Published on August 12, 2020
Guest editors: Godwin Y. Agboka (University of Houston-Downtown) and Isidore Dorpenyo (George Mason University)
Recent incidents of police brutality and state-sanctioned murder of Black people have amplified the insidious cancer of systemic racism and inequality, injustice, White supremacy, privilege, oppression, bias, and discrimination against minority groups across the world. Particularly, the brutal killings of people of color in the US in recent years have led to a unified, long overdue push for social justice. There have been calls to reform the police in the US, and worldwide, the #BlackLivesMatter network has been the strongest voice yet for reimagining racial inequality.
The pattern of inequality and injustice is the result of historical and systemic (in)actions that discriminate against and delegitimize the experiences of some groups. Oppressive and unjust social structures and policies place severe restrictions on individuals, institutions, and communities, and therefore inhibit them from realizing their human potential. Significantly, social justice represents a unifying force and instrument for enacting change. It provides the foundational methodologies for deconstructing oppressive power structures and redressing anti-Black, anti-racist, and socially unjust practices.
In technical and professional communication (TPC), social justice efforts investigate “how communication, broadly defined, can amplify the agency of oppressed people—those who are materially, socially, politically, and/or economically under-resourced” [1, p. 242]. As a field with advocacy as its core mandate, TPC should play a vital role in social justice causes that work to enact change in communities. To echo Bowdon, “technical communicators are uniquely poised to function as public intellectuals” [2, p. 325] to contribute to contemporary issues that both engage the public and enact change. TPC, after all, is about solving problems.
Unfortunately, although the cultural and social justice turns in TPC have spurred a body of work that has addressed issues of inclusivity, diversity, and social justice (for example, -), much remains to be done. Not only is there still pushback to the social justice efforts in the field, but injustice and oppression continue to be a problem within our workplaces and practice. Current global events suggest the urgency for TPC to reimagine its own practices and work to engage injustice and racist actions. Working toward and enacting social justice are important actions to demonstrate, in both practical and academic ways, our discipline-in-practice.
This special issue is a call to action to respond to TPC’s own continued complicity in issues of injustice as well as emerging social justice issues across the globe. We ask: How might TPC scholars and practitioners enact social justice in their various spheres of work and influence? What forms do these actions take? As guest editors, we acknowledge that the various spheres of influence and practice for TPC scholars and practitioners—for example, the classroom, sites of research, workplace contexts, scholarly platforms—may either be potential sites of various unjust practices or present opportunities for analyzing, critiquing, and enacting social justice. Although we encourage work that investigates the historical and socio-political issues that engender, sustain, and reinforce unjust practices, we primarily invite projects that work towards socially just actions in various contexts of TPC work.
Thus, we invite article proposals from scholars and practitioners in academic and workplace contexts that explore the following questions.
- In what ways might recent global protests against racial inequality and injustice shape TPC research, pedagogies, and practices?
- How do TPC sites of work engender, sustain, and reinforce unjust social practices?
- How can TPC scholars and practitioners leverage their influence to redress anti-Black, racist, and unjust practices in the classroom and workplace, at research sites, etc.?
- How might TPC practitioners and scholars unlearn, revise, and re-envision racist and oppressive discourse and practices?
- How and in what contexts can TPC scholars and practitioners enact social justice?
- What types of work are TPC practitioners and scholars doing to address and counter racist and socially unjust practices?
- How do TPC teachers incorporate anti-racist pedagogical practices in the classroom?
- What models, frameworks, methodologies, theories, and approaches are best suited for conducting social justice work? How might those approaches work (or not work)?
- How can TPC instructors prepare students for the world of work, and better prepare them to impact the workplace and communities in which they live and work?
- What programmatic and curricular approaches are TPC programs already enacting to address social justice issues?
- What are the challenges of enacting social justice, particularly in transnational, cross-cultural contexts?
- In what ways might TPC scholars and practitioners collaborate with communities to address social justice issues?
Types of Projects
The types of research projects accepted for this special issue include but are not limited to
- research articles
- integrative literature reviews
- case studies
- teaching cases
For further details, please consult project formats supported by the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication at https://procomm.ieee.org/transactions-of-professional-communication/for-prospective-authors/guidelines-to-follow/.
This special issue has a two-step review process (see below for timeline).
- Send a 500-word abstract in the body of an email summarizing your proposed article to the guest editors (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com). Following the review of abstracts, the guest editors will invite authors whose abstracts have been selected to submit a complete draft in Microsoft Word format.
- Complete manuscripts will be peer reviewed. Based on the outcomes of that review, guest editors will then select articles for publication in the special issue.
IMPORTANT: If you plan to present the results of a study involving human research subjects or use examples from corporate or government communications, please obtain all approvals and permissions for publishing your results from your institution, company, or agency before you submit an abstract for review.
Timeline for Submissions
|Abstract submission deadline||October 15, 2020|
|Notification of authors||November 15, 2020|
|Submission of complete drafts by invited authors||March 15, 2021|
|Reviews returned to authors||June 1, 2021|
|Revised drafts submitted for second review||August 1, 2021|
|Reviews returned to authors||September 15, 2021|
|Final and complete articles submitted||October 15, 2021|
|Editing of articles completed by guest editors||December 1, 2021|
|Correction of proofs by article authors||January/February 2022|
|Special issue published||March 1, 2022|
 N. N. Jones and R. Walton, “Using narratives to foster critical thinking about diversity and social justice,” in Key Theoretical Frameworks for Teaching Technical Communication in the 21st Century, M. Eble and A. Haas, Eds. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2018, pp. 241–267.
 M. Bowdon, “Technical communication and the role of the public intellectual: A community HIV-prevention case study,” Technical Communication Quarterly, vol. 13, pp. 325-340, 2004.
 G. Y. Agboka, “Participatory localization: A social justice approach to navigating unenfranchised/disenfranchised cultural sites,” Technical Communication Quarterly, vol. 22, pp. 28–49, 2013.
 K. I. Dorpenyo, K. I., “Risky election, vulnerable technology: Localizing biometric use in elections for the sake of justice,” Technical Communication Quarterly, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 1-15, 2019.
 R. Walton, K. R. Moore, and N. N. Jones. 2019. Technical communication after the social justice turn: Building coalitions for action. New York, NY: Routledge, 2019.