My overarching goal as a scholar is to develop a research program focused on identifying, examining, challenging, and theorizing rhetorics produced in cultural spaces including media and sport.
Relatedly, my goal is to examine and critique research and pedagogical practices that construct, negotiate, and/or maintain dominant racial and gender ideologies.
I agree with Patricia Hill Collins (2004), who argues that such dominant ideologies provide the ideological justification that maintains society’s racial and gender hierarchy that favors whiteness and masculinity and marginalizes all racial and gender “Others."
With this as my foundation, through peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations, I seek to advance critical scholarship that advocates racial and gender justice and equity.
Critical Analysis of Whiteness
The strategic rhetorics of whiteness and their intersections with other subject identities, such as hegemonic masculinity, are often ambiguous and contradictory, presenting specific challenges to scholars, critics, advocates, and educators who aim to identify and critique its cultural space and power and work towards dismantling contemporary racism (Lacy & Ono, 2011; Nakayama & Krizek, 1995). Lacy and Ono (2011) explain “Race and racism are deflected, denied, disavowed, minimized, and excused.” (p. 2). Furthermore, the constant evolution of new media technologies allows for whiteness rhetorics within popular cultural spaces to change and adapt with society’s ever changing cultural landscape. To examine whiteness rhetorics within these influential cultural domains, such as sport and media, I utilize critical methods to identify and examine whiteness (Nakayama & Krizek, 1995), with the goal of identifying, analyzing, and theorizing the ways in which whiteness adapts and utilizes strategic rhetorics, as well how it intersects with other subject identities, such as masculinity, to maintain its historical and cultural power (Collins, 1991; 2004).
While my work has utilized several research methodologies, I predominantly utilize rhetorical criticism as a methodology, as I am focused on the analysis of symbolic action and its influence on ideology. I agree with Dana Cloud’s (2014) approach to critiquing ideology, as I am directed at interrogating “…how systems of power are expressed and justified in speech acts, at who is left out of the system, and at how speeches and other texts can be misleading, distorted, or oppressive of others” (p. 24). My research also draws from Raymie McKerrow’s (1989) critical rhetorical approach, which aims to uncover the historical dimensions and significances of racial and gender discourses, while showing how contemporary media “deflect, deny, and disavow racism” (Lacy & Ono, p. 3). Utilizing this critical approach, my research has focused on two primary areas: 1) the intersectional examination of whiteness within men’s professional sport and popular media, and 2) the critical examination of whiteness within communication pedagogies and research practices.
Media & Sport
Popular culture sites, such as professional sport, television, music, news media, and the Internet, have a global impact on the construction and maintenance of racial and gender ideologies that work to justify and maintain society’s racial and gender order (Collins, 2004; Griffin & Calafell, 2011; Lacy & Ono, 2011). To interrogate the strategic ways in which whiteness rhetorics work within both media and professional sport, I have developed a research program that I intend to further.
First, utilizing a critical rhetorical approach, my manuscript entitled "Cam Newton and Russell Westbrook's Symbolic Resistance to Whiteness in the NFL and NBA" was recently accepted for publication in The Howard Journal of Communications (forthcoming, 2019). This project was the 2017 recipient of the Graduate College's Charles E. Shanklin Award at Bowling Green State University. It examines and critiques how National Football League (NFL) North Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton and National Basketball Association (NBA) Oklahoma City Thunder’s pointguard Russell Westbrook perform an alternative Black masculinity that resists whiteness’s surveillance expressed within NFL and NBA conduct policies. I argue that their performance offers hope and optimism for marginalized individuals by symbolically resisting whiteness’s surveillance via their performance and resistance of cool pose Furthermore, by controlling interpretations of Newton and Westbrook’s resistance, whiteness rhetorics utilized by sports media and fans further whiteness’s power to surveil those who do not occupy whiteness’s cultural space, thereby maintaining whiteness as centralized and normative.
Second, utilizing a critical rhetoric approach, I published a solo-authored article in Communication Studies titled, “The Whitening of Grey’s Anatomy” (Cramer, 2016). This article examines how the writers, creators, and producers of the popular medical drama utilize postracial discourse (Ono, 2011) and Scott’s (1993) absence as presence to construct a narrative of social, technological, and therefore racial progress, thereby obviating the realities of contemporary racism, both covert and overt. I am working to continue this important line of research and contribute to further understandings of how popular media discourses have evolved and adapted to maintain whiteness’s centrality and invisibility.
