mdawkins's blog

Have a Little Faith: Religious Visions in Prison Break

In this chapter I use Fantasy Theme Criticism to look at Prison Break in order to uncover the ways in which its mantra, “have a little faith,” is both encoded and translated into Christian spiritual and religious visions for the characters’ lives.

A Rhetorical Response to Hurricane Katrina

In this piece I look at Hurricane Katrina through the lens of rhetoric. I explore how, in press coverage, interviews and resident testimonials, symbols can be used to state and to counter-state, to create suspense and surprise, to reveal more than one or even two sides to any story. Key questions asked include: How do catastrophic and ineffable events, whether considered acts of God or acts of man, become controversies contested on the symbolic level? How can rhetoric be mobilized to persuade disparate communities/audiences to act according to a shared vision of the common good? And, how is humanity argued for in a contentious climate? I argue that rhetorical theory allows us to go about an exploration of the dialectical tensions that arise among conflicting communities as they argue from their own linguistic and symbolic systems. It can reveal the very real costs of resisting or identifying with competing notions of universality and community as they are used to argue for humanity. I share my hope that we can learn to reconsider the effects of submerged particularities within unifying terms which have been historically deployed in national and international rhetorics of reconstruction.

In Search of a "Singular I:" A Structurational Analysis of Passing

This article explores the cultural, social, and communicative challenges inherent in the phenomenon of black-to-white racial passing in the United States among upwardly mobile, heterosexual, bi-racial men in the early twentieth century. Specifically, it applies Giddens’s Theory of Structuration to legal precedent and literature in order to describe why and explain how passers severed social relations with black American communities in general and, in many instances, with their black families in particular. This analysis of passing on macro, meso, and micro levels ultimately calls the ideological and epistemological foundations of race itself into question.

Voices Underground: Hip Hop as Black Rhetoric

...presented at USC's Norman Lear Center's Popular Music Project

In this article I use metaphoric criticism as a framework for a content analysis of underground hip hop lyrics. Findings suggest that form equals argument: that meaning and identity reside in no one place, but reappear often on the surface of quotidian experience.

The Language of Hip Hop

The Language of Hip Hop
written for “The Tub” Magazine ~ Nov. 2007 Issue

As a child I never imagined that the scenes I saw growing up in Queens, New York, of block parties and ciphers in the parks, would redefine the world. Yet that’s exactly what’s happened. Hip hop has become a powerful part of today’s global entertainment culture, the part that introduced today’s USA to the world. Hip hop is so powerful, in fact, that it does everything from making social commentary to dishing insults, from creating new words to selling cell phones, beer, and burgers. It tells us what’s cool and at the same time, what’s hot.

My Teaching Philosophy

Philosophy of Teaching

Teaching is an adventure steeped with prospects for personal and professional development. My experiences have ranged all the way from sharing basic financial concepts with clients of a Fortune 500 firm, to ESL and literacy training for inner city adults, to tutoring junior high school students in after school programs, to instructing community college classes in educational success strategies and, most recently, to developing, marketing and teaching innovative undergraduate courses.

Communication Theory

The primary objective of this course is to offer an alternative focus on the most important theories of communication in today’s globalized and mediated society. Communication Theory presents an historic range of communication theories, including interpretive, (new) media, critical, rhetorical, cultural, and scientific.

Racial Rhetoric & Representations

The primary objective of this course is to explore the ways that race is constructed in U.S. media and political rhetoric. Students will gain a fuller understanding of the ways race is constructed, projected and reified through media. We interrogate how racial stereotypes and hierarchies are maintained and challenged rhteorically in various media texts.

Introduction to Human Communication

The primary objective of this course is to introduce students to the field of human communication as an area of study and skill development. The course is a “hybrid” of instruction in both interpersonal and public communication.

Communication Skills for Career Development

This course is designed to provide students with a practical application of the contemporary communication skills necessary for career development and career success. Topics include investigation of career fields and the communication and technology skills that are essential to those careers.