Februrary 2022 Newsletter | www.orwac.org
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Ask the Oracle

Megan Cullinan interviews Dr. Julia Moore

Dr. Julia Moore answers questions from Megan Cullinan, a Graduate Student Representative for ORWAC. Dr. Moore is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Utah.  

Megan Cullinan:

Your work is taking somewhat of a new approach by integrating critical theory into Family Communication research. I loved reading your article in WSIC, and I want to ask what lead you to choose to take a critical perspective in a field that is predominantly post positivist?

Dr. Julia Moore

Dr. Moore: My education provided me with an amalgamation of perspectives. Before honing in on interpersonal and family communication, I was exposed to gender, organizational, media, and rhetorical studies. Critical research, focused on politics and power, is integral to each of these areas, and like many others, critical theories and methods simply spoke to me and made sense to me in a way that many other perspectives did not. Where other critical scholars are driven by social justice and intersectional identity politics, I am also moved by equality for non-traditional family formations that struggle for legitimacy (like childfree individuals and couples, polyamorous couples, voluntary kin, or gay and lesbian parents). 

As a graduate student, I thought a lot about how I wanted to frame my work and how I would specialize within our vast field. Ultimately, I settled on interpersonal and family communication as my home because I thought that there was the most room for me to build a critical (and qualitative) research agenda that both spoke to and added something new to existing conversations. Although family communication is relatively new sub-field and primarily post-positivist, it does have a history of accepting of interpretive and critical research. Trailblazers like Julia Wood and Carolyn Ellis, just to name two, have been doing feminist and autoethnographic relationships research for decades, and forged a path for scholars like myself to experiment with utilizing critical theories to interrogate communication within and about families.

MC: What do you see as some future pathways for Family Comm?

Dr. Moore: I think that the future of family communication is bright. More scholars than ever are studying non-nuclear family formations and/or challenging who counts as “family.” Who (doesn’t) count as a family has far-reaching economic, social, and political consequences, from who can be added to whose health insurance, to who can adopt children, to who is a scapegoat for society’s issues. I believe that non-normative families can, and should, be studied from a variety of perspectives using multiple methodologies—quantitative, qualitative, rhetorical, and critical research can all lend important insights into different and evolving family formations. Each can each play a role in legitimating non-nuclear types.

In terms of critical family communication, I think that the body of critical theories drawn upon to study family communication will continue to diversify.More specifically, I view the posthumanism turn that we’re witnessing in other communication sub-fields and the humanities more broadly as essential to the future. There is so much more to families than cognition and discourse; affect and materiality will help us rethink politics and power going forward. Interpersonal and family communication research actually has a history of this already with studies of emotions and non-verbals, but I am very interested to see how these histories will be merged with, and problematized by, posthuman critical insights

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