About Melissa Aronczyk…
I am an Associate Professor of Media Studies in the School of Communication & Information at Rutgers University. I’m interested in how ideas, things and practices become valuable; and the technologies of legitimacy that render them that way. My current research focuses on the intersection of publicity with environmental problems: How do various forms of publicity, such as public interest advocacy or promotional campaigns, influence our ability to value climate futures?
Maria I. Espinoza and I write about this in our new book, A Strategic Nature: Public Relations and the Politics of Environmentalism, for Oxford University Press. It’s a critical look at the intertwined history of environmental (in)action in the United States and the rise of the PR industry in the twentieth century. You can read the book’s introduction here.
I have two other books out: Branding the Nation: The Global Business of National Identity, available from Amazon or via Oxford University Press; and Blowing Up the Brand: Critical Perspectives on Promotional Culture, an edited book with Devon Powers, available from Amazon. You can hear me talk about the ideas in my book, Branding the Nation, on the New Books Network podcast or on the National Public Radio show Marketplace.
Here at Rutgers I’m a Faculty Associate with the Eagleton Institute of Politics and Affiliated Graduate Faculty with the Department of Sociology. I’m also a Faculty Fellow with the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University and a Research Affiliate with the Center on Digital Culture & Society at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
I’m currently an Associate Editor of the Canadian Journal of Communication, an independently published, top-quality peer-reviewed media and communications journal. We’ve been trafficking in ideas and commentary about Canada and the world since 1974. See our excellent archival collection and find us on Twitter @canjcomm.
From 2020 through 2022 I am serving as the Chair of the Popular Media & Culture Division (formerly PopComm) for the International Communication Association. Check out our division’s new website and Twitter handle!
I hold a Ph.D. from the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University.
Recent & Upcoming Events
Book is out December 2021! A Strategic Nature: Public Relations and the Politics of American Environmentalism, examines how publicity has shaped our environmental concerns throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century. Available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever Oxford UP books are sold. You can read the book’s introduction here.
In Fall 2021 I received a two-year grant from the Climate Social Science Network to study the extensive role played by public relations and their promotional (advocacy, branding, advertising) campaigns to manage their clients’ responses to the climate crisis. PR firms often create the rule book by which corporate and political actors coordinate and pursue their objectives. The project will track key actors and organizations and how they develop strategies to reshape environmental problems, with lasting effects on our ability to take action on global warming in political and public spheres.
The International Communication Association conference is in Paris in 2022. The division I chair, Popular Media & Culture, is currently soliciting special issue proposals for our affiliated journal, Communication & the Public. Check out our new website and our Twitter feed for announcements.
In Spring 2022 I’m teaching a course I designed called Media & Publicity: What is a public; and how is it produced, mediated and circulated in modern society? This course examines historical and contemporary understandings of publicity in its various mediated forms. We will consider evolving concepts of publics and public opinion; tensions between ideals of public and private and the social conditions in which they are realized; and the formation of mass public subjects in politics, consumer culture, and civic life. A major focus of the course will be on the public culture around climate change, one of the greatest social, political and economic problems of our time. We will consider the ambiguities and contradictions shaping the idea of the public in the context of existential threats.
In Spring 2021 (and again in 2023) I teach Writing as Craft and as Profession. I designed this workshop-style course for graduate students to develop essential skills of academic writing and academic socialization. It addresses a wide range of writing-related issues, including style and voice, writing discipline, drafting, preparing for deadlines, writing literature reviews, narrative development and organization, models of accountability, taming the “internal editor,” writing up empirical research, profile- and network-building, and peer review.
In Fall 2020 I was Visiting Senior Fellow in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics.