Re-imagining Introductions and Roadmaps: Making Arguments Legible and Accessible

PDF of Slides

[Slide 1] Hello, and thank you all for being here today. My presentation is titled “Re-imagining Introductions and Roadmaps: Making Arguments Legible and Accessible.” In my presentation, I want to talk about introductions as perhaps the most important aspect of an essay when submitting your writing for publication. While there may be an opportunity to revise and resubmit or to make edits to your work, the introduction is what allows an editor and your reviewers to grasp what intervention your work attempts to make. Therefore, the clearer your argument and your contributions to your field are set out, the more generous these readers are likely to be. Even if the answer turns out to be a “no,” knowing your plan and your contribution may help your readers recommend a different venue.

[Slide 2] A strong introduction aids in persuasion of your early readers and your actual readers later on as well. By letting your audiences in on your plan for your essay in a clear and concise manner, you invite them to assist in encouraging themselves to keep reading. This is because clear and direct signals create and/or bolster cognitive accessibility. Cognitive accessibility has to do with how we make information easier to process by people with cognitive disabilities such as ADHD, Autism, and Dyslexia. However, these practices also make information easier to process by ablebodied and ableminded people. In “Cognitively Accessible Language (Why We Should Care),” available at the URL below.

Elizabeth Ibby Grace states, “If you use plain language to describe and discuss even complex theories, more people will be able to read your writing,” adding, “Not everyone will believe this is a good thing.” Grace goes on to explain how academia tends to be enamored of complicated terminology and theories that can be exclusive. As a rhetorician, I understand that this is deliberately so, serving to regulate the boundaries of discourse communities and determine belonging, and often, assign merit. Grace explains that the use of complicated language proves a manifestation of ableism, excluding those of us with cognitive disabilities, but it also proves to enable classism and racism.

Ableist, classist, sexist and racist norms disguised as meritocracy leave so many of us out, suggesting that the playing field is level, that if we worth our salt we would know these terms and theories or theorists even if we are new students or our expertise lies elsewhere. But, as my own mentor, a well-known feminist rhetorician often reminded me, if we want to be read and not play conceited games of exclusion, we should write to be read, especially by those we write about because we owe them the right to respond. Plus, even when we must present a complicated term, we can always demystify or clarify to be reader-friendly. Any good idea should be written about simply to let that idea show so people can agree or not; obfuscation, or deliberately sounding complicated, is not just ableist and racist but can be read as a marker of insecurity demanding the denigration of others. Rhetors as far back as Cicero and Augustine told us that.

So with this in mind, lets think about how to make your introduction cognitively accessible to as many readers as possible. While there is no magic checklist, here are some things to consider. The first thing is to establish a focus on context and exigence. This means linking even historical or esoteric research to current goings-on since ultimately, there’s a reason why we wish to know. Most research doesn’t get published simply because we self-indulgently think something is interesting but because it has actual impact on people’s realities, their ways of thinking, the world we live in. Therefore, you should strive to make clear any connections between your topic and people’s everyday lives, contextualizing who this matters to and why, and establishing exigence, or showing why it matters in the moment (what we call kairos) and in terms of history (what we can call chronos). However, we still need to realize that long setups can lose readers, especially those with cognitive disabilities like ADHD or those unfamiliar with the topic. So if you find that you’re starting your essay with too much background information, try moving it to your literature review or a historical section in your argument. You want to get to the breakdown of your argument quickly.

[Slide 3] Now we all remember the old advice about starting with statistics or quotes, which can still work for more experienced writers. The important thing is to avoid clichés by remembering to follow an “inverted triangle” structure. This visual model may help those needing a bit more cognitive accessibility. Just think of it this way. All of what people have said about this topic converges in this pinpoint in time and space that is your essay which will in turn lead out to make more room for what more people will ever say about it after. So you can think of it this way, in creating this point of convergence, you’re casting a wide net around others’ words, works, and views, and saying they all lead to your particular take on the subject.

[Slide 4] So now you must state your argument via your thesis, which is usually a major claim boosted by several minor claims. To properly lay out your argument, you must take your time and may even need to break it down into various sentences. Be systematic even if it feels odd to ensure that your audiences follow the various premises of the syllogism that makes up the argument: A, B, C, and so on. Depending on your field, you might notice that while laying out your argument, you might provide the context of an issue, state the problem, and then state what your findings/solution are (common in the humanities) whereas sometimes you only provide context and state the problem, requiring the audience to read the essay to learn the findings/solution (more common in social sciences IMRAD papers). Ultimately, you want to let your audiences know you are making claims, give reasons why, provide evidence, acknowledge limits, and reveal warrants (or those things that are assumed but not always known).

[Slide 5] And finally, the most crucial aspect of the introduction for helping with cognitive accessibility is the roadmap. Student writers often mistake this for the “three reasons why” but instead this tells readers where they are going, describing the sections of an essay, usually the literature review, methods, argument, and discussion/conclusion. Like an actual map, the roadmap prevents readers from getting lost, helping readers assist in their own persuasion since they do not have to make much of an effort trying to determine what comes next. The literature review establishes the history you wish to set, both academically as well as topically, so I will say this is also where part of access is also figuring out who you wish to cite. Some editors may press you to cite certain critics because they’re well known or because that’s who they’re familiar with, but if they’re not influencing your work or bear no relevance—for example, in my case, if you’re being forced to cite people whose work in embodied rhetoric focuses on a generic, theoretical embodiment rather than a material, lived embodiment whose experiences are shaped by race, gender, disability, and sexuality—then you should be able to press back so that the story being told reflects your own cognitive experience lest you force yourself out of your own research. Something to think about as you decide what venues to strive for. If you’re drawing attention to a new timeline, state that in your roadmap. In your roadmap, you also want to explain briefly in accessible terms any terms, theories, and methodologies you use, with the understanding that you will be discussing them more fully in the actual section. By foreshadowing them in this way, you are using the rhetorical technique of repetition to not only reminding your newbie and disabled audiences without seeming condescending but you create layers of meaning that make it more likely that they grasp more of the useful nuances of the terms and theories you’re using, and in relation to the conclusions you’ve drawn. This polyvalent exposure can open up your work to interdisciplinary audiences as well. Thank you!



