Elizabeth Dickinson, Ph.D.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Assistant Professor of Communication, Kenan-Flagler Business School

Adjunct Faculty, Curriculum for the Environment and Ecology (CEE)

 

Nova Southeastern University

Adjunct Faculty, Environmental Education and Oceanography

 

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CONTACT INFORMATION

 

Dr. Elizabeth Dickinson

Assistant Professor

Communication Area

Kenan-Flagler Business School

4719 McColl Building
UNC-Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC 27599 USA

 

Adjunct Faculty Member

Curriculum for the Environment

and Ecology (CEE)

UNC-Chapel Hill

 

Adjunct Faculty Member

Fischler School of Education

Oceanographic Center

Nova Southeastern University

Virtual

 

eadickins@gmail.com

www.unc.edu/~dickins/

 

 

 

Research Interests  |  Publications  |  Under Revision/Review  |  Working Papers

 

 

RESEARCH INTERESTS

 

My scholarship centers on two flows of inquiry that often meet—environmental/ecocultural communication and culture and communication, and increasingly, the rhetorical/cultural production of place, environmental education, and environmental justice. What connects this work is a focus on the perceptual, ecological, and relational effects of cultural systems and practices.

 

Working within and between the critical, sociocultural, and rhetorical traditions in communication studies, I seek to:

a) understand how meaning is created in social interaction through communication practices and processes

b) examine the role of culture and context in how meaning is constructed

c) question and critique the taken-for-granted systems, power structures, and ideologies that dominate society

I incorporate qualitative, rhetorical, and critical approaches and methodologies, including participant observation, interviewing, ethnography, textual analysis, rhetorical criticism, and critical methods.

 

In environmental/ecocultural communication, I examine the social construction of nature, commercialized and consumer conceptualizations of nature, environmental education, environmental dialectics, space/place, and the epistemologies of science, politics, and ecological knowledge.

 

In culture and communication, I study how cultural ideologies are produced, consumed, performed, and resisted through communication and discourse. My goal is to examine how humans construct and produce knowledge and meaning about the natural world and how practices, histories, systems, and power influence human-nature relations.

 

I. Environmental & Ecocultural Communication

 

1.      Areas of Interest

* Eco-theory and philosophy; theorizing nature-human relationships

* The social construction and simulation of “the environment”

* Environmental/ecocultural dialectics

* Environmental pedagogy

* Environmental consumerism/commercialization

* Ecofeminism and Environmental Justice

* Epistemologies of science, politics, economics, and environmental “knowledge”

* Space, place, and landscape

* State and national parks and forests

 

2.      Research Questions

* How do humans socially produce knowledge and meaning about nature?

* How do systems, histories, and power influence nature-cultural issues?

* How and why do humans consume and simulate nature?

* How and why do humans (re)form concepts of space/place?

* What is the role of power in these processes, and how can power be challenged?

 

3.      Sample Works

            Dickinson, E. (under review). Ecocultural conversations: Transhuman interruption, mediation, and

            co-presence in ecopedagogical contexts. Western Journal of Communication

 

Dickinson, E. (revised & resubmitted). Ecocultural schizophrenia: Dialectical environmental discourses and practices. Communication, Culture & Critique.

*Top Four Paper in Environmental Communication, NCA (2012)

 

Dickinson, E. (2013). The misdiagnosis: Rethinking “nature-deficit disorder.” Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture. [PDF]

                        * Lead Article

                        * Picture from article was selected as the issue’s front cover image

 

Milstein, T., & Dickinson, E. (2012). Gynocentric greenwashing: The discursive gendering of nature. Communication, Culture & Critique.

* 1st Place Top Paper in Environmental Communication, ICA (2012)

 

Dickinson, E. (2012). Consuming “The Petroglyphs:” Commercial appropriations of nature and culture. Journal of Consumer Culture.

* Top Four Paper in Environmental Communication, NCA (2008)

* Lead Article

 

Dickinson, E. (2012). Addressing environmental racism through storytelling: Toward an environmental justice narrative framework. Communication, Culture, & Critique

 

Dickinson, E. (2011). Displaced in nature: The cultural production of (non-)

place in place-based forest conservation pedagogy. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, 5(3), 300-319

* 1st Place Top Paper in Environmental Communication, WSCA (2011)

 

Milstein, T., Anguiano, C., Sandoval, J., Chen, Y. W., & Dickinson, E. (2011). Communicating a “new” environmental vernacular: A sense of relations-in-place. Communication Monographs, 78(4), 486-510.

 

Dickinson, E. (2008). Review of Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature. Green Theory and Praxis: The Journal of Ecopedagogy, 4(1), 118-121.

 

Dickinson, E. (2007). New directions in action based environmental theorizing: Emerging perspectives on the natural world, communication, and social change. Graduate-Level Advanced Theorizing Course Reader (Dr. Jan Schuetz, instructor). Department of Communication and Journalism, University of New Mexico.

* Top Four Paper in Communication Theory, WSCA (2008)

 

Dickinson, E., & VanBuskirk, E. (in process). Communicating sustainability in environmental education curricula. A research project funded by Salem College.

 

 

II. Communication & Culture

 

1.      Areas of Interest

* How cultural ideologies are produced, performed, reproduced, and resisted through communication

* Critical theories of culture

* Gender studies

* Consumer culture

* Critical Race Theory

 

2.      Sample Works

Carr, J., Dickinson, E. A., McKinnon, S., & Chavez, K., (under review). Kiva’s flat, flat world: The a-spatiality of microcredit in cyberspace

 

McKinnon, S., Dickinson, E. A., Chavez, K., & Carr, J. (2013). Microlending as micro neoliberalism: Reproducing neoliberal discourses in philanthropic online lending, Howard Journal of Communications.

* Top Four Paper in Intercultural Communication, ICA (2012)

 

Dickinson, E. A., Foss, K. A., & Chen, Y. W. (2012). Negotiating polarization in discourses of terrorism, race, and the environment: The generative possibilities of dialectical disorientation. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 2(14).

 

Lutgen-Sandvik, P., Dickinson, E., & Foss, K. A. (2012). Painting, priming, peeling, and polishing: Constructing and deconstructing the woman-bullying-woman identity at work. In S. Fox, & T. R. Lituchy (Eds.), Gender and the dysfunctional workplace. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

 

Dickinson, E. A. (2009). The Montana meth project: Burke’s dramatistic pentad in a persuasive anti-drug media campaign. Communication Teacher, 23(3), 126-131.

 

Dickinson, E. A. (2009). Simulation and media. In S. W. Littlejohn & K. A. Foss (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

 

Dickinson, E. A. (2009). Limitations of anti-drug media campaigns. Communication Currents, 4(3).

 

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DISSERTATION

 

Title: Constructing, Consuming, and Complicating the Culture-Nature Binary: Communication Practices in Forest Environmental Education

 

Description: I conducted a study in the North Carolina Educational State Forest system, where I used participant observation to investigate conservationist and science-based forest environmental education practices. I examined the strategies of and contexts surrounding forest conservation education and how they shape how visitors can come to understand, consume, and contest framings of nature. Specifically, I explored the dominant framings of nature that are promoted by rangers, teachers, forestry, curriculum, and larger cultural and political beliefs.

 

Click here for the abstract and table of contents.

 

       Manuscripts from Dissertation:

 

            Dickinson, E. (under review). Ecocultural conversations: Transhuman interruption, mediation, and

            co-presence in ecopedagogical contexts. Western Journal of Communication

 

Dickinson, E. (revise & resubmit). Ecocultural schizophrenia: Dialectical environmental discourses and practices.

* Top 4 Paper in Environmental Communication, NCA (2012)

 

Dickinson, E. (2013). The misdiagnosis: Rethinking “nature-deficit disorder.” Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture

                        * Lead Article

                        * Picture from article was selected as the issue’s front cover image

 

Milstein, T., & Dickinson, E. (2012). Gynocentric greenwashing: The discursive gendering of nature. Communication, Culture & Critique.

* 1st Place Top Paper in Environmental Communication, ICA (2012)

 

Dickinson, E. (2011). Displaced in nature: The cultural production of (non-) place in place-based forest conservation pedagogy. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, 5(3), 300-319.

* 1st Place Top Paper in Environmental Communication, WSCA (2011)

           

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PUBLICATIONS

 

2013

 

Dickinson, E. (2013). The misdiagnosis: Rethinking “nature-deficit disorder” in environmental pedagogy. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature & Culture.

Manuscript: [PDF]

Abstract: This study examines and critiques “nature-deficit disorder” (NDD), Richard Louv’s popular theory of how and why children are alienated from nature. Specifically, I explore NDD within the context of one forest conservation education program that aligns with and operationalizes Louv’s message. Underlying Louv’s and forest educators’ discourses are culturally specific assumptions about humanature relationships. Both evoke a fall-recovery narrative—that children are separated from nature and must return—and promote science and naming to reconnect. I argue that, in the absence of deeper cultural examination and alternative practices, NDD is a misdiagnosis—a problematic contemporary environmental discourse that can obscure and mistreat the problem. I call on adults to rethink humanature disconnectedness by returning to the psyche, digging deeper to the problem’s cultural roots, and using nontraditional communication practices such as emotional expression and non-naming.

                        * Lead Article

                        * Picture from article was selected as the issue’s front cover image

 

McKinnon, S. L., Dickinson, E., Chavez. K. & Carr, J. (forthcoming). Microlending as micro-Neoliberalism: The reproduction of discourses of neoliberalism by small, online lenders. Howard Journal of Communications.

Abstract: Emerging organizations such as Kiva International are using the Internet to make person-to-person microlending available to lenders by matching mostly First World lenders with predominately Third World borrowers. This study analyzes 635 lender profile Web pages on Kiva.com to identify the motivations and discourses that underscore lenders’ philanthropic participation in microlending and the role of Kiva in this process. First, we provide an overview of literature in neoliberalism and microlending practices. We then use Jasinski’s method of theory-driven textual analysis alongside critical theorizing of neoliberalism to explore how Kivas’ and lenders’ self-representations are positioned within neoliberal discourses of personal responsibility and entrepreneurship, both of which inscribe an economically based morality. We conclude with considerations of what the naturalization of neoliberal discourses means in this context for the possibilities of challenging the continued expansion of uneven global capitalism.

* Top Four Paper in Intercultural Communication, ICA (2012)

 

2012

 

Dickinson, E. (2012). Consuming “The Petroglyphs:” Commercial appropriations of nature and culture. Journal of Consumer Culture.

Manuscript: [PDF]

Abstract: In 1990, the Petroglyph National Monument was established in New Mexico, where stakeholders evoked Pueblo and Spanish sacredness in arguments to protect, own, and then use the site. When local government recently controversially moved petroglyph rocks to build a commuter road through the monument, the rights of developers and consumers were privileged. Developers have evoked a heightened sacred Spanish colonial heritage to market homes, where governmental protection discourses are used by, rather than restrict subsequent commercial development. This study analyzes how governmental and commercial articulations of “sacred Petroglyphs” are central to commercial appropriations of nature and consumer ways of life.

                        * Lead Article

                        * Top Four Paper in Environmental Communication, NCA (2008)

 

Milstein, T., & Dickinson, E. (2012). The gynocentric-androcentric dialectic: Gendering nature in ocean and forest contexts. Communication, Culture, & Critique.

Manuscript: [PDF]

Abstract: This study complicates the gendering of “mother nature,” pointing to an underlying everyday discursive formation of nature that is decidedly androcentric. The dialectic at play, a favorably forefronted gynocentric pole masking a dominant androcentric pole, problematizes past understandings of binaries and offers new ways to understand humanature. Building upon the burgeoning study of critical ecocultural dialectics, we empirically investigate nature framings in ocean and forest contexts. We suggest a gynocentric greenwashing exists in Western discourses about “the environment,” in which communal, embodied human orientations with nature are favorably forefronted, yet androcentric individuating, frontal orientations are overwhelmingly practiced. Everyday environmentally exultant discourse may obscure and reproduce deeply embedded exploitive orientations that centrally regulate our perceptions of, and interactions with, nature.

