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Composition Forum 50, Fall 2022

Review of Alexandria L. Lockett, Iris D. Ruiz, James Chase Sanchez, and Christopher Carter’s Race, Rhetoric, and Research Methods

Madeline Crozier

Lockett, Alexandria L., et al. Race, Rhetoric, and Research Methods. The WAC Clearinghouse, UP of Colorado, 2021. Perspectives on Writing Series.

Racial violence, colonial legacies, and unjust “architectures of white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy” surround the context in which we all research, teach, and write in the United States (Lockett et al. 4).{1} Many scholars in the discipline of rhetoric, composition, and writing studies (RCWS) have productively named, studied, and worked against the effects of racism in education (hooks; Smitherman; Villanueva) and writing pedagogy (Baker-Bell; Condon and Ashanti-Young; Inoue).{2} However, the field has not yet substantially “addressed the issue of race, racism, and research in its histories of itself, its pedagogies, and its current methods and methodologies” (Lockett et al. 10). The exigencies for Race, Rhetoric, and Research Methods by Alexandria L. Lockett, Iris D. Ruiz, James Chase Sanchez, and Christopher Carter intersect at the urgent need to commit to antiracism and to radically revise approaches to research in RCWS. Published in 2021 in the Perspectives on Writing Series from the WAC Clearinghouse, the comprehensive open-access resource explores the power and potential of antiracism as a research methodology for RCWS. Assembling along the contours of critical race theory (CRT), decolonial theory, and feminist research traditions, antiracism functions as a research methodology that accounts for the effects of race and racism to critically uncover and transform “1) how we make knowledge about these phenomena and 2) how we ought to pay careful attention, and resist, the ways in which knowledge production structurally involves violence against marginalized people” (Lockett et al. 20). The authors, a “Black woman, White man, Latinx woman, and Chicanx man,” collectively define and demonstrate antiracist methodology through interdisciplinary and mixed methods approaches to studying the methodological and epistemological impacts of race and racism on research (Lockett et al. 23). The multifaceted collection, which effectively argues for the need for antiracist methodology, is an immediately useful and imperative addition to RCWS literature on research methods. I am a white woman from the Midwest, a graduate student who teaches in the South, and a first-year composition instructor with a commitment to antiracist assessment, so this book helped me (re)articulate my commitment to antiracist research and demonstrated how to transform that commitment into action. Graduate students, instructors who teach methods courses, and researchers in RCWS, communication studies, cultural studies, and related fields all have something to learn from this book.

The collection begins with an introduction, Antiracism as an Ethical Framework for Race and Racism, that conceptualizes antiracism as a research methodology. Informed by CRT, antiracist methodology means “attend[ing] to race and racism in the very formulation of our queries” and “hold[ing] researchers responsible for contributing to the eradication of racism” (Lockett et al. 20). As Lockett and colleagues define the principles of antiracist methodology,

Researchers have an ethical obligation to confront the epistemological, social, and politics ramifications of living in a capitalist white supremacist patriarchal society. This obligation means both recognizing and naming racism as an existent, pervasive, deadly problem, as well as analyzing its effect on the work we do, especially in terms of how we choose that work and go about doing it. (16)

Antiracist methodology has the potential to reshape research design, methods, and possibilities for racial and linguistic justice while also uncovering the effects of the ways scholars research and write about race and antiracism. The epistemological dimension of antiracist methodology—that race and racism impact ways of thinking and knowing—seeks to explore how the ways we conceive, write about, and research race delineates what researchers can and cannot see. The introduction further emphasizes the value of antiracist research methodologies within civic contexts, a theme which continues throughout the book as each author shares the personal and material contexts that shape their work. The move to contextualize antiracist methodology across public and academic spheres illustrates its significant value while also bridging the perceived binary between theory and practice.

As the chapters in the book connect antiracist methodology with research methods such as critical historiography, autoethnography, visual rhetorical analysis, and critical technocultural discourse analysis, each contributor adds to the epistemological dimension and builds toward a cohesive conception of antiracist methodology (Lockett et al. 22). The introduction also outlines the structure of the book, which reflects its collaborative nature. After the introduction, the book consists of four single-authored chapters, along with four interchapter dialogues that share multicultural, collaborative exchanges between the authors and build cohesion across chapters. The Postscript provides more insight into the collaborative writing and publishing process and its role in antiracist scholarship. In Appendix A, readers can find a glossary of key terms and concepts with definitions to help summarize the book’s contributions to RCWS research methods. Another unique feature of the book is Appendix B, in which readers can find a YouTube playlist ( with multimodal materials referenced throughout the book. It offers a generous resource for instructors and graduate students, though the assemblage of videos speaks more to the larger sociopolitical contexts referenced in the book than the specific methodologies and methods the authors developed for intervening within those contexts.