Digital storytelling as a means for maintaining and amplifying community

Hello, I want to thank everyone who is with us today. Thank you for taking time to share space with us here. I also want to thank my colleagues Jo, Ada, and Remi, and Merin for facilitating.

I come to storytelling from a very specific intersection, thinking about storytelling as a means of re-presentation in the face of deliberate erasure. I’m someone who is Latinx but also from an Indigenous background, a disabled genderqueer person, an academic and a maybe-not-so-former punk. All of these identities inform how I think about story and storying as theory, method, methodology, and praxis.

First, there's how Latinx communities use plática (or conversation) in very specific ways, being a highly rhetorical mode of communication. As Francisco and Miguel Guajardo (2013) explain, “plática requires a level of relationship building,” of making community with the people you’re speaking to, and through making community, you’re bound to hear stories about ancestors and important events as noted by the community rather than by capital-H history. You're going to learn dichos (or sayings) and cuentos, stories that are meant to teach lessons. Oftentimes, these stories and sayings transmit knowledges intended to further our survival within harmful systems.

Then, understanding the importance of stories to Indigenous communities, I know stories as a means of cultural preservation and transmission, the way to remember who we are despite colonial histories that tell us who we should be. Malea Powell (2012) notes that stories help us to make spaces where the past and the future are linked through us today. For me, this is crucial, because Indigenous histories tell us that while we have had many different names depending on the culture, trans, nonbinary, and genderqueer Two-Spirit people have always existed and been loved. These stories tell us that we deserve no less today.

As a disabled genderqueer person, I think also about how, as scholars like Margaret Price (2009) and Nirmala Erevelles (2011) explain, “coming out crip” stories that center disability using autobiography and memoir present counter-diagnoses to stories that minimize our experiences. We are on the receiving end of so many dehumanizing narratives about disability designed to bolster narratives of domination--from stories based around the supercrip composed to justify ableism, to those of the tragic figure who exists only to make the abledbodied and ableminded feel better about themselves, to the scapegoat to blame for America's fixation with mass violence, to the mixed up victim who does not even know their own gender. Well, as a crip, as a person who loves us, who refuses to apologize for being disabled and will take up all the space for me and us, and dare make more room for more of us and remake time and space in our images, I want us to overwhelm their crappy stories with our counterstories. Sometimes those counterstories might take the shape of words; maybe a story looks like a person just being present--here I am. As a not-so-former punk, music reminds us that stories don’t have to be only verbal and can take on many forms. Fuck ablecentricity.

Taken all together, stories from the margins can foment new kinds of undercommons communities that say something must change because what we have going is not enough and I refuse to believe that there's not more of us left out. As Jack Halberstam (2013) states in the intro to Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s book on the undercommons, “we refuse to ask for recognition and instead we want to take apart, dismantle, tear down the structure that, right now, limits our ability to find each other, to see beyond it and to access the places that we know lie outside its walls” (6). I want to stress that dismantling oppressive systems and ideas is not a negative act but a constructive one, never just destruction for its own sake as some people often think punk advocates for, but always about making room for the new where people decide what works for them rather than imposing plans on others. As an academic, this is the view of story that I aim to bring to my work as a researcher and especially as a teacher—making, maintaining, and amplifying community by speaking to one another and saying “This is my story.” Making and holding space for Othered people where storytellers get a seat at the table and dreams—those stories based in futurity—can be brought into being.

Digital storytelling is especially powerful for this aim because like a DIY record, it doesn’t take much to make that space. We can see how social media influences change in relation to popular views of gender, disability, race/racism, and systems of oppression, despite the efforts of trolls to silence those dreams. Blogs and memes, which some would say are insignificant forms of communication, can affect readers and their desires for knowledge. Archives no longer have to be under the domain of institutions but can be made by and for communities. Activists create and foster online communities based in solidarity, subverting the notion of “slacktivism” and holding space for community members no matter where they find themselves and building asynchronous engagement and other forms of accommodation into the structure. By remixing digital tools, we are able to educate, find friends and co-conspirators, and mobilize for change by sharing stories based in hope and the assertion of our dignity and humanity.


Works Cited

Erevelles, Nirmala. “‘Coming Out Crip’ in Inclusive Education.” Teachers College Record, vol. 113, no. 10, 2011, pp. 2155-2185.

Guajardo, Francisco, and Miguel Guajardo. “The Power of Plática.” Reflections: A Journal of Public Rhetoric, Civic Writing, and Service Learning, vol. 13, no. 1, 2013, pp. 159-164.

Halberstam, Jack. “The Wild Beyond: With and for the Undercommons.” The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study, by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, Minor Compositions, 2013, pp. 2-12.

Powell, Malea. “2012 CCCC Chair's Address: Stories Take Place: A Performance in One Act.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 64, no. 2, 2012, pp. 383-406.

Price, Margaret. “‘Her Pronouns Wax and Wane’: Psychosocial Disability, Autobiography, and Counter-Diagnosis.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 2009, pp. 11-33.


When Restoration, Healing, and Harm Overlap—and When They Don’t: Stories from Scholars/Activists in Disability, Indigenous, Feminist of Color, and Trans Rhetorics (Roundtable)

Before beginning, I would like to thank the Spelman College community for generously hosting this conference and the FemRhet organizers for all their hard work in bringing us together.

Also, before proceeding, I want to provide a content warning.

Now, I would like for us to acknowledge the many Black and Indigenous ancestors whose experiences call to us still from this colonized territory, whose lives were circumscribed by scientific discourses that still claim to our ways of thinking, feeling, and knowing—our humanity.