* 1st Place Top Paper in Environmental Communication, ICA (2012)

 

Dickinson, E. (2012). Addressing environmental racism through storytelling: Toward an environmental justice narrative framework. Communication, Culture, & Critique.

Manuscript: [PDF]

Abstract: This study uses communication, critical race theory (CRT), and fictional storytelling as tools for addressing environmental racism. I advance an environmental justice narrative framework to enable activists and scholars to address environmental racism by exploring through storytelling how racial and environmental inequalities materialize and to what effect.  In the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico, state officials disregarded Pueblo belief systems when they moved protected rocks to build a road through the monument. In this case of environmental racism, parties evoked cultural and environmental protectionist discourses to justify the monument but then relied on colorblind development arguments to warrant the road. In the tradition of CRT scholarship, I present my own fictional short story as an environmental justice tool.

 

Dickinson, E., Foss, K. A., Chen, & Y. W. (2012). Negotiating polarization in discourses of terrorism, race, and the environment: The generative possibilities of dialectical disorientation.

Abstract: This study examines how highly polarized issues can be renegotiated through the rhetorical device of dialectical disorientation. We analyze three popular texts—a South Park episode called Imaginationland, a blog/book titled Stuff White People Like, and an Oprah Winfrey Show segment on freeganism—to explore the polarized issues of terrorism, race, and the environment. These artifacts use dialectical disorientation to destabilize dichotomous framings by finding each side incomplete and flawed, and this process is enabled by a rhetor who straddles and then rejects both positions. Ultimately, these texts open up a rhetorical space for audiences to pursue more generative possibilities.

* 1st Place Top Paper in Rhetoric & Public Address, WSCA (2012)

 

Lutgen-Sandvik, P., Dickinson, E., & Foss, K. A. (2012). Painting, priming, peeling, and polishing: Constructing and deconstructing the woman-bullying-woman identity at work. In S. Fox, & T. R. Lituchy (Eds.), Gender and the dysfunctional workplace. Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Manuscript: [PDF]

Abstract: Women bully other women at work more than twice as often as they target men, a pattern that has yet to be fully explored or theorized in adult bullying research. This paper theorizes about this gender-based pattern by unmasking the hidden forces behind it, encouraging women’s critical examination of what they are doing and why, and highlighting the organizational and social factors that lead to the woman-bullying-women (WBW) pattern. We metaphorically frame WBW as a sub-structure within the larger social construction of professional identity. In positing a metaphoric framework involving priming, painting, peeling, and polishing, we intend to open up the dialogue about why women might turn on other women in workplace situations. To encourage critical articulation, we pose two kinds of questions: those for women to ask of themselves to recognize the hidden forces pushing them toward workplace aggression, and questions calling on others to more critically analyze the social and organizational factors that contribute to WBW. We end by suggesting avenues of action to deconstruct aggressive identity constructions.

 

2011

 

Milstein, T., Anguiano, C., Sandoval, J., Chen, Y. W., & Dickinson, E. (2011). Communicating a “new” environmental vernacular: A sense of relations-in-place. Communication Monographs, 78(4), 486-510.

Manuscript: [PDF]

Abstract: This study focuses on communication as a lens and tool for reinvigorating and empowering culturally marginalized environmental relations. We use a community-based cultural approach to identify a core Hispanic premise of a sense of relations-in-place, which constitutes nature as a socially integrated space that provides the grounding for human relations, and differs from Western discourses that constitute nature as a separate entity onto itself. The study’s interpretation of a more collectivist and integrated orientation to environment has the potential to inform wider alternative ecocultural discourses and applications that are more inclusive, and perhaps more sustainable.

 

Dickinson, E. (2011). Displaced in nature: The cultural production of (non-)place in forest environmental education. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, 5(3), 300-319.

