My academic interests are focused on the relationships between race, political possibilities, and rhetoric in the United States. I am deeply interested in the way that theories of race and problematics of difference can and do inform our conceptualizations of public culture. I have particular interests and expertise in Latina/o/x studies and the coloniality of knowledge/power/being. My scholarship complicates (modern/Western) rhetorical theory by putting it into conversation with critical race and decolonial theory in a manner that makes local knowledges and communication practices intelligible, and advances more inclusive theorizing in the discipline. My work has appeared in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Communication Theory, Environmental Communication, Communication, Culture, & Critique, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, and my pioneering book The Young Lords: A Reader (New York University Press, 2010).
My most recent book, The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation (Temple University Press, 2015), has received numerous accolades, including the 2017 Book of the Year Award from the National Communication Association's Critical/Cultural Studies Division. The Young Lords were a revolutionary, multi-ethnic, grassroots political organization comprised of young men and women throughout New York City and included branches across the country and Puerto Rico. In the book, I treat the Young Lords as a critical and representative example of decolonial or anti-systemic social movement struggling against modern/coloniality. What makes the Young Lords particularly interesting is the way in which they advanced their agenda through a political style that operated functionally at the intersections of competing socio-rhetorical traditions and through various discourses including speech, poetry, images, and embodied performance. Their critical geo-/body politics targeted the intersectionality of oppression along gendered-raced-classed axes from the late 1960s until the mid 1970s. Beyond an analysis of the Young Lords, I also make the case for rethinking rhetorical criticism as decolonial practice.
Most recently I have begun work on my next book project, which I am tentatively calling Possession: Crafting Americanity in Congressional Debates over Puerto Rico’s Status. Where my Young Lords project was focused on the ways in which people challenge coloniality, this new project is concerned with the ways in which coloniality (a) manifests itself in political discourse about Puerto Rico and (b) is in some ways central to the US American national imaginary. While other scholars have done exemplary work examining the implications of key pieces of Congressional legislation, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive branch decision-making for the island of Puerto Rico, little work has flipped the lens around to engage in detailed analysis of the legislative (rhetorical) history that undergirds one of the few remaining colonial relationships in our contemporary world. Instead of asking (as many existing studies do) What does this legislation mean for Puerto Rico? I ask, What do the debates over this legislation mean for the United States? Drawing connections between the logics of possession, master morality, and the rhetoric of modernity, I also hope to build upon Aníbal Quijano and Emmanuel Wallerstein’s “Concept of Americanity” to develop a sense for how the rhetoric of Americanity is structured in the United States post-1898.
More about my research, teaching, and topics I find important can be found on my personal website at: http://darrel.wanzerserrano.com