It is also fitting that I acknowledge here my own ancestors whose journeys converge in this body I call home, including the Purépecha and Guachichil of what is now called Mexico, the African ancestors whose original homelands still remain unknown to me, and the Jewish ancestors who themselves engaged in settler colonialism while seeking escape from their own oppression. Though quite typical for Mexico, this is a complicated genealogy and sociopolitical history, which some would reduce to “mere genetics.” I deem it fitting to share it here as I continue a discussion some of us began at the last 4Cs and join it with some of my prior research. In our 4Cs conversation, we were focused on “Rhetorics of Pain,” and in that presentation, I spoke about how ongoing processes of colonization function within families to exacerbate the effects of illness and disabling conditions. For example, I explained how growing up as someone whose family practiced traditional Indigenous healing but whose parent was very religious and therefore often viewed those same ways as “pagan” and even “superstitious demonism,” this imposed crisis of identity led to increased anxiety and parental disconnect.

… We tend to think of rhetorical situations as through the lens of kairos, or the appropriate moment, but for colonized and marginalized peoples whose struggle in ongoing, chronos as the flow of time may be the more apt concept for conceptualizing rhetorical action. For rhetorical situations don’t simply dissipate or transform, but operate through accretion to serve as the phenomenological threshold that funnels our attention towards particular modes of action and not others. That said, I promise that I will eventually bring it back to the matter at hand.

As I have come to reflect on these experiences and understand them as based in racism and generational and epistemological violence, I now encapsulate them in the term “intimate colonial trauma.” I define intimate colonial trauma as trauma that is imposed on people of color by those closest to the person affected, those with whom one shares intimate relationships intended to nurture and protect but that have been reinscribed by coloniality to instead transmit its norms and further its objectives. The ultimate goals of coloniality are to maintain and naturalize white supremacist order and its claims to zero-point epistemology. Santiago Castro-G mez (2021) explains this zero-point perspective, which he deems hubris, as that “neutral” and “objective” claim to observational truth that originates during the Eurowestern Enlightenment only in relation and in contrast to colonized populations. I suggest that is the same “detached” perspective that science under the rubric of scientia, or knowledge writ broadly, has asked us to assert as researchers and writers, for which reason as a cultural rhetorician I always so desperately argue for stories and more stories. And, certainly it is through this perspective that science once proclaimed itself above all life, and why it now seeks to obscure that claim under philosophies that “return” humanity to the level of objects or once more place us in relation to the so-called natural world—a slap in the face to those cultures that always asserted that we always existed in relation to all our relations pr those of us who were always regarded as objects in this scheme. …

At the same time, I want to stress that the “whiteness” in white supremacist order is what Jay Dolmage has described as unmarked corporeality which excludes all those who exist in bodies that are racialized, gendered, colonized, queered, and I would even say impoverished, ethnicized, and geographized as Other—since these are the mechanisms that ensure a person fits faulty scientific data regarding genetic deficiency. …

The dangers of whiteness as unmarkedness and of the zero-point perspective are always with us. They are standard elements of our visits to doctors and specialists when we seek treatment when you are disabled, when you are a person of color, when you are a member of a colonized population, a trans person, a queer person, or anyone whose perspective is understood as less than authoritative. When you are someone whose genealogy is complicated by rhetorical histories of physical impairment imposed upon you, your ability to access medical support is necessarily affected. These supposed ghosts of history are always present, but they are not ghosts; they are active participants in medical contents.

 I provided you with my own complex lineage for a reason. Because we know how science has stolen Black and Indigenous people’s DNA, infected communities with disease, and allows people from these communities to die at disproportionate rates from “genetic” conditions caused by social inequity. We know how centuries of European blood libel ascribed Jewish people with all manner of physical deficiency only to see that history erased under the guise of neutral language when, as Steven Katz shows, they were simply described as “cargo” by Nazi memos. I want to stress that these discursive norms originate in the same scientia. And as I currently research how my own community, the Purépecha, were blanket diagnosed with neurodivergence, I am doubly enraged but I also want to laugh bitterly in Jose Gomez Robleda’s face. This diagnosis enabled the Mexican government to remove children from their families to ensure they grew up to reach their full entelechy as human beings, but some of us are Indigenous and neurodivergent and are still here and we will not let anyone forget what he did.

These are the networked experiences that modern medicine bases its diagnoses on, the very real human beings that it seeks to erase but upon whose bodies its scientific evolution is predicated. They culminate in the assumption that once someone steps through the office door, the doctor is the ultimate authority and the patient’s body is no longer their own. How can it be when they are deficient and unable to advocate for themselves? We should know they are or else they would not have sought treatment to begin with. This culminates in medical interactions where patients report feeling belittled, mistreated, and even assaulted under the guise of treatment. … This, too, is part of intimate colonial trauma, the pressure to reject our own knowledge of and in our bodies in service to the neutrality of an abusive mechanism. When we are told by those closest to us that we need to leave our supposedly regressive ways behind in favor of white supremacist, zero-point informed notions of care, what we need to know is that we are being told is that we need to expose ourselves to treatments that refuse to see us as fully human. We are literally being advised to surrender to the same scientific systems that would see us not exist at all. 


Colonial Trauma and Spiritual Pain 

Presented at CCCC in Chicago, IL, February 16th, 2023

I’m 10 years old and my mother and I are involved in a traffic accident. Both of our heads hit the windshield and crack the glass. Subsequent scans say I’m fine, but I start losing sleep, become extra irritable, and I cry for everything. My mother thinks I need a psychiatrist but first she has to ask the elders of her church if that’s okay. Meanwhile, Welita asks her if she even bothered to curar me de susto (cure me of “fright”) caused by the accident. Because I don’t know that that means, I tell my mom I’d rather see a doctor, which is a big deal since I hate them, but I beg her not to speak to the people in her church. I’m sure even at that age that they’ll nix the idea because for them everything is wrong. So off to grandmother’s house we go, probably so my mother doesn’t have to ask.

She’s reluctant to have my grandmother perform the healing; even though she doesn’t ever consistently attend her millennialist apocalyptic church, she brings their teachings into every aspect of our lives. At this time, I live in constant fear, not knowing what will end the world at any minute, a nuclear bomb or God, and my grandmother, who learned different kinds of herbalism, healing, and magic as a girl, handled spiritual healing in ways that my mother’s church called abomination. I ask my mother, and she says maybe this time God will understand, but I’m not so sure and figure that’s one more reason for Him to kill me during Armageddon. During the treatment, I hear my grandmother praying, which is weird because I thought God thought this was paganism and the work of demons? When it is over, I don’t really buy into that fire-and-brimstone, only-the-elders-know bullshit anymore. The treatment was comforting and puts me at ease, unlike this religion that tells me I should rejoice that the world is going to end.

And certainly, this not the last time we will run to welita’s house for help with susto, ojo, or el mal. Yet my mother maintains a continued abhorrence of such things—unless it’s somehow expedient. It did not stop her from telling me I was inviting demons into the house when I read up on Mexica cosmogony. “You’re going to turn out like my mother,” she would say, almost shaking with anger. And yes, Mother, I did. Now, at this age, I’m the person who fills this kind of role for my family and sometimes my friends. And I often wonder what my mother would think. It’s a different kind of spiritual pain than the susto, and I can’t quite put my finger on it because it’s a chasm between us that cannot be bridged even now that she’s gone. My heart is heavy with the realization that extricating myself from the religious control that she so desperately clung to means trading one end of the world for another, leaving behind the dire prophecies for the dire reality that colonial apocalypse is ongoing and it is everywhere.

Some people find relief trading religion for science, but what this means for me is, sometimes I encounter people who think it’s okay to ask how someone with a PhD could believe in that “superstitious nonsense.” More things in heaven and earth, Horatio, I think, and all I say it makes me feel better. But what I really want to say is, “You thinking it’s okay to call a part of me, my family, and my culture ‘nonsense’ speaks to the power that colonialization has given you. Does it ever occur to you I have not given up these timeless practices because they serve an actual function, one you simply cannot fathom? But no, that’s impossible because colonization grants you the zero-point epistemology (see Castro-Gómez, 2021) that stands in for the all-knowing eye of God. Does it not occur to you that I have actually had to fight to maintain these beliefs against the system you embody right now?” I live with anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and fatigue, but these are exacerbated by such thoughtless comments, and it speaks volumes that some people don’t have to think about how their words affect others.

My body, mind, heart, and spirit are always at war against this “nonsense” label that arrived with the priests and cocoliztli, smallpox. The same discourses that told my ancestors that they had to lose part of themselves to attain some imaginary reward at the breaking of their worlds are the same that told me to fear that my grandmother’s care would lead to my doom. Spiritual pain means that I can visit doctors and take my meds but there is no cure for this psychocorporeal ache unless everything changes. As Fanon (1952) told us, the colonial system creates and deploy diseases physically, psychologically, and rhetorically with frightening efficiency. It’s in the word itself, dis-ease, meaning a person targeted by the colonial matrix of power is never meant to feel at ease in their own body. Dis-ease is fundamental if these forces are to find purchase in the material world; flesh must be reconfigured into control. A body with disorders is the antithesis of colonial order because it cannot be wholly controlled. It cannot necessarily be forced to make profit. It is a nuisance. So we are controlled by proxy, through the denial of health care resources on one hand and denigration of our practices on the other, and it reminds me that my ancestor knew just as we here know. The colonial system attempts to destroy our cultures because the mutual aid and care they foster teach us that no power has the right to regulate our lives or else end our worlds (see Piepzna-Samarasinha, 2018).

And so, I close by quoting from a poem by ire’ne lara silva (2014): “we will not be robbed of ourselves not by disease not/  by history not by the bureaucracies of healthcare systems/ or governments not by doctors who never listen not by a/ socioeconomic order which prizes cultural erasure not by/ drug companies who do not believe our pockets are finite/ not by the capitalist system that extracts our labor until it/ abandons us like broken machinery we call ourselves/ back we call ourselves back.”


  • Castro-Gómez, S. Zero-Point Hubris: Science, Race, and Enlightenment in Eighteenth-Century Latin America. Rowman & Littlefield, 2021.
  • Fanon, F. Black Skin, White Masks. (1952.) Grove, 1967.
  • Piepzna-Samarasinha, L. L. Care work: Dreaming Disability Justice. Arsenal Pulp, 2018.
  • silva, i l. “I Call Myself Back.” Chicana/Latina Studies, vol. 13, no. 2, 2014, 78-80.

The Problem with Publishing: Dispatches from a Crip Researcher-Editor

Christina V. Cedillo
Panel 691: Scholarly Journal Publishing with a Disability-Centered Approach
Sunday, 8 January 2023; 10:15 AM - 11:30 AM PST

Download a PDF of the slides here: SLIDES

Download a PDF of this talk here: TALK


[Slide 1] Hello, I’m coming to you from Houston Texas, which sits on traditional Karankawa, Sana, and Atakapa land. Before I start, I want to offer a content warning for some of the images I share, and offer a bit of warning because as usual, I’ll be addressing this theme in my typical roundabout way. [Slide 2] For now, I want to begin with a story about the whitestream character of publishing, explain how racism and ableism are so fundamentally entwined in everyday life and in publishing, and conclude by offering some quasi-suggestions from the perspective of a crip researcher-editor in moving forward.

[Slide 3] One way to start this story about the endemic whitestreamness of publishing is to go back to 2020. In that year, Paula Chakravartty, Rachel Kuo, Victoria Grubbs, and Charlton McIlwain published the article “#CommunicationSoWhite.” According to the authors, they wrote the article seeking to expose the (to be frank, unsurprising) over-representation of white scholars in academic publishing. They state, “As part of an ongoing movement to decenter White masculinity as the normative core of scholarly inquiry, this paper is meant as a preliminary intervention. By coding and analyzing the racial composition of primary authors of both articles and citations in journals between 1990–2016, we find that non-White scholars continue to be underrepresented in publication rates, citation rates, and editorial positions in communication studies” (254). As someone working in rhetoric, a discipline that overlaps and/or is part of communication, depending on who you’re talking to, the article was both welcome but also not shocking. And yet, when this essay was published, it was not without controversy. Even as some disputed the racism of the discipline and the academy at large, scholars of color took up the #CommunicationSoWhite hashtag on Twitter to share their personal experiences with racism, or should I say of being targeted by racism because we know racism isn’t just something that is—it is something that is enacted even and especially when it is structural.