Manuscript: [PDF]

Abstract: This study examines the device of spatial construction in the North Carolina Educational State Forest system, a place-based program that uses place as a tool to reconnect children with nature and help bridge the human-nature divide. The forests, how visitors move through them, and classes taught to children employ a rhetoric of spatial and temporal transience that enables a displaced experience. Human-nature dualistic tendencies that foster environmental alienation are produced spatially and experienced in ways that can promote disconnectedness. Instead of re-placing students with nature, as place-based education claims, forestry and educational systems can practice nature as non-placed.

* 1st Place Top Paper in Environmental Communication, WSCA (2011)

 

2010

 

Dickinson, E. (2010). Instructor’s manual to Theories of human communication, 10th ed. (S. W. Littlejohn & K. A. Foss, Eds.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

 

2009

 

Dickinson, E. (2009). The Montana meth project: Using a persuasive anti-drug media campaign to understand Burke’s dramatistic pentad. Communication Teacher, 23(3), 126-131.

Manuscript: [PDF]

Abstract: Burke’s dramatistic pentad is a method of analyzing motivation in a message. Critics identify and examine relationships between five pentadic elements—act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose—to eventually point to a rhetor’s motive. An activity is presented here to teach students to investigate pentadic elements and ratios in video “shock ads” in the Montana Meth Project anti-drug campaign to understand how they are functioning.

 

Dickinson, E. (2009). Simulation and media. In S. W. Littlejohn & K. A. Foss (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Manuscript: [PDF]

 

Dickinson, E. (2009). Limitations of drug prevention messages. Communication Currents, 4(3).

Manuscript: Link (Direct Web Link). This article appeared in the August edition of Communication Currents, the National Communication Association online web magazine.

 

2008

 

Dickinson, E. (2008). [Review of Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature]. Green Theory and Praxis: The Journal of Ecopedagogy, 4(1), 118-121.

Manuscript: [PDF]

Abstract: In Trying Leviathan Graham Burnett uses a fascinating case study to historically and critically examine the order of nature. In 1818 a New York merchant, Samuel Judd, refused to pay a “fish oils” fee that was issued by an inspector, James Maurice, on several casks of whale oil. Judd argued that because whales are not fish their oil should not be subjected to the fee and the highly publicized trial of Maurice v. Judd ensued. Although the case initially questioned if a whale was a fish, more pressing issues of natural science and politics surfaced. Are whales fish (as popular consensus held) or something else entirely? What is the ordering of nature? What is the place of humans in this order? And, what are the cultural, political, and economic implications of such taxonomies?

 

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UNDER REVISION & UNDER REVIEW

 

Dickinson, E. (revised/resubmitted). Ecocultural schizophrenia: Dialectical environmental discourses and practices. Communication, Culture, & Critique.

Abstract: This study advances communication and environmental theory by positioning environmental discourses and practices within a dialectical framework, providing a way to understand how contradictory cultural messages influence environmental meaning systems. I position this theory through a qualitative study of U.S. forest conservation education, where K-12 students take fieldtrips to forests to learn about nature. Educators discursively position environmental issues within a stay away-get close dialectic, sending children conflicting messages to protect and appreciate trees yet ultimately use them for human consumption. This dialectic can enable what I call ecocultural schizophrenia—contradictory ecocultural discourses and practices that promote non-sustainability. This project contributes to scholars’ and activists’ efforts to address dire environmental problems by exploring their underling cultural and communicative practices.

* Top Four Paper in Environmental Communication, NCA (2012)

 

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IN PROCESS (WORKING PAPERS)

 

Dickinson, E. (writing stage). Communicating (scientific) sustainability in the No Child Left Inside Act

(a project funded by Salem College). For submission to Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture

 

Dickinson, E., & Chen, Y.-W. (collecting data stage). An analysis of intercultural communication and

relationships between au pairs and host families 

 

Dickinson, E. (conceptualization stage). Inter(eco)cultural communication: Making room for nature in intercultural communication research

 

Dickinson, E., Foss, K., & Kroløkke, C. (conceptualization stage). An analysis of placenta consumption

and rights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Just as the body is formed initially in the mother’s womb, a person’s consciousness awakens wrapped in another’s consciousness.”

(Bakhtin, 1986)

Website developed and maintained by Elizabeth Dickinson

Send e-mail to: eadickins@gmail.com

 

 

 

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