About Melissa Aronczyk…

Photo: Blaga Ditrow

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. My op-ed in the Washington Post talks about the problem with sustainability. Media coverage of ideas in the book are in The Nation, the Financial Times, Rolling Stone, CNBC, Grist, and Yes Magazine. To hear my interview about ideas in the book, check out the New Books Network.

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. With Jeff Lane, I co-host the Digital Ethnography Working Group at Rutgers. 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.

I’m also an editorial board member for the International Journal of Cultural Studies; the International Journal of Communication; and Advertising & Society Quarterly.

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.

Contact Information

Melissa Aronczyk, PhD
Associate Professor, School of Communication and Information
Rutgers University, USA

Recent & Upcoming Events

31 May 2022 @ 18.30 CEST: I will present A Strategic Nature in Paris, France. Join us at the Paris Institute of the University of London (in partnership with the Association Française de Sociologie). Register here.

Attending this year’s ICA conference in Paris? Jeff Lane and I will host a Digital Ethnography workshop on Sunday 29 May @ 9:30 CEST. Contact us for details.

New book is out! 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.

Hear my interview with Morteza Hajizadeh for the New Books Network about A Strategic Nature. Recorded in February 2022.

On Friday 11 March 2022, Maria I. Espinoza and I discussed the ideas in our book, A Strategic Nature, at a virtual event sponsored by Rutgers University. Watch here.

I wrote an article for Foreign Policy that distills some of the ideas in the book, about how PR firms affect environmental thinking.

My op-ed about PR, sustainability, and environmental crises is in the Washington Post.

Listen to my interview with journalist Amy Westervelt for the podcast DRILLED. It’s a “true crime” podcast about the crime of the century: climate change.
Apple Podcasts

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 ICA 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.