Chapter 2, Critiquing the Critical: The Politics of Race and Coloniality in Rhetoric, Composition, and Writing Studies (RCWS) Research Traditions by Iris D. Ruiz, stands out in the collection for its meticulous exploration of race and racism within the discipline. Ruiz roots her critique in the discipline’s citation practices and normative historiographies—which reinforce “scholastic hegemony and disciplinary power”—that marginalize and colonize multiple ways of knowing (40).{3} Echoing the introduction, Ruiz argues that even the “critical” tradition in RCWS scholarship is “exclusionary” because “current critical methods are embedded in traditions of Whiteness and Western-oriented epistemologies” (Ruiz 39). She argues, “if one understands epistemological racism as continuing to uncritically support exclusionary research and publication practices, even when claimed to be critical, then RCWS is implicated in racist epistemological acts” (Ruiz 39). The field needs to commit to antiracism more so in deeds than in words by reconceptualizing its research methodologies in pursuit of antiracist and decolonial actions. To achieve “epistemological justice,” Ruiz argues for a “decolonial historiography” and proposes “historical curanderisma” as a “practice of delinking from dominant disciplinary discourses of whiteness associated with RCWS” that draws from Indigenous paradigms and decoloniality (Ruiz 45). As she explains, “curanderisma refers to an act of indigenous healing performed by one who has dedicated themselves to the arts of holistic medicine and natural ho­meopathy” (Ruiz 45). Historical curanderisma, as a framework for “decolonial historical recovery,” facilitates a critical investigation of whiteness and coloniality to move the field toward “disciplinary healing” (Ruiz 46). Researchers need to raise awareness, critically reflect, and study the ways that epistemological racism operates in our discipline through approaches to decolonial historiography that include (but are not limited to) historical curanderisma. Ruiz definitively argues that RCWS scholars can no longer separate research from the ways that race and racism shape the epistemological and methodological frameworks that surround it.

Building on Ruiz’s argument that epistemological constructions require careful interrogation, James Chase Sanchez blends personal narrative with antiracist methodology in Towards Reconciliation: Composing Racial Literacy with Autoethnography. The third chapter considers the method of autoethnography to develop racial literacy, which Sanchez explores through a reflection on his lived experiences with and research on race, rhetoric, and self-immolation, which led to his dissertation and documentary Man on Fire. In his composition of a racial literacy narrative, Sanchez carefully documents the ethics of autoethnography from an antiracist paradigm, with attention to “how [autoethnography] is altered due to positionality, how the autoethnographer can work toward reconciliation, and how essentialism becomes a constraint in the autoethnographic process” (94). Adding the framework of antiracism to feminist theories of positionality, Sanchez argues that autoethnographic work from an antiracist standpoint needs to make more explicit the ways that positionality, ideology, and worldview shape cultural depictions. Sanchez also considers the role of essentialism in autoethnography, as narratives can run the risk of reducing communities, cultures, and stories to monolithic interpretations. He further describes autoethnography as a pathway toward reconciliation, a complex, reconceptualized frame of reconciliation that happens within an individual rather than between individuals, as a “discursive process the researcher can unfold” (Sanchez 111). Though Sanchez’ chapter contributes more of a discussion on method than methodology, it ultimately models how researchers can use autoethnographic research to confront the past, support antiracist aims, and move toward racial and social justice.

Contributing to the epistemological dimension through rhetorics of multimodality and visuality, Christopher Carter introduces an antiracist method for analyzing, exploring, and circulating visual rhetorics of police violence in Chapter 4, Taser Trouble: Race, Visuality, and the Meditation of Police Brutality in Public Discourse. As he describes in the interchapter dialogue, the contribution considers broadly within public discourse “the extent to which whiteness informs the reception of images of violence, images of controversy, and images where there may be a degree of urgency or exigency potentially surrounding the issue of race” (Carter 155). In addition to offering a critical, antiracist approach for analyzing images of police violence and brutality, Carter argues for the need for ongoing “critical recording and archiving, urging scholars, activists, and citizens to capture and itemize the ways racism shapes the standard procedures of law enforcement and juridical practice” (126). Guided by antiracist methodology, Carter argues for explicitly antiracist aims in the study of circulation and resistance to racial violence. Within this framework, visual rhetoric, citizen videography, and bodycam footage become processes of embodied “epistemic mediation” that antiracist methodology reveals as consequences of racial violence, particularly anti-Black violence in the U.S. (Carter 126). The approaches to citizen videography (see page 143) feel particularly imperative for all readers to not only consider how to research visual rhetorics, public memory, and surveillance, but to also participate in the study, circulation, and creation of visual rhetorics for social justice.

