Research

Books
The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2015.Cover Small

Reviews: International Feminist Journal of Politics; Journal of Urban History; National Political Science Review; Advances in the History of Rhetoric (reviews forum with 3 separate reviews); US Latina & Latino Oral History Journal; Rhetoric and Public Affairs; Quarterly Journal of Speech; Sociology of Race and Ethnicity; Journal of American History; Centro Voices; La Respuesta Magazine; Gotham: A Blog for Scholars of New York City

Recognition/Awards: 2017 Book of the Year Award from the Critical/Cultural Studies Division of the National Communication Association; Official Selection of the American Association of School Librarians’ 2016 University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries guide;First Runner-Up, 2015 Inside Higher Education Readers’ Choice Award; Featured in Centro Voices’ “Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season”

Interviews: “Ep 66 – The Church Offensive w Darrel Wanzer-Serrano” hour-long podcast episode on The Magnificast at https://share.transistor.fm/s/bdd9b097; “Darrel Wanzer-Serrano: El mundo académico debe hacer de los latinos una prioridad” on ViceVersa Magazine at https://www.viceversa-mag.com/darrel-wanzer-serrano-the-young-lords/; “A Writer with Writers: Connecting the Roots of Activism from New York to Baltimore” on the Maryland Humanities Blog at https://www.mdhumanities.org/2016/10/a-writer-with-writers-connecting-the-roots-of-activism-from-new-york-to-baltimore/; “On The New York Young Lords: An Interview with Darrel Wanzer-Serrano” on the African American Intellectual History Society Blog at http://www.aaihs.org/young-lords/; “The Young Lords Of New York” hour-long radio interview on WORT 89.9FM (Madison, WI) at http://www.wortfm.org/the-young-lords-of-new-york/

The Young Lords: A Reader. New York: New York University Press, 2010.
The Young Lords: A Reader

Recent Articles & Chapters
“Rhetoric’s Rac(e/ist) Problem.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 105, no. 4 (2019): 465-76. doi:10.1080/00335630.2019.1669068.

NOTE: 5th highest downloaded/viewed QJS article ever; 3rd highest Altmetric score for an article in QJS (and the highest score amongst articles of similar age)

“Rhetoric’s “Distinguished” Pitfalls: A Plática.” Darrel Wanzer-Serrano, Stacey K. Sowards, Vincent N. Pham, Tiara R. Na’puti, and Godfried Asante. Quarterly Journal of Speech 105, no. 4 (2019): 502-7. doi:10.1080/00335630.2019.1669901.

“The Futures of Latina/o/x Communication Studies: A Platica with Senior Scholars.” Co-authored with Bernadette Marie Calafell, Karma Chávez, Fernando Delgado, Lisa Flores, Alberto Gonzalez, Michelle A. Holling, Stacey Sowards, & Angharad Valdivia. In Latina/o Communication Studies: Theories, Methods, and Practice, edited by Leandra H. Hernandez, Diana I. Bowen, Sarah Upton, and Amanda R. Martinez. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2019.

“Against Canon: Engaging the Imperative for Race in Rhetoric.” Co-authored with Sara Baugh (first author) for a special forum in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 15, no. 4 (2018): 337-42. doi:10.1080/14791420.2018.1526386

“Decolonial Rhetoric and a Future Yet-to-Become: A Loving Response.” Advances in the History of Rhetoric 21, no. 3 (2018): 326-30. doi:10.1080/15362426.2018.1526551.

“The Young Lords Organization (Chicago).” In Latina/o Midwest Reader, edited by Claire F. Fox, Omar Valerio-Jimenez, and Santiago Vaquera-Vasquez, 229-31. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2017.

Delinking Rhetoric, or Revisiting McGee’s Fragmentation Thesis Through Decoloniality.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 15, no. 4 (2012): 647-57. doi: 10.1353/rap.2012.0043.

Decolonizing Imaginaries: Rethinking ‘the People’ in the Young Lords’ Church Offensive.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 98, no. 1 (2012): 1-23. doi: 10.1080/00335630.2011.638656.

