Asian Americans and other minority groups use media in the fight for social justice. Her newest research examines Hmong Americans and the culturally specific ways that they are participating in the production and consumption of digital media, particularly considering the gendered dimensions of Hmong media cultures. See abstract


    Asian American Networks on Twitter:  Building a Backstage Movement

    Despite the fact that Asian Americans are statistically overrepresented on Twitter, the existence of an “Asian American Twitter” and its potential impact are rarely discussed.  In this presentation I assess the way that Asian American communities deploy Twitter hashtags in order to coalesce and rise to visibility surrounding social justice issues, as well as the ways in which these forms of Asian American activism are triangulated in relation to the oft-discussed collective of users known as “Black Twitter.”  Through interviews with prominent Twitter users whose work largely plays out behind the scenes, we can better understand the role that Twitter plays in shaping cross-racial relationships and Asian American activism.  This research also reveals the sustained centrality of representational issues and media activism to Asian Americans, even as their digital networks open up new possibilities for movement growth and development.

  • Rachel Smith

    Rachel Smith, Pennsylvania State University

    "Linked: The Social Science of Personal Influence and Public Stigma"

    Rachel Smith is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State. She studies social influence through a scientific lens with quantitative methods. Her theoretical approach emphasizes the socially situated and embodied nature of communication and wellbeing, and she often uses quantitative methods that embrace interdependence (such as network analysis). She is particularly curious about messages that spread through social systems, such as the diffusion of health innovations and the creation of health stigmas.


    Linked: The Social Science of Personal Influence and Public Stigma 

    Humans are a social species, and communication is an interdependent process by which people make sense of and influence their worlds. People’s interactions with each other create invisible social structures that underlie social capital, personal power, and community life. From interpersonal communication can emerge social facts or collective norms: social-level beliefs about actions, thoughts, and feelings of community members that have the power to influence individual member’s beliefs and actions. We now have methods and data to capture social living that allow communication scholars to test (often long-held) ideas about the relational determinants and consequences of communication. Indeed, the challenge is to advance our theories to keep up with these developments. In this lecture, I intend to explore the socially situated and embodied nature of communication and wellbeing. I will highlight research in three areas: the relational determinants of interpersonal influence, the relational consequences of living with a stigmatized health condition, and communication’s role in creating public stigmas.