Call for Chapter Proposals: Adventures in Shondaland: Identity Politics and the Power of Representation


Adventures in Shondaland: Identity Politics and the Power of Representation

Editors:          Rachel Alicia Griffin, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Michaela D.E. Meyer, Ph.D., Christopher Newport University

Communication approaches to the study of television tend to be constrained by arbitrary divisions between text, audience, and production, and thus, we often limit our engagement with the interrelationship between textual representation (rhetorical approaches), audience interpretation (cultural studies approaches), and production strategies (industry perspectives). Building upon recent works that blur the distinctions between text, audience, and production (e.g., Holmes, 2004; Meyer, 2007; Watts & Orbe, 2002; H. Wood, 2005) to further theorize the communicative function of television, communication scholarship needs to integrate its approach to contemporary television studies.

This edited collection aims to bridge these divides by focusing on the television legacy of Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes is the creator and/or producer of Grey’s Anatomy (2005-), Private Practice (2007-2013), Scandal (2012-), How to Get Away with Murder (2014-), and, most recently, The Catch (2015-2016 season pilot debut). Her narratives capture large audiences in coveted primetime slots and continue to be highly economically successful. As the most powerful Black woman in the history of network television, Rhimes’ primetime network influence via ABC shapes the landscape of how we understand television representation, interpretation, and production in the 21st century. Simultaneously, as an influential public figure, her success, candor, humility, and intentionality significantly shapes discussions of identity/ies and diversity in current network television. Further indicative of Rhimes’ presence/audibility/visibility/influence in public discourse, @shondarimes boasts 961K followers, and her tweets often address identity politics and the power of representation. This influence is not limited to Rhimes herself, as the fans, actors, and writers working with/following Rhimes also contribute heavily to our public understanding of what is at stake in current television narrative and practices.

Our goal in this collection is to offer a complex reading of “Shondaland” by interrogating: representation, audience responses to Rhimes’ narratives/public discourse, and larger industry issues such as casting and the emergence of new media technologies.
We are currently seeking proposals to augment our collection that address the following topics:

Complex textual readings of any of Rhimes’ narratives (listed above).

Audience-centered approaches to Rhimes’ work such as focus groups, interviews, autoethnography, or analysis of fan discussion/response to particular narratives/storylines/characters.

Cultural critique of industry norms and practices that influence Rhimes’ work such as representation, casting, writing, and/or industry scandal (e.g., Washington/Knight scandal on Grey’s, the use of Rhimes as an “all encompassing” spokesperson for diversity on television, etc.).
We are especially interested in proposals that embrace audience-centered approaches, critique industry practices and political economy, and analyze identity politics that include a focus on ability, age, transgender and gender queer identity, nationality, religion, and racial and ethnic identities beyond the Black/White binary.

Proposals should operate theoretically and methodologically from critical approaches to the study of television. Via a 500-750 word abstract, each proposal should make clear: (1) the chapter’s purpose framed in relation to the call, (2) how the chapter is theoretically/conceptually and methodologically anchored, (3) the chapter’s primary text(s)/trajectory for analysis/argument, (4) the scholarly conversations the chapter is contributing to, and (5) the provocative questions raised and/or addressed by the chapter. Proposals should also include a bibliography of at least 15 working sources for the chapter proposed, as well as a brief biography for each author (150 words or less). Proposals are limited to a 1500 word maximum (not counting the bibliography and bios).

Overall, for our planning purposes, each abstract should include an explicit indication of the chapter’s focus on text and/or audience and/or production. Although we embrace the distinctions between text, audience, and production, we also see these as fluid and simply need to know which elements will be emphasized in the chapter.

Proposals are due by Friday September 18th 2015 and accepted proposals will be notified byFriday October 16th 2015. The anticipated deadline for full chapter drafts is February 1st 2016(This deadline may be extended depending on the publisher).

Inquiries about the call or this project can be directed to either of the editors: Rachel Alicia Griffin (<>) or Michaela D.E. Meyer (<> ). Please include “Shondaland” in the subject line of all correspondence with the editors.