CFP: Special Issue of Rhetoric of Health and Medicine, “In Living Color: Amplifying Racial Justice Work in RHM”

Rhetoric of Health & Medicine Special Issue CFP                         
In Living Color: Amplifying Racial Justice Work in RHM

Earlier this year, the CDC declared racism a “serious threat to public health.” Likewise, cities and municipalities across the country have since issued similar proclamations acknowledging the interwoven threads between racism, health equity, and safe and sustainable living (Pew Charitable Trusts, 2020). In response to the growing awareness that racism and its interwoven structures have a direct correlation with health equity, this special issue, titled “In Living Color: Amplifying Racial Justice Work in RHM,” situates the rhetoric of health and medicine within a racial justice framework.


“In Living Color: Amplifying Racial Justice Work in RHM” pays homage to the sketch comedy show from the early 1990s produced by Keenan Ivory Wayans. In Living Color introduced a mostly Black cast to a primetime comedy market that was largely dominated by white men, with a few sprinklings of Black men and white women — think Saturday Night Live’s 1990 cast including Dana Carvey, Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, David Spade, and Chris Rock. Wayans’ show changed the sketch comedy market and started/boosted the careers of many of today’s most well-known entertainers, like Jamie Foxx, David Alan Grier, Jennifer Lopez, and Rosie Perez, to name a few.


In the same way In Living Color introduced a concentration of comedians of color to a mostly white entertainment market, the editors want this special issue to bring together an interdisciplinary collection of scholarship focused on the issues and disparities that affect Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOCs) and insert that scholarship into the field of Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (RHM), which has largely been filled with white voices. Further, as we recognize how the show’s unfortunate lack of awareness regarding intersectionality has made some of its most popular sketches problematic today, we want to encourage intersectional understandings and perspectives that include LGBTQ rights and those of other marginalized communities. 


While we acknowledge a dearth of scholarship in RHM that specifically grapples with rhetorics and praxes of racial injustice in medicine, we also recognize the transdisciplinary conversations that help shape our work. Our call for proposals is inspired by scholars in related fields that help diversify and broaden the cultural scope of scholarship, such as: emerging technical communication scholars like Les Hutchinson Campos, Avery Edenfield, Laura Gonzales, Cana Uluak Ituaqiyaq, Lehua Ledbetter, Temptaous Mckoy, Jennifer Sano-Franchini, and Cecilia Shelton; scholars like Jamal-Jared Alexander, Mohan Dutta, and Kelly Happe, Veronica Joyner, and Kimberly Kline, who research culturally responsive health communication; rhetorics of reproductive justice scholars like Rachel Bloom-Pojar, Lori Beth De Hertogh, Erin Frost, Maria Novotny, Sharon Yam; and medical justice scholars who examine the historical and contemporary patterns of racial injustice that undergird the US healthcare system, including the foundational scholarship of Dorothy Roberts and Harriet Washington and the recent rhetorically informed work of April Baker-Bell, Kimberly Harper, and Flourice Richardson.



Scope, Aims, & Questions

The scope and aims of the special issue are defined by racial justice and include perspectives that amplify the experiences of BIPOC patients, practitioners, and other stakeholders committed to addressing intersectional injustices (e.g., environmental, reproductive, socioeconomic, LGBTQ+, and disability). As such, we are interested in proposals that take up or are inspired by the following guiding questions:


  • Who is doing the work of intervening in health disparities and injustices? What methods/methodologies are informing this work? How is RHM scholarship positioned or implicated in this work? 
  • In what capacities are healthcare professionals, both traditional and alternative, using rhetoric to affect and improve health outcomes for marginalized and vulnerable peoples?
  • What kinds of rhetorical actions and meaning-makings are at the heart of health injustice? 
  • What rhetorical interventions are working to ameliorate the harm caused by historic and contemporary health injustice? What does health justice look like on the ground?
  • How does the discourse of medicine exclude certain populations and reinforce health inequities? 
  • How can concepts like linguistic justice address racialized medical discourse?
  • How has medical education historically reinforced linguistic racism in clinical practice? 
  • How can health justice work toward rectifying the inequities in the medical system? 
  • How can RHM scholarship intervene in ancillary systems (business, education, legislation) that perpetuate racial injustice in health? 
  • Why is RHM well-positioned to take up racial justice work in health and medicine? 
  • How do/can the methods, methodologies, and theories that inform RHM position scholars      intervene in the racial injustice in health and medicine?


Potential Submission Types

Because RHM research takes place in and across a number of institutions, we invite a variety of submission types that include, but are not limited to: 


  • Dialogues (invited and proposed) among multiple scholars and stakeholders about the role of and/or study of rhetoric in health and medical issues; the editors especially welcome dialogues that include public and other nonacademic stakeholders and that propose new ways of engaging or studying health and medicine. Dialogues can take different forms but should be no longer than 5,000 words. Topics, contributors, and forms of dialogues should be approved by the editors before submission.
  • Persuasion briefs  (invited and proposed) should generally target, along with the journal’s main readership, a non- or extra-academic audience (e.g., health journalists, policymakers, medical educators and practitioners, health publics and communities, business representatives) with the purpose of informing and improving a current set of practices. Persuasion briefs, or white papers, explain the role of rhetoric in and synthesize rhetorical insights about a particular set of health or medical practices (including applied communication contexts). They should be framed around what the rhetorical research says and what it suggests for whatever stakes the targeted constituency has in the conversation.
  • Commentaries (invited and proposed) are generally shorter, clearly focused opinion or advocacy pieces about timely health or medical issues, although they can also focus on the state of our scholarly field. These submission types should be written in styles appropriate for their intended audiences.  
  • Organizational profiles/narratives related to racial justice in health and medical fields 
  • Multimedia submissions (with commentary) that may include oral testimonies or creative representations of issues, problems, and solutions. (Please note that multimedia submissions will not be included in the print journal, but will be simultaneously published on
  • Infographics (with commentary) that represent a rhetorical strategy and situation.
  • Scene reports from advocacy/activist sites that offer a contextualized account of applying racial justice in health and medicine sites beyond the clinic or traditional Western medicine practice.
  • Interviews with healthcare professionals, and other racial justice activists that note the “on-the-ground” approaches clinics and related organizations are adopting to address racial inequity