Chakravartty, Kuo, Grubbs, and McIlwain concluded by suggesting ways forward, stating that it is important to avoid essentialism and tokenism, that we must all interrogate our citational practices and “apply pressure everywhere” (262), meaning change how we compose our syllabi, reading lists, qualifying exams, and pedagogies. After all, the point is not to simply increasing citational representation on the surface level but “attending to structures of power embedded within knowledge production” (ibid.). It is all to easy to cite the right names and act the role of a good ally; it is quite another to value the knowledge springing forth from marginalized communities and experiences as equally authoritative, or even more so than whitestream sources, since marginalized perspectives perceive realities that the privileged position never has to realize exist, let alone acknowledge. [Slide 4] As Eric Darnell Pritchard argues in “‘When You Know Better, Do Better’: Honoring Intellectual and Emotional Labor Through Diligent Accountability Practices,” a guest blog published on Carmen Kynard’s blog Education, Liberation & Black Radical Traditions for the 21st Century, it’s going to take some major changes at all levels to get to the place of radical difference at the publishing level. From CFPs that omit those ostensibly being centered, to students asking for marginalized scholars advice on reading only to exclude them from their committees, to being worn out from being the diversity on Equity and Inclusion work that never goes anywhere, Pritchard states, “I want to be unequivocal in saying that my point here is an indictment of and call for all to do better.” It’s going to take all of us, not just us marginalized folks, because the truth is, we literally live in different worlds. You see, for many white colleagues, “#CommunicationSoWhite” marked a startling new call to antiracist action rather than yet another plea against invisibilization. As Robert Mejia (2020) argued in the introduction to a forum on communication and the politics of survival, believing that the call to action began with this article’s publication was proof of the discipline’s erasure of the many scholars of color who have consistently written about racism and other inequities in the academy and beyond. Thus, I began by saying this was one way to start this story because this story’s been written for a very long time but not everyone’s been paying attention.

[Slide 5] So now, some may be asking why I began with a story about #CommunicationSoWhite when this is a panel on disability and publishing. What do these things have to do with each other?  Once again, whitestream academia would say they are separate concerns, but many of us live lives that tell us they are inseparable, as corroborated by history. We can begin with that word, “whitestream,” which for me as a multiply marginalized person is a much more resonant concept than mainstream. Sandy Grande writes in her critiques of whitestream feminism that it “is not only dominated by white women but also principally structured on the basis of white, middle-class experience; a discourse that serves their ethno-political interests and capital investments” (331). Jay Dolmage also reminds us that “the normate subject is white, male, straight, upper middle class; the normal body is his, profoundly and impossibly unmarked and ‘able.’ On the page, this subject and his body translate as error-free, straight and logical prose…” (110). The mainstream is white, but that is not only about race; whiteness is also about being nondisabled, affluent, cis, straight, reliant on colonial structures that dare to taxonomize life based on the social lottery of privilege or its denial. It also assumes that academics know more about particular topics than the people who live them, with academics writing about their own experiences viewed as less authoritative than the well-known scholars who theorize the crap out of oppressions because they have no first-hand knowledge to accompany their research. Everyone needs to recognize and combat ableism, but everyone also needs to call out how people of color are disabled by the same system.

When we look at the histories of race and disability, we really mean the histories of racism and ableism, because in a colonial system, race is a schematic of valuating life according to the assumed potential to strive for reason and greatness and disability is the means of doing so. Race may be a social construct but the violence targeting our bodies are material and real. Members of minoritized communities are more likely to become disabled or have their disabilities misdiagnosed or ignored. In school, Black students with disabilities are more likely to be labeled disruptive or defiant (see Erevelles, 2014). On the other hand, disability typically indicates some kind of physical impairment even when that part of the body happens to be the mind, but it can never be unlinked from social stigma and prejudiced views about what we can do, what dignity and joy we deserve, and how much we are worth in terms of cost vs. labor as has been determined according to racial hierarchies. We should not render these marginalized identities fungible in terms of experience. As Kimberlé Crenshaw writes, “The problem with identity politics is not that it fails to transcend difference, as some critics charge, but rather the opposite—that it frequently conflates or ignores intragroup differences” (1242). Indeed, it is one part of racism to assume one’s disability means one knows what it means to be racialized. However, for those of us who are racialized and disabled, it becomes clear that there are points of resonance. We find that we are already suspect because our work isn’t assumed to have the same universal application as that of our white colleagues, and if our disability isn’t ignored altogether, then it becomes another way to background our work. After all, what does a “very limited” racialized and disabled perspective have to offer, right? When you consider that over ¼ of the U.S. population is disabled (U.S. Census, 2022), and this does not include those who don’t identify as disabled or those who will become disabled due to illness or age, this perspective has much to offer. Disabled people make up the largest marginalized population in the US, and the multiply marginalized perspective reveals what happens when disability intersects with other forms of oppression.

[Slide 6] Racism and ableism help create one another; difference is constructed through the demonization of disability—just think about how often the categories used to classify disabled people are used to indicate a lack of sense, intelligence, or potential—while disability became associated with race through the denigration of racialized bodies. [Slide 7] In fact, white disability is often deployed to regulated racialized disability by suggesting that adding race is a distraction in discussions about disability rights. But that’s how colonial oppression works: it makes struggles seem unrelated. And that’s how academic discourses function to bolster that system: we are expected to handle topics mono-dimensionally rather than intersectionally, interactively, and publishing rewards those who do this for producing research that is somehow more applicable for erasing myriad factors and circumstances. In this way, social justice movements and orientations can promote and reproduce the very conditions they contest if anti-oppression discourse is prioritized over spatial and material transformation which, as a goal, reveals whose perspectives can illuminate our research from multiple angles.

So with all of this in mind, then, what does it mean for me to use a disability-centered approach in publishing? I want to turn briefly to a 2020 article by Cruz Medina and Perla Luna titled “‘Publishing Is Mystical: The Latinx Caucus Bibliography, Top-Tier Journals, and Minority Scholarship.” They begin by citing the same blog by Pritchard, as they (Pritchard) draw attention to the inequities of publishing, including being asked to review work for journals that will then reject work by the same scholars of color they count on to review (304). I want to express rage on that front, personally, as well as vent a bit as a disabled researcher-scholar-editor, knowing how the same “quality venues” will publish nondisabled scholars sneezing in the direction of disability studies because their writing style looks the part or they make it less uncomfortable by dressing it up in the theory of the day even if it lacks the experience or the soul. As I have also tried to make clear here, Medina and Luna explain that citational politics matter since scholarship reifies dominant attitudes in the form of pedagogies, organizational practices, and public intellectualism (Medina, 2020). When whitestream scholars speak over BIPOC and disabled scholars, ignoring our work or refusing to make room for us, they affect the retention and promotion of faculty and students and influence how we are perceived by the general public. Stated plainly, what—and who—receives public attention reflects and reifies society’s norms, contributing to their persistence in the forms of erasure, financial and physical precarity, and even loss of life. And this, ultimately, is what it means to center material and spatial vulnerability as well as expertise. In the introduction to Black Disability Politics, Sami Schalk explains that “Black disability politics are often performed in solidarity with disabled people writ large, but the articulation and enactment of Black disability politics do not necessarily center traditional disability rights language and approaches, such as disability pride or civil rights inclusion; instead, they prioritize an understanding of disability within the context of white supremacy” (5). As Schalk says, it means to confront “the whiteness and racism of the disability rights movement and disability studies as a field” and acknowledge that disability politics in Black and other minoritized communities may be enacted differently than they are in whitestream disability movements (6). So for me, a disability-centered approach is an anti-white supremacy approach is an anti-colonial approach is a culturally-sustaining approach.

[Slide 8] Usually, when I do workshops and presentations, people want a checklist of things they can do to make their own praxes more antiracist, disability-friendly, and so on. But I want to be very clear that before you can enact anything I share, one has to do the work of looking into the long history of oppression that makes people like me loath to just give people some easy tips so they can do the bare minimum and yet be seen as the vanguard. I can tell you that all of our journal’s editors are queer disabled people, including folks like Ada Hubrig, Vyshali, and Cody Jackson, who are not only amazing scholars but people who are about that life and are committed to disabled, racial, queer, and trans justice because yes, “Nothing about us without us,” but we will not have our identities parceled out. This makeup happened because we know each other, work together; there is love and respect there. I can tell you that if someone is looking to diversify their venue but don’t actually know diverse people, they should ask themselves why. I can tell you that our journal began as a response to racist, ableist venues who would rather gatekeep than help less privileged writers who lack mentorship or support. Some venues pride themselves in publishing only “the best,” as one editor wrote back to me when I was right out of grad school, having buried two parents and a marriage while contending with depression and anxiety. As editors, we do NOT diagnose people or make assumptions about their backgrounds, but people often ask me how we know why we should help them—a disability approach doesn’t demand disclosure; we extend support that makes room for disability and care, including our own. I can tell you that you need to be ready to be a squeaky wheel, a pain in the ass, and push back against talk of standards and rigor and innovation and originality when oftentimes, the so-called new conversations were already had in other circles and sometimes, the same argument needs to be made again and again until privileged folks are willing to listen. We need to humanize publishing, make ourselves accountable to one another and know each other as human beings. I can tell you that we work in crip time, as our bodies allow, while also recognizing that people have due dates to manage because institutions make impositions on people’s time even in the midst of deadly pandemics. Being online and independent makes this easier since we don’t have print issues to get out at set times. (Just something for authors to think about!) And finally, I can tell you that being crip means we do this DIY punk rock style, making our own spaces that are “lo-fi,” trying new things, starting new venues, hosting conversations and publications that do what we want them to do in an academy that often wants us to write and live like it’s 1920. But how you find your own disability-centered approach will be up to each person or team. Approaches shouldn’t be the same anyway because we are not all the same and they reflect who we are. But I believe we will keep cripping, changing, challenging, and pushing. [Slide 9] And so, I want to close with some words by Alice Wong: “I often wonder how disabled people will survive in a post-apocalyptic world… What I do know is that disabled people are creatures of adaptation that design and build worlds that work for them. The skills that we have reimagining/hacking/surviving hostile ableist environments would serve us well in any dystopian future.”



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, October 28). Disability impacts all of us. CDC. Retrieved from

Chakravartty, P., Kuo, R., Grubbs, V., & McIlwain, C. (2018). #CommunicationSoWhite. Journal of Communication, 68(2), 254–266.

Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), pp. 1241-1299.

Dolmage, J. (2012). Writing against normal. In K. L. Arola & A. F. Wysocki (Eds.), Composing media composing embodiment (pp. 164-173). Utah State Press.

Erevelles, N. (2014). Crippin’ Jim Crow: Disability, dis-location, and the school-to-prison pipeline. In L. Ben-Moshe (Ed.), Disability incarcerated (pp. 81-99). Palgrave Macmillan.

Grande, S. (2003). Whitestream feminism and the colonialist project: A review of contemporary feminist pedagogy and praxis. Educational Theory, 53(3), 329-346.

Medina, C., & Luna, P. (2020). “Publishing is mystical”: The Latinx Caucus bibliography, top-tier journals, and minority scholarship. Rhetoric Review, 39(3), 303-316.

Mejia, R. (2020) Forum introduction: Communication and the politics of survival. Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 17(4), 360-368, DOI: 10.1080/14791420.2020.1829657

Pritchard. E. D. (2019, July 8). “When you know better, do better”: Honoring intellectual and emotional labor through diligent accountability practices. Education, Liberation & Black Radical Traditions for the 21st Century: Carmen Kynard's Teaching & Research Site on Race, Writing, and the Classroom.

Schalk, S. (2022). Black disability politics. Duke University Press.

Wong, A. The rise and fall of the plastic straw: Sucking in Crip defiance. Catalyst: Feminism, theory, technoscience, 5(1), 1-12.



The Author as Editor as Author: From Writerly Experience to Publishing Praxis

Christina V. Cedillo

Session 22: How to get Published

Thursday, 5 January 2023

Download a PDF of the slides here: SLIDES

Download a PDF of this talk here: TALK

View a video of the presentation below: 


The Author as Editor as Author: From Writerly Experience to Publishing Praxis

This presentation was written and recorded in Houston Texas, which sits on traditional Karankawa, Sana, and Atakapa land. That matters not just because it is important for all of us to acknowledge where we are and whose land we reside on, but because for me, as someone of Indigenous descent, acknowledging my own relationality with the keepers of the land reminds me always of the responsibilities I bear in all of my professional and familial roles. I’ll return to this theme momentarily.

First, I want to begin by explaining the overall purpose of my presentation. Here, I wish to talk to you about my own experiences and how they have influenced me as an author and as an editor, hoping that information may be of use to folks seeking to publish their research, especially as graduate students and early career scholars. Then, I want to touch a bit on research that ponders ethics and/of hospitality and how it may invite us to change how we look at publishing, though I’d like to complicate the notion of hospitality itself from a decolonial perspective as well. And finally, I’d like to close by discussing how bringing affect and experience into the process of publishing can help us to humanize what it is we do.

The first half of the title of this presentation—“author as editor as author”—refers to the way that I see publishing as a cyclical endeavor. I don’t mean all of the tasks that must be done to publish each issue of our journal, the Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics. I mean how, as authors we must learn to think as editors and then allow that to influence our writing or revision, but also how editors should remember how they themselves started out as authors, allowing that to guide their practices, and seeing themselves as authors in their position who help shape the work for publication. Sometimes as authors, we are so accustomed to reading our own work and knowing how the ideas connect that we don’t always think from the perspective of the editor, who must ensure that the argument is clear, that the purpose for making it is understood, that the influences on our work are credited, and that the writing is accessible. Conversely, editors don’t always remember that not everyone has been mentored in writing for publication. We may think all students should be, but that doesn’t mean that they are, and thus, when people submit their work, we need to ensure that we are enacting mentorship rather than denigration even when we don’t accept a piece for publication.

This matters because while we act like publication is a straightforward thing, that somehow academic research stands apart from the rest of everyday life, the reality is that that is just not true. This is where I got started with publishing: while in graduate school, I lost my parents within six months of each other, I moved with a partner and dissertated from out of state the semester my program offered its one seminar on writing for publication, and then that relationship ended right after I started my first job. Publishing was the last thing on my mind. Surviving from day to day, getting through the semester as a student and then a brand-new prof, that was what mattered. But I’m not the only one, nor does this always happen during grad school. Real life has a bad habit of intruding at any time in our careers, or maybe I should say, we might not think about its influence on our research until something really bad happens. For example, the COVID pandemic affected our lives, our teaching and research and writing, but it claimed many of our loved ones and so, it will continue to affect us for a long time to come, if not for the rest of our lives. Our health, too. But even in the best of times, depending on your relative privilege and security, not everyone has a blissfully uneventful time as they go through school and start academic positions. As authors we need to remember this so that we give ourselves space to recover and enough time to work slowly even if that means you publish fewer things; this is not a competition, no matter what anyone tells you—it doesn’t matter who writes the most or what have you. As long as you meet whatever criteria you need to for your job, no one deserves more of your energy than you have or want to give. This also allows you to make more strategic decisions about the venues you choose: even when the yearly evals call for journals with a certain percentage of acceptances, which is actually really gross and inaccurate as a gauge for what’s “good” anyway, see who’s publishing the work that you consider important and try to ask people who’ve published there what their experience was. Allow that information to guide your selection because sometimes you might prefer to have a better experience than publish in a “top” journal where the submission process can be traumatizing.

Yes, I mean traumatizing. That’s why we started our journal in the first place. I submitted to one of the top journals in my field that I have since published in. When I first submitted, I had no experience with publishing and had received no mentorship, though I was told to start at the “top” and then work “down” if I got a rejection. I now hate those distinctions. No one had ever taught me how to break down an article and make sure I’d written all its necessary parts and done everything I was supposed to do. Well, I received a desk rejection wasn’t just a rejection but a form of telling me off. The then-editor pointed out that my work didn’t fit our discipline but offered no suggestions of any kind, only a pointing out of flaws. For the record, after revision, that article won an award at another journal. Sometimes it just takes some constructive feedback. A few years later, I submitted there again. This time, even after a friend who published there gave me feedback, the same editor obliterated my work, assuming my “opaque” writing was on account of being an “international scholar” (whatever that means) and again pointing out every flaw (yeah, you know what that means). He seemed determined to let me know I should never submit again because he said his journal only published the best and my work was not it. In those words. At first, I was sure I didn’t belong in my discipline. Then I got angry and said if I were an editor, I would never treat anyone that way. And so, a friend and I asked, why not? So we started our own venue and we networked with editors who mentored us, people who always see the potential in submissions, who practice transparency and act with respect for authors, who want submitters to have a positive experience even when their work doesn’t fit the journal’s scope. Journals like Kairos and constellations in my discipline who have reviewers who work closely with authors. Not every journal has the resources to do this. I share this to let you know that not everyone you encounter will be receptive but that is not about you. Find your crew who will help you revise so that the work is what you want it to be and who you want it to be for, and find the venues who want that work and you. Because that will determine everything from your statement of argument to your literature review to your methodology to the examples you give to the style of writing that you use throughout. Maybe you want to experiment with form; some venues prefer formal essays, but some enjoy a mix of creative and expository writing. In addition, you will have to decide how much you’re willing to change your work to make it fit the journal. Editors shape the work too as they advise you and if you are told you must make so many changes that your work is no longer your own, you should know where else to take it if you choose to take it somewhere else.