In addition to my other projects that focus on media, which are further detailed in my CV, my dissertation is both a critical and theory development project that analyzes two rhetorical case studies involving leadership in men’s U.S. professional sport. The first case study examines the rhetorical performance of National Basketball Association (NBA) Commissioner Adam Silver in response to racist comments made by the former owner of the L.A. Clippers Donald Sterling in the spring of 2014. The second case study examines the rhetorical performance of National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell in response to a domestic violence incident involving NFL star Ray Rice and his then-fiancé Janay Palmer in the year 2014. Both of these studies draw from whiteness studies scholarship, Black Feminist Thought, critical intercultural communication scholarship, as well as Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogic approach to analyze leadership performances via press conferences and news and sports media responses to these press conferences. My analyses revealed dialectics within both case studies that functioned to maintain a racial and gender hierarchy that favors White masculinity, and specifically, further disenfranchises Black women and Black masculinity. I am working to continue this critical line of research and utilizing my findings to contribute to understanding of how whiteness rhetorics functions covertly and dialectically, and how racial and gender inequities are perpetuated through rhetorical performances of sports leaders and athletes, as well as popular media.
Communication Pedagogy & Research
In addition to these projects focused on sport and media, I have engaged in projects that examine the ways in which communication instructional practices can become more inclusive and move towards pedagogical philosophies and social justice practices that de-center whiteness and value critical thinking, dialogue, and the understanding of difference. An example of this is found in my solo-authored article published in a peer-reviewed journal, The Forensic that examines the state of media literacy within communication programs and argues for the importance of developing critical media literacy among students in communication courses (Cramer, 2015). This focus is also evident in a co-authored book chapter that discusses the importance of fostering dialogue within the intercultural communication classroom (González & Cramer, 2018).
My scholarship also analyzes and advocates for research practices within the study of intercultural communication that de-center whiteness. For instance, in a recent project presented at CSCA in 2016, I theorized and explored a new dialectic, self-removal vs. self-reflexivity, which White researchers researching whiteness experience in efforts to de-center whiteness from their research. Furthermore, my focus on developing scholarship that de-centers whiteness and presents and values marginalized voices is also evident in a recent response to forum essays that Dr. Alberto González and I co-authored in Communication Education that explores ways in which instructional communication research can utilize diverse methodologies to construct research that values diversity and inclusion (González & Cramer, 2016). Upon graduation, I plan to continue this important research agenda by developing new projects and moving my current projects to wards publication. My aim is to contribute to the development of communication scholarship and classroom practices that work to de-center whiteness and allow for marginalized voices to be heard, contemplated, and valued.
Throughout my career, I look forward to the opportunity to develop a productive research program that is committed to advancing intercultural communication and whiteness studies scholarship focused on the critical analysis of media and sport, as well as the development of scholarship that advocates for inclusive and socially just pedagogical and research practices. Whether I am working with faculty on a research team, leading students in the research process, or working independently, I anticipate building a fruitful research agenda centered on advancing social justice practices and racial and gender equality.
Cloud, D. L. (2014). Rhetorical criticism for underdogs. In J. A. Kuypers (Eds.) Purpose, practice, and pedagogy in rhetorical criticism (pp. 23-37). Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Collins, P. H. (2004). Black sexual politics: African Americans, gender, and the new racism. New York, NY: Routledge.
Collins, P. H. (1991). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Cramer, L. M. (2019, forthcoming). Cam Newton and Russell Westbrook's symbolic resistance to whiteness in the NFL and NBA. The Howard Journal of Communications.
Cramer, L. M. (2016). The whitening of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. Communication Studies, 67(5). (in press). doi: 10.1080/10510974.2016.1205640. Available for download at: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/Fdvei7rxDCJzmtCkaJuh/full
Cramer, L. M. (2015). Teaching the foundations of media literacy in the basic communication course. The Forensic, 100, 13-32.
González, A., & Cramer, L. M. (2016). Building toward inclusion: A response to forum essays. Communication Education, 65(1), 125-127. doi: 10.1080/03634523.2015.1110606
González, A., & Cramer, L. M. (2018). Dialogue and intercultural communication pedagogy. In A. Atay and S. Toyosaki (Eds.), Critical intercultural communication pedagogy, pp. 117-226. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Griffin, R. A., & Calafell, B. M. (2011). Control, discipline, and punish: Black masculinity and (in)visible whiteness in the NBA. In M. G. Lacy & K. A. Ono (Eds.), Critical rhetorics of race (pp. 117-136). New York: New York University Press.
Lacy, M. G., & Ono, K. A. (Eds.). (2011). Critical rhetorics of race. New York: New York University Press.
McKerrow, R. E. (1989). Critical rhetoric: Theory and praxis. Communication Monographs, 56(2), 91-111.
Nakayama, T. K., & Halualani, R. T. (Eds.). (2013). The handbook of critical intercultural communication. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Nakayama, T. K., & Krizek, R. L. (1995). Whiteness: A strategic rhetoric. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 81, 291-309.
Ono, K. (2011). Postracism: A theory of the “post”- as political strategy. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 34(3), 227-233.
Scott, R. L. (1993). Dialectical tensions of speaking and silence. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 79, 1-18.