Tropicalizing East Harlem: Rhetorical Agency, Cultural Citizenship, and Nuyorican Cultural Production.” Communication Theory 21, no. 4 (2011): 344-67. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2885.2011.01390.x.

Race, Coloniality, and Geo-Body Politics: The Garden as Latin@ Vernacular Discourse.Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture 5, no. 3 (2011): 363-71, doi:10.1080/17524032.2011.593535.

Gender Politics, Democratic Demand and Anti-Essentialism in the New York Young Lords.” In Latina/o Discourse in Vernacular Spaces: Somos de Una Voz?, edited by Bernadette Marie Calafell and Michelle A Holling, 59-80. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011.

Barack Obama, the Tea Party, and the Threat of Race: On Racial Neoliberalism and Born Again Racism.Communication, Culture & Critique 4, no. 1 (2011): 23-30. doi:10.1111/j.1753-9137.2010.01090.x.

A Radical Democratic Style? Tradition, Hybridity, and Intersectionality.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 11, no. 3 (2008): 459-65. doi:10.1353/rap.0.0055.

Trashing the System: Social Movement, Intersectional Rhetoric, and Collective Agency in the Young Lords Organization’s Garbage Offensive.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 92, no. 2 (2006): 174-201. doi:10.1080/00335630600816920.

Research Perspectives/Interests
We live in an increasingly diverse state and nation, which has significant implications for all people. Although increasing, this diversity is anything but new. We have always been a heterogeneous nation even in times when that heterogeneity has been painted over by the force of homogeneity in politics, education, and the very ways in which we imagine community. My research, teaching, and service are purposefully guided by an impulse to push back against this presumed homogeneity across contexts. Through historical and contemporary research projects focused on social movement, institutional, and scholarly contexts, I explore how “culture” is crafted both in the mainstream and margins of our socio-political worlds in the U.S. In the classroom, my focus broadens to include popular culture because it is the site that directly provides our students with the “equipment for living” in their everyday lives. In my service to the profession and my campus, I labor to address structural inequalities and promote inclusive excellence. In all scholarly realms, I aim to generate audiences who are more reflexive and critical participants in their professional and social communities—audiences who are cognizant of the histories and practices of cultural production and the circulation of power in a complex and heterogeneous world.

My research addresses questions about the relationships between race, political possibilities, rhetoric, and Latinidades in the U.S. As one of the few Puerto Rican scholars in the National Communication Association (and, to my knowledge, the only one with a PhD who does work on diasporic Puerto Rican rhetoric), I am interested deeply in the ways that theories of race and problematics of difference can and do inform our conceptualizations of public culture. I have particular interests and expertise in Latina/o/x Studies, rhetorical theory, and the coloniality of knowledge/power/being—both as independent sites of scholarly inquiry and insofar as they relate to the interdisciplinarity of Latina/o/x Studies and its challenges to homogenizing and dehumanizing articulations of (Western) Man. In short, I believe in and practice scholarship that challenges structural inequality and works toward reshaping who can count as “human” in a world structured by modernity/coloniality. I recently addressed these themes through an extended project on the New York Young Lords. The Young Lords were a revolutionary nationalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist street political organization that advanced a thirteen-point program featuring support for the liberation of all Puerto Ricans (on the island and in the U.S.), the broader liberation of all “Third World people,” equality for women, U.S. demilitarization, leftist political education, socialist redistribution, community control, and other programs as they fit into their platform. I treat the Young Lords as a critical and representative example of decolonial and anti-systemic social movement struggling against modernity/coloniality. What makes the Young Lords particularly interesting are the ways in which they advanced their agenda through a political style that operated functionally at the intersections of competing socio-rhetorical traditions and through various discourses including speech, poetry, images, and embodied performance. Their critical, geographically located, and embodied politics targeted the intersectionality of oppression along gendered-raced-classed axes from the late 1960s until the mid 1970s.