So now I want to talk a little about the issue of hospitality and how it can influence our view of publishing. Derrida writes about hospitality being conditional, how it asks the visitor “so who are you?” and how the answer determines whether the host will be hospitable or not. Writing about the risks involved, Gerasimos Kakoliris writes that "‘pure’ hospitality is a risk, because we cannot determine who will be our guest or how he or she [or they] will behave as a guest” (147). I find this resonates with publishing because as authors, we have to be as receptive as possible for our readers, stating things as plainly and accessibly as possible; after all, we academics often write to one another as though in a vacuum but we are curators of knowledge for all people. Accessibility can make clear all the different places where your work fits, even if it’s not technically within your discipline. At the same time, I want to address editors here. I often think of a performance piece by Karma Chávez, Sara L. McKinnon, Lucas Messer and Marjorie Hazeltine. While they reference examples based on im/immigration, their point that “people’s desire to ‘have a say’ in what is happening in their home, leads to a lot of saying, or talk, opinions, beliefs about the people (who are not ‘us’)” bears consideration in any situation where belonging is deliberated (1-2). That includes publishing because when we decide that something doesn’t fit the journal, we have to be honest and ask whether we mean this individual piece or the author’s work as a whole, even the people themselves? If so, are we helping them find a more receptive space? Editorship is more than a yes/no; it’s about knowing where people can find space, and if not, having a reason why. We certainly don’t want to promote harmful work. Maurice Hamington goes on to say that hospitality is often “defensive, and rooted in mistrust of strangers” (24), gendered (25), and market-driven (26-27). We should add racialized and ableist, since we use all of these dimensions of identity to determine who is worthy of inclusion and care, often failing to see that hospitality is a reciprocal relationship and one based on forgiveness (dimensions also mentioned by Hamington). Without a guest there is no host. Without authors, there is no editorship, and we have to think about that issue of risk. When we give new authors a chance instead of publishing only the already-renown, we influence the field beyond its present boundaries. We also have to remember that guests don’t always know the rules, and we cannot fault them for that. We can teach them though, and help guests become hosts like us.

 I don’t think I’m far field mentioning work in hospitality having to do with national and social issues when we consider that post-Enlightenment academia has defined people’s humanity and social utility in some dangerous ways, justifying racial and gender hierarchies that sustained evils like Manifest Destiny, chattel slavery, and conversion therapy. Lest anyone think that I’m reaching, I will remind us all that only five years ago a certain article argued that colonization proved a moral good. The colonial matrix of power has also sealed off academic pursuits to most people who aren’t white, cis, male, and wealthy for a very long time. Many of the populations maligned by prejudiced work have struggled to enter the academy, but we aren’t always the ones with access to the most resources. Hospitality takes on an additional dimension when you are from a community being offered hospitality grudgingly on what is your ancestral home. The truth is that even when we think that our research doesn’t matter to anyone outside academia, the conversations we contribute to are building our reality. People read our work and it informs their praxes; our work matters. So as authors, again, we have to make sure that our work reflects who we are and what we find important and we must find venues where there is space for that; and editors, we have to become more knowledgeable about the modes and forms that particular communities may prefer without imposing our views about what rings authentic or scholarly. And together, we must all be pushing to make publishing more inclusive.

This is where some people (editors) will say, “So we just publish anyone without any kind of rigor?” The answer is no, indeed, there is no room here for that kind of thinking. Rigor is a word that disguises academic hazing, as though making people struggle is somehow teaching or ensures writing is good or useful. Instead, we must opt to foreground our responsibilities as good relatives: find out how to help people write the best research they can from their respective orientations and if we don’t know, learn to ask. Likewise, authors, listen when editors ask you to be more attentive to all of your audiences.

[Slide 6] Ultimately, we must all think about what “good” writing is—what does it actually do in the world? As an author, this is the question that often makes the difference in your argument. Tell us why it matters and who/what is helped by knowing this. Our journal is now in its seventh year and going strong. When we started, we created a set of questions designed to help authors write for diverse audiences in terms of discipline, culture, and academic (or not) background. Editors, think about the process of the writing and not just the result. We told reviewers that they should focus on authors’ ideas and what would it would take to make them publishable rather than on telling authors they weren’t good enough. We asked reviewers if they were willing to work with authors to revise their writing, and I Skyped with many of them myself to shape the work to fit the journal’s mission of making research accessible and readable, even enjoyable! And finally, we should all think about publishing as making space where people can enter and make more space for more ideas, ideas that build the world and must therefore be honed in ways that are inclusive, invitational, and accessible. Thank you for your time.

Works Cited

Chávez, Karma R., Sara L. McKinnon, Lucas Messer and Marjorie Hazeltine. “Home: Hospitality, Belonging and the Nation (performance script).” Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, vol. 5, no. 5, 2009, pp. 1-23.

Hamington, Maurice. “Toward a Theory of Feminist Hospitality.” Feminist Formations, vol. 22, no. 1, 2010, pp. 21-38.

Kakoliris, Gerasimos. "Jacques Derrida on the Ethics of Hospitality." The Ethics of Subjectivity, edited by Elvis Imafidon, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 144-156.



The Disruptive Rhetorics of Roadside Shrines: What These Works Can Teach Us about Decolonizing Composition

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In this presentation, I want to share with you something of a project I’ve recently started, leaving things open for comments and suggestions about this work, as well as for questions and comments regarding larger socio-rhetorical connections that …

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Rhetorics of Insecurity: Foregrounding (Un)Documented Status as Axis of Identity

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For the last 2,000 years, traditional Eurowestern rhetorics have taken their most basic triadic purpose to be to teach, to delight, and t…

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