Destabilizing Race in Political Communication: Social Movements as Sites of Political Imagination

Rohan Grover, Rachel Kuo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How do social movement actors use consciousness-raising communicative practices to reconfigure political understandings of race? And how can such practices shape the analysis of political communication? We explore these questions by drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, semi-structured interviews, and archival materials to examine two case studies: an historical example of Grace Lee Boggs’ structural guidelines for creating a revolutionary study group in the Asian Political Alliance and a contemporary example of Equality Labs’ anti-caste political organizing by engaging across racial and caste social hierarchies. These cases illustrate the analytic value of engaging alternative theoretical frameworks of race and politics from critical ethnic studies, feminist of color scholarship, and social movements as rich sites of political theory through cultivating political consciousness in service of radical political imaginations. This article offers two main contributions to the field of political communication. First, by looking at the creative work of racial theorizing within social movements, we destabilize the limits of race as a demographic category. Second, we demonstrate the analytic value of studying political education and consciousness-raising as communicative practices that emphasize relational reconfigurations of race. This article recasts racial political discourse from public opinion and campaign messaging measured quantitatively to political imaginations that must be interpreted within historical and material contexts. As our cases demonstrate, centering the shifting category of race within movement building opens up the field of political communication to the communicative processes of consciousness-building and also offers dynamic understandings of race and racialization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)484-503
Number of pages20
JournalPolitical Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2023


  • Race
  • political theory
  • social movements
  • solidarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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