Communication scholar-activism: conceptualizing key dimensions and practices based on interviews with scholar-activists Academic Article uri icon


  • Communication lies at the center of scholar-activism, community initiatives, and social movements. With the re-emergence of authoritarianism, threats to academic freedom, and widening socio-economic inequalities in a global pandemic, balancing the tensions between activism and scholarship is becoming increasingly challenging for communication scholar-activists. This paper centers the voices of 15 prominent communication scholar-activists to present an empirically-grounded conceptual framework to theorize about communication scholar-activism. We examine the meanings, practices, challenges, and opportunities encompassed by this type of scholarship through in-depth interviews. Our participants see scholar-activism as a fluid concept that comprises a range of goals, methods, and activities. They view scholar-activism as distinct from overlapping terms such as engaged scholarship, public scholarship, critical communication, participatory action research, and organizing. Despite differences in labels, there is a relatively unified sense of the practices, challenges, and opportunities related to scholar-activism. The main dimensions of communication scholar-activism that emerge from the data are that it is: community-driven, social justice-oriented, action-oriented, grounded in co-creation of knowledge, interdisciplinary, long-term in nature, challenges the status quo, driven by intrinsic motivators, and blurs the boundaries of scholarship. Implications for better ways of theorizing about and supporting scholar-activism are discussed.

author list (cited authors)

  • Ramasubramanian, S., & Sousa, A. N.

publication date

  • January 1, 2021 11:11 AM