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Routes to Scholar Activism in Communication: A Personal History – Dr. Patricia Parker
November 3, 2022 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm CDT
November 3, 2022, 12:30 PM- 1:30 PM
Dealey Center for New Media, Room 5.208
“The graduate education I received in the Department of Communication at UT Austin set
me on a journey of engaged scholar activism and commitments to social justice. In this
talk I will share my experience as a Black woman navigating life in academia and what I
learned about maintaining commitments to social justice activism in my scholarship,
teaching, and service in the field.”
PATRICIA PARKER – BIO 2022
Dr. Patricia Parker is a Professor in the Department of Communication and Director of the Institute for the
Arts and Humanities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She holds the Ruel W. Tyson
Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities. From 2015-2021 she served as Chair of the Department of
Communication and Director of the Graduate Certificate in Participatory Research (2017-2021). She currently
serves as co-chair (with Dr. Jim Leloudis) of the University Commission on History and Race.
A scholar in critical organizational communication studies and leadership, Parker’s research and teaching focus
on the communicative constitution of leadership, difference, and power in organizing and the potential for
democratizing organizations and society. Her work draws on Black feminist, critical race, and decolonial
theories to study how different identities, meanings, and social arrangements are discursively reproduced,
resisted, negotiated, and transformed. Her research is multimodal, drawing on critical pedagogies, oral and
archival histories, and community-based participatory methodologies.
Parker has written two books and dozens of articles and book chapters focusing on questions at the
intersections of race, gender, class, and power in organization processes. Her first book, Race, Gender, and
Leadership (2005) is an oral history project centering the experiences of American women executives. During
that project, she became interested in how these women found their voices as leaders in relation to service in
their communities, how that practice was historically situated in Black women’s legacies of critical resistance,
and, ultimately, how Black women’s traditions of leadership are productive and transformative models for
democratizing society. As part of that research, Parker was drawn to human rights legend Ella Baker’s
methodology for catalyzing knowledges that reside in communities, and this became the focus for her next
area of research. In 2007 she founded the Ella Baker Women’s Center for Leadership and Community Activism
(https://www.ellabakerwomenscenter.org/), working alongside African American girls and their allies leading
change for social justice. Parker’s most recent book, Ella Baker’s Catalytic Leadership: A Primer on Community
Engagement and Communication for Social Justice, published in 2020 by the University of California Press,
documents the first six years of her work in that community-based collective.
Parker’s next projects will follow from her work as co-chair of the University Commission on History and Race
and as director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities. Both those roles provide intellectual engagements
that allow her to pursue her current interests in questions about belonging, memory, and reckoning with the
past to shape productive futures.
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