Please note other submission types are also encouraged. Please contact the editors to discuss those possibilities ahead of proposal submission.   


Proposal Evaluation

Successful proposals will meet all the following criteria:

  • Clearly connect to racial justice issues in medicine and health care;
  • Advance RHM’s scholarly and material contributions to racial justice;
  • Critically engage with current scholarship on racial and social justice in RHM, health communication, and/or health in general;
  • Provide the audience with a starting point for using RHM and racial justice theories to engage with or participate in activism;
  • Amplify marginalized experiences and knowledges in health and medicine.

Guest Editors

This special issue is co-edited by Kimberly Harper, Veronica Joyner, Maria Novotny, and RHM co-editor Kim Hensley Owens. As editors we will apply an intersectional, feminist “horizontal mentoring” (VanHaitsma and Ceraso) approach as we work with contributors. Therefore, we invite inquiries from potential authors prior to the proposal submission date. Prior to the proposal submission deadline potential authors can reach out to the editors at

Please note that all formal submissions must be sent to the RHM gmail account to be considered for acceptance.

Submission Instructions

Please submit a 500-word proposal (not including references) summarizing the proposed contribution to the special issue. We especially invite submissions from multiply-marginalized scholars at all career stages, and we are happy to talk through ideas for submission and to offer mentoring. We expect submissions to briefly discuss the author’s positionality in relation to their proposal. Additionally, please indicate how you foresee your proposal fitting with one of the RHM submission types described above. 

All submissions must be anonymized and sent directly to the RHM email address:

  • Proposals Due: November 1, 2021 EXTENDED: November 8, 2021
  • Notifications of Acceptance/Rejection: December 1, 2021
  • Manuscripts due for peer review: March 15, 2022



Baker-Bell, April. (2020). Linguistic justice: Black language, literacy, identity, and pedagogy. New York, NY: Routledge.


Combahee River Collective. (1995). “A Black feminist statement.” In Beverly Guy-Sheftall (Ed.), Words of fire: An anthology of African-American feminist thought (pp. 231-240). New York: The New Press.

deShazo, Richard. (2018). The racial divide in American medicine: Black physicians and the struggle for justice in health care. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. 

Dutta, Mohan, Jyoti. (2010). The Critical Cultural Turn in Health Communication: Reflexivity, Solidarity, and Praxis. Health Communication, 25(6/7), 534–539.


Gonzales, Laura and Rachel Bloom-Pojar (2018).​ A dialogue with medical interpreters about rhetoric, culture, and language.” Rhetoric of Health and Medicine 1(1-2): 193-212.


Happe, Kelly. (2018). “Health communication methodology and race.” Methodologies for the rhetoric of health and medicine. Eds. Lisa Meloncon and J. Blake Scott. Routledge, New York. 79-95.


Harper, Kimberly. (2020). The Ethos of Black motherhood in America: Only White women get pregnant. Lanham: Lexington Books. 


Hill-Collins, Patricia. (1990). Black feminist thought: Knowledge consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. New York, NY: Routledge.


Itchuaqiyaq, Cana, Uluak. (2021, June 7). “MMU scholar list.” Cana Uluak Itchuaqiyaq.


Kline, Kimberly. (2006). “Cultural sensitivity and health promotion: Assessing breast cancer education pamphlets designed for African American women.” Health Communication, 21:1, 85-96.


Mckoy, Temptaous. (2019). “Y’all call it technical and professional communication, we call it #ForTheCulture: The use of amplification rhetorics in Black communities and their implications for technical and professional communication studies.” Unpublished dissertation. East Carolina University


Nash, Jennifer. (2019). Black feminism reimagined: After intersectionality. Durham: Duke University Press.


Novotny, Maria, De Hertogh, Lori Beth, & Frost, Erin. (2020). “Rhetorics of reproductive justice in civic and public contexts.” Reflections: A Journal of Community-Engaged Writing and Rhetoric, 20(2): 7-13.


Pew Charitable Trusts. (2020). Racism is a public health crisis, say cities and counties. Retrieved from


Richardson, Flourice. 2016. “The eugenics agenda: deliberative rhetoric and therapeutic discourse of hate.” In Communicating Race Ethnicity and Identity in Technical Communication. Eds. Miriam Williams and Octavio Pimentel. Routledge. 


Roberts, Dorothy. (1997). Killing the Black body. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


Ross, Loretta., & Solinger, Rickie. (2017). Reproductive justice. An introduction. Oakland: University of California Press.  


Shelton, Cecelia. (2020) Shifting out of neutral: Centering difference, bias, and social justice in a business writing course, Technical Communication Quarterly, 29:1, 18-32.



Washington, Harriet. (2008). Medical Apartheid: The dark history of medical experimentation on Black Americans from colonial times to the present. Reprint edition. New York: Anchor.

Be the first to reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *