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Share your First Amendment Research.

Special Issue: Race, Coloniality, and Free Speech

Manuscript Deadline: 20 January 2020

Editorial Information

Guest Editors:
Anjali Vats

Mohan Dutta

Journal Editor:
Kevin Johnson, California State University, Long Beach

Book Review Editor:
Jennifer J. Asenas, California State University, Long Beach



First Amendment Studies

In this special focus on “Race, Coloniality, and Free Speech” in First Amendment Studies we seek 2,500-3,000 word manuscripts that interrogate the racial and colonial structures that animate free speech, including connections between free speech and Whiteness and the ways in which these connections are deployed in academia to protect and perpetuate racist hate. We also invite submissions that theorize frameworks for resisting the Whiteness of free speech. We are particularly interested in essays that push us to think about the intersections between race, coloniality, and free speech differently, using new and evolving theories drawn from critical race studies, ethnic studies, cultural studies, decolonial theory, and so on, at a national and/or international level. While we welcome critical legal perspectives on race, coloniality, and free speech, legal analysis is not required.

In the United States recently, with the rise of President Donald Trump’s violent and virulent rhetorics, conflicts over the protections offered by the First Amendment, particularly free speech, have been front and center in conversations. In one example of this political disagreement, protesters at the University of California, Berkeley effectively thwarted an appearance by conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos during Free Speech Week. Over the decades, critical race scholars have pushed back against the notion of free speech in various ways. Mari Matsuda’s now canonical book, Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech and the First Amendment, laid out arguments for punishing hate speech. Yet the Supreme Court has repeatedly refused to do so, as demonstrated by cases including National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie (1977) and RAV v. City of Saint Paul (1992).

While the First Amendment is a particularly American creation, debates over free speech are a global phenomenon. In Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa, Neoliberal Singapore, Communist China, and Hindutva India, constraints on free speech have been used to construct and enforce racial, ethnic, religious, caste and class hierarchies. In Europe, particularly given histories of Nazi violence, free speech has come to be treated with suspicion, as a way of encouraging division, war, and genocide. In Singapore, calls for religious harmony and social cohesion were used to censor digital expressions, as through the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), passed in 2019. In settler colonial Aotearoa, New Zealand, the freedom of speech of racist colonial articulations is situated amidst the ongoing struggles for Maori rights protected under the Treaty of Waitangi.

The international examples demonstrate the complexity and nuance of free speech conversations. These contemplations leave us with a set of questions, including: Where can critical race studies go from the insights of the 1980s onward on questions of free speech, race, and coloniality? What other contemporary theories -- e.g. affect, intimacy, postrace, racial capitalism, and so on -- can be brought to bear on free speech studies? How do recent political turns in the US and globally shape the way that free speech is deployed in the service of whiteness? How does free speech operate as a colonial practice, underwritten by a philosophy of whiteness as property? In what ways is free speech embedded in systems of racial capitalism, which continue to evolve through practices of Empire, policing, and other forms of disciplinary power? What are openings exist for incorporating free speech in anti-racist activism?

We invite 2,500 - 3000 word manuscripts that address these and/or other questions at the intersections of race, coloniality, and free speech. Authors may wish to consider:

  • How critical race studies can evolve with respect to its engagements with race, coloniality, and free speech in light of new theoretical turns;
  • How race and free speech interface with labor and labor disputes (e.g. in the context of LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick in the U.S.);
  • How race and coloniality interface with branding (e.g. as in cases such as Blackhorse v. Pro Football Inc. and Matal v. Tam);
  • How social media changes the landscapes on which race, coloniality, and free speech interface and how we might respond to those changes (e.g. the protection of online falsehoods and manipulation act in Singapore; the doxxing case of Suey Park, creator of #NotYourAsianSidekick, in the U.S.);
  • How whiteness philosophically and discursively shapes terrains of free speech, particularly in settler colonial spaces;
  • How race and free speech interface with questions of coloniality/modernity as decolonial thinkers theorize those categories;
  • How free speech operates as a tool of reconciliation in societies that have faced racial and ethnic conflict;
  • How free speech has historically and contemporarily been deployed as a disciplinary tool to keep racial and colonial power intact;
  • How free speech implicates communicative ethics around race and coloniality, particularly with respect to marginalized populations;
  • How free speech is deployed as a mechanism for policing civility in ways that discipline people of color and silence those who resist that discipline (e.g. the ongoing attacks on Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions movement);
  • How the embodied performance of free speech is defined racially and colonially, by virtue of which bodies are acting and speaking;
  • How free speech serves as alibi for racism (e.g. the speech of Hobson’s pledge in Aotearoa, New Zealand, that disseminates anti-Maori ideology);
  • How free speech implicates racial and colonial practices within academic disciplines (e.g. with respect to the Medhurst Letter); and
  • How free speech practices around race and coloniality could stand to change in academia, with respect to precarious faculty members, graduate labor, campus demonstrations, patronage (e.g. repression on Indian university campuses);
  • How free speech is incorporated as an anti-racist tool; and
  • Other topics that fit within the call as described.

Helping you Publish your Research

We aim to make publishing with Taylor & Francis a rewarding experience for all our authors. Please visit our Author Services website for more information and guidance, and do contact us if there is anything we can help with!

Submission Instructions

Please submit your paper at: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rfsy20. There, you can find author instructions for uploading your submission.

The guest editors, in consultation with the First Amendment Studies editorial staff and peer reviewers, will make decisions on the final essays. The process for publishing the essays will include the following:

  • Initial review of submitted papers by guest editors;
  • Anonymous peer review of papers approved by the guest editors; and
  • Revision and final submission of accepted peer-reviewed papers.

Please contact Anjali Vats (anjali.s.vats@gmail.com) and Mohan J. Dutta (M.J.Dutta@massey.ac.nz) with any questions you may have about the special section or pitches for articles to be submitted.

All submissions should be addressed to Kevin Johnson (Kevin.Johnson@csulb.edu), Editor of First Amendment Studies, and the guest editors.