Threading multimodal public circulation with frameworks of digital racial literacies and cultural discourses, Alexandria Lockett centers Black rhetoric in her rhetorical criticism of Black Twitter in Chapter 5, What is Black Twitter? A Rhetorical Criticism of Race, Dis/information, and Social Media. The chapter positions Black Twitter—an “alternative media, counter-public, and cultural production happening in real-time” (Lockett 168)—as a collective archive and multimodal text that “tells a powerful story about emerging digital racial literacies and their relationship to a long history of anti-Black information warfare” (Lockett 165). With the antiracism research methodology, Lockett uses methods of “critical technocultural discourse analysis (CTDA) and Black rhetorical criticism” to study how “Black discourses are performed, preserved, and circulated via Twitter” (169). She extends André Brock’s formulation of CTDA with the method of Black rhetorical criticism to argue for “the importance of resisting characterizations of Black internet users and their discourse as deficient” (Lockett 170). She presents a particularly thoughtful conversation around issues of embodiment, performativity, and appropriation of culture, arguing that “Black Twitter simulates the distinctive behavior of Black intelligence by pushing the racialized linguistic territories that diminish the visibility of creative Black cultural expression. Black Twitter is what happens when knowledge-making is both distributed and visible” (Lockett 204). Not only does Lockett offer a compelling narrative of the rhetorical meaning-making and community-building of #BlackTwitter, but she also effectively models antiracist rhetorical criticism for RCWS researchers who study digital literacies, multimodality, and rhetorical circulation.

Ultimately, through their book, Lockett, Ruiz, Sanchez, and Carter fully realize and make possible antiracism as a research methodology and momentously “shift the social justice turn in RCWS away from shallow conversations that briefly acknowledge that structural inequality exists toward deeper contemplations about how such observations ought to affect the field’s research practices” (230). Though readers may feel drawn to single chapters that seem to align with their specific research interests or disciplinary orientations, I encourage all readers to read the entire collection, if possible, to engage with the book as a complex, collaborative ecology that altogether presents a cohesive, actionable approach to antiracism as a research methodology. As such, the collection presents several opportunities for further research. Most importantly, researchers can and should work to pair antiracist methodology with a multitude of interdisciplinary research methods. Scholars from all disciplines with all areas of interests can incorporate antiracism into their research agendas. Research that follows an antiracist methodology also can and should take place in a wide range of public and academic research contexts, and researchers can seek innovative mixed methods approaches to best meet these contexts. As such, future research can take up antiracist methodology to articulate specific methods and approaches for researching specific communities, cultures, and contexts. From a theoretical perspective, future research may also take up the need to more clearly define the theoretical underpinnings of antiracist methodology beyond the central paradigm of CRT. While this book productively models the practice of antiracism as a research methodology, more analysis of theory would help round out the antiracist methodology as an adaptable tool for researchers striving for justice. As the authors argue, “antiracism is a profound and necessary course of epistemic action” (Lockett et al. 234). We are all implicated and called to action in this book. Those who read it cannot go back to previous ways of knowing, doing, and meaning-making that do not recognize and criticize dimensions of race and racism in the methods, methodologies, and consequences of our research. It is the reader’s and researcher’s responsibility to acknowledge these arguments, and the many arguments that came before, in order to stop doing harm through our research methods and methodologies and instead conduct research toward peace and social justice.


  1. Lockett, Ruiz, Sanchez, and Carter take care in the introduction to explain their choice to capitalize Black, White, and Black Women throughout the book. I deeply respect and agree with their choices; considering my own positionality as a white person, I move to lowercase white here. I bring this choice to readers’ attention a way of “encouraging all readers to critically reflect on their personal relationship with race and racism—regardless of their identity” (Lockett et al. 5). For a detailed discussion of capitalization and race, see pages 4-6. (Reteurn to text.)

  2. This list is not exhaustive, nor it is complete. I also recognize that my own standpoint, research interests, and graduate studies shape the scholars I cite here. See the introduction for how Lockett, Ruiz, Sanchez, and Carter situate their research methodology within larger disciplinary conversations. (Reteurn to text.)

  3. The co-authors of this book collaborated on the introduction, postscript, Appendices, and interchapter dialogues, while also contributing their own single-authored chapters. Quotations from each individual author’s chapter are cited with the scholar’s name to recognize and acknowledge their work. (Reteurn to text.)

Works Cited

Baker-Bell, April. Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy. Routledge, 2020.

Condon, Frankie, and Vershawn Ashanti Young, editors. Performing Antiracist Pedagogy in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication. The WAC Clearinghouse, UP of Colorado, 2017.

hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge, 1994.

Inoue, Asao B. Antiracist Writing Assessment Ecologies: Teaching and Assessing Writing for a Socially Just Future. The WAC Clearinghouse, Parlor Press, 2015.

Smitherman, Geneva. Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America. Wayne State UP, 1977.

Villanueva, Victor. Bootstraps: From an American Academic of Color. National Council of Teachers of English, 1993.

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