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Unruly Bodies, Intersