Research Topic

Communication, Race, and Outdoor Spaces

About this Research Topic

Frontiers in Communication: Science and Environmental Communication invites submissions to be published as part of a Frontiers Research Topic exploring communication, race, and outdoor spaces. The invitation responds to calls ...

Frontiers in Communication: Science and Environmental Communication invites submissions to be published as part of a Frontiers Research Topic exploring communication, race, and outdoor spaces. The invitation responds to calls from communication scholars to center race in communication and rhetorical analyses. As scholars of environmental communication, we are cognizant of calls warning against the "forgetting of race in the Anthropocene and environmental imperialism, which often manifest under the guise of protecting “wilderness.” We seek work from scholars of environmental communication and other areas of communication inquiry who center race in their analysis of the experiences, uses, constructions, activist movements and forms of advocacy for, and commercialization of the outdoors and outdoor spaces.

This Research Topic aims to foreground the complex ways communication about outdoor spaces and/or the Great Outdoors shapes and is shaped by race and identity, coloniality, and the movement (or immobilization) of racialized bodies and borders/bordering. Connections between race, ethnicity, and communication have featured prominently in scholarship of historical and contemporary discourses of racial segregation, civil rights, the carceral state, border politics, and coloniality and settler-coloniality, including academe’s ongoing implicature in and profit from coloniality. Environmental Communication scholars have written extensively about the environmental justice movement and have begun paying more attention to the nexus of race and place/space/the environment, but it is crucial and urgent that more work is done to understand that race and ethnicity are inextricable from understandings of ecology, outdoor experiences, and public, shared, or “protected” spaces.

Contributors are invited to address a broad array of texts, sites of inquiry, and perspectives related to the Research Topic. Topics of study may include texts, voices, media, and embodied practices that comprise the communicative landscape, such as: blogs, articles, and Twitter threads that foreground race and outdoor experiences; Instagram feeds and viral videos that circulate transcendent and traumatic images; websites and campaigns of non-profit organizations and corporations seeking to alter patterns of recreation and consumption; books and websites that chart how current practices reflect continuities with and transformations of long-standing patterns of racism; mundane and monumental public sites that encode cultural messages about race and space; and situated, embodied practices from protest and body rhetoric to practices of walking and simply being (differently) in space that reinforce, resist, or reimagine the racialization of outdoor spaces. Editors will welcome a variety of critical, humanistic, qualitative, participatory, field, and mixed-method research methods, including critical discourse and rhetorical analysis, ethnography and other forms of qualitative research, autoethnographic writing, interviews, and media and rhetorical criticism.

Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

● Intersectional analyses of race, ethnicity, and other forms of racialized identity in national parks, ecotourism, or other outdoor spaces
● Activist interventions in the construction of whiteness or other racialized identities in the “great” outdoors
● Examinations of how “the great outdoors” is itself a contested term—a site of relaxation and rejuvenation for some, but for others may also be a site of erasure of histories and bodies of color, a site of the effects of neocolonial practices and environmental imperialism, and a site of brutal trauma for others forced to work in unhealthy or inhumane conditions
● Analyses of how race, gender, ethnicity and other axes of marginalization function as technologies that discipline, domesticate, and organize the “unruly” or docile outdoors
● Body regulation or shaming and identity policing in municipal parks and fields
● Examinations of protest and uprising in, or claiming of, shared outdoor spaces in response to police brutality and other forms of racism, including links to environmental racism
● Organizational and/or corporate rhetoric in response to calls for increasing diversity in outdoor spaces, the recreation industry, and environmental advocacy organizations
● The intersection of documentation and immigration policies and practices, labor precarity, pesticide and other chemical application for Latinx and other migrant/seasonal laborers, as well as the work of BIPOC community organizations, nonprofits, farms, and gardens working to address such problems at the intersection of community-building and care
● Historical and contemporary analyses of racialized rhetorics of mobility and stoppage as related to the production and regulation of outdoor spaces
● Analyses and/or theorizations of rhetorical ecologies of racialized space(s) and/or intersectional analyses of race, material rhetoric, and the more-than-human world
● Uses of social media to publicize barriers for people of color seeking increased participation in outdoor activities and/or discrimination, intimidation, and violence in outdoor spaces
● Analyses of whiteness and racialized public and environmental decision-making processes
● Advocacy campaigns by traditional and nontraditional environmental organizations and activists attempting to increase access and diversify participation in outdoor spaces and recreation
● Analyses of alliances and collaborative advocacy work to preserve, protect, and reimagine outdoor spaces not just for leisure but for livelihoods and cultural significance as well
● The reconstruction of “nature” and “the outdoors” to include urban, domestic spaces, rural and/or working spaces, and/or previously undesignated or informal spaces
● Analyses of reactionary movements and the reassertion of white supremacy on public lands and in public spaces


We encourage multiple article types, including, but not limited to: original research, hypothesis and theory, review, perspective, opinion, conceptual analysis, community case study and policy & practice review. Article submissions should be in English. Please see the Frontiers website for more details on these article types and an explanation of the article processing charges required for open access publishing.

Extended abstracts of no more than 1,000 words will be considered on a rolling basis until April 30, 2021; we will begin accepting full manuscripts on June 15, 2021. Authors who have questions about these deadlines should contact the handling editors (see below). Authors are not required to submit abstracts before submitting full manuscripts; however, authors who submit abstracts by April 30th will receive feedback from the editorial team.

Due to the timeliness and urgency of racial justice movements, and in keeping with Frontiers’ commitment to diversity and equity, contributors who may require fee support are encouraged to contact the editorial team. For all inquiries on fees, potential submission topics or types, and the benefits of open access publishing for humanities and social science scholars, please send questions to Pete Bsumek at bsumekpk@jmu.edu or Jen Schneider at jenschneider@boisestate.edu, while cc’ing communication@frontiersin.org.

**Photo credit: Mariko Thomas. Used with permission by Franke Thomas and Tommy Cousins.


Keywords: race and ethnicity, coloniality, environmental communication, environmental racism, outdoor spaces


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

20 March 2021 Manuscript
15 July 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

20 March 2021 Manuscript
15 July 2021 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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