In addition to journal articles on the Young Lords — the most recent of which was the lead article in the Quarterly Journal of Speech (the journal of record for my field), and another of which has been anthologized — I have sought university press outlets for books. The first, entitled The Young Lords: A Reader (New York University Press, 2010), is an anthology of archival materials from the organization that one reviewer called the “definitive sourcebook” on the organization and “a tour de force.” My second book, The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation, was published by Temple University Press (2015). It represented a substantial shift from the dissertation, incorporating significantly more archival research and an entirely new theoretical and critical apparatus. Half of the chapters were entirely new and the remaining were substantially changed. It has been reviewed more than a dozen times (across a half dozen fields, all reviews positive); it has received numerous accolades including “Book of the Year” honors from the Critical and Cultural Studies Division of the National Communication Association (one of the largest and most competitive divisions in the 7,000-member organization); and it has been the subject of five interviews across different media (radio, blogs, magazine, and podcast). One of the last reviews of the book, by noted communication scholar Kent Ono (part of a three-review forum on the book in Advances in the History of Rhetoric 21:3 [2018]), concludes, “Professor Wanzer-Serrano has made a significant contribution to scholarship through his book. His sophisticated discussions of theory and praxis, his bold move to challenge contemporary conceptions of coloniality, and his detailed case study … render this not only a book worth reading, but also one that becomes part of the canon of rhetorical studies, a hallmark of the best work rhetoric has to offer…. In short, I would say that it is now not possible to talk about race, otherness, marginality, or power seriously in rhetorical studies without having to confront Wanzer-Serrano’s suggested optic of decoloniality” (317, emphasis added).

My research also extends beyond attention to the Young Lords, engaging questions of race and politics, rhetorical agency, rhetorical theory, and Latina/o/x Studies more broadly. For example, I was among the first in communication studies to publish on the Obama-era Tea Party movement (an essay that has been cited 139 times, according to Google Scholar). My most recent work includes (1) a co-authored (with a graduate student) essay titled “Against Canon: Engaging the Imperative of Race in Rhetoric,” which examines (from a decolonial perspective) the dangers of minoritized scholars supporting “canon” while making cases for equity within the discipline, and (2) an edited forum in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, for which I penned the introduction that argues rhetorical studies is fundamentally racist and needs some substantive antiracist attention. After little more than a year in circulation, “Rhetoric’s Rac(e/ist) Problems” has been downloaded over 6,400 times, is among the top 3 most shared QJS essays of all time (according to Altmetric data), and is one of the top 5 most viewed articles in entire corpus of the journal. I was also creator, co-host, editor, and producer of a biweekly podcast called Imagining Latinidades, which engages in conversations, interviews, and translations about Latina/o Studies research and current scholarly topics.

Currently, I am working on three larger projects. The first, tentatively titled Possession: Crafting Americanity in Congressional Debates over Puerto Rico’s Status, will be a book monograph that examines the rhetoric of “Americanity” that emerges in public and congressional debates over the Treaty of Paris (1898), the Foraker Act (1900), the Olmsted Amendment to Foraker (1909), and the Jones Act (1917). In my Young Lords project, I was interested in the ways in which people challenge coloniality; but in this new project, I am concerned with the ways in which coloniality manifests itself in political discourse about Puerto Rico and is in some ways central to the U.S. American national imaginary. While other scholars have done exemplary work examining the implications of key pieces of Congressional legislation, Supreme Court decisions, and Executive branch decision- making for the island of Puerto Rico, little work has flipped the lens around to engage in detailed analysis of the legislative (rhetorical) history that undergirds one of the few remaining direct colonial relationships in our contemporary world. Instead of asking (as many existing studies do), What does this legislation mean for Puerto Rico? I ask, What do the debates over this legislation mean for the United States? Drawing connections between the logics of possession, master morality, and the rhetoric of modernity, my aim is to build upon Aníbal Quijano and Emmanuel Wallerstein’s “Concept of Americanity” and elucidate the evolving contours of the rhetoric of Americanity—an ideology built on the articulations of racism, capitalism, coloniality, and constitutionalism—in the United States, post-1898. This is a longer-term project that I intend to complete once a full professor because the scope requires a great deal of time and attention to the thousands of pages of US Congress debates and hearings. Archival research (conducted at several sites across three states and the Washington, D.C.) is nearly complete.

In the shorter term, I am working on two projects that I intend to complete within the next two-to-three years. Initially, “Imagining Latinidades: Articulations of National Belonging” is a Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures funded by a $225,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. From 2019-2020, the award supported a series of events—including over 20 lectures by renowned visiting scholars and artists, a film series, and public art performances that engage with questions of national identity, national belonging, intersectional identities (related to race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, etc.), and Latina/o/x peoples. “Imagining Latinidades” draws from critical approaches in the humanities and social sciences to address how peoples of Latin American and Caribbean descent see themselves and are seen by others in the United States. “Latinidades” is a panethnic label meant to get at the heterogeneous ways in which Latino-ness/Latina-ness/Latinx-ness is crafted both from within Latina/o/x communities and from without. As such, the Seminar moved across different geographies and histories to explore how Latina/o/x communities consistently and continuously disrupt and are disrupted by dominant and dominating articulations of nation, nationhood, and belonging. The Seminar also proceeded through a set of questions related to civic and social identities, migration, representation, and constructions of U.S. Latinidades, while still remaining cognizant of ever-shifting hemispheric ties across the Americas. Given the recent jolting shifts in discourse, public policy, and persistent everyday lived effects of coloniality, the place of Latina/o/x peoples in the United States has never been more uncertain. Thus, the Seminar’s interest in how articulations of national belonging (particularly those that exclude Latina/o/x folks) puncture the social fabric of the United States, underscores a productive tension that resists historical amnesia while imagining and creating alternative practices of identification. For this project, I serve as PI and Co-Director. Currently, my Co-Directors and I are planning an edited volume of a selection of the lectures.

Additionally, I am working on a book monograph about Puerto Rican assertions of life within contexts marked by social death. Tentatively titled Struggling to Live Amidst Social Death: Disrupting the Zone of Nonbeing, this project examines key moments of struggle through which Puerto Ricans enact fugitive, ephemeral moments of life against all odds. Bookended by a theoretically nuanced introduction and a speculative conclusion, the body chapters examine three key moments on the island and in the mainland. Chapter one, “Crying Desperation: El Grito de Lares and the Pre-Rhetoric of the Cry/Grito,” engages the 1868 revolt against Spain in Lares, Puerto Rico, in order to theorize the discursive functionality of the cry/grito as a means of disrupting what Franz Fanon calls the “zone of nonbeing.” Chapter two, “Delinking Citizenship: The Puerto Rican House of Delegates’ 1914 Letter to Congress,” examines the form and content of the House of Delegates’ letter rejecting US citizenship in order to discern the ways in which a subjugated people might engage questions of “citizenship” in a manner delinked from modernity/coloniality. Chapter three, “Playing to Live: Music, Theater, and Poetry in the New York Young Lords’ Church Offensive,” interrogates the performative dimensions of playful struggle that sustain the Young Lords and their followers during their occupation of an East Harlem church in 1969. This is a project that has existed in fragmented form until recently, and I intend to finish it over the next couple of years.

In all, my diverse and ongoing research program—consistently focused on the intersections between communication, race/ethnicity, politics, and Latinidades—has earned me a solid national reputation and an emerging international one that I plan to continue building.

In Progress
Imagining Latinidades: Articulations of National Belonging. Anticipated edited collection based on upcoming 2019-2020 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures. Co-edited with Ariana Ruiz and Rene Rocha.

Struggling to Live Amidst Social Death: Puerto Ricans Disrupting the Zone of Nonbeing. Book manuscript in the research and drafting stages.

Possession: Congressional Debates over Puerto Rico’s Status, 1898-1917. Book manuscript in the research and drafting stages.

“The Foraker Act, Albert Beveridge, and the Rhetoric of Americanity.” Article manuscript under revision for resubmission.

“#BlackLivesMatter is Not a ‘Social Movement.’” Co-authored with Matthew Houdek. Article manuscript under preparation.

(updated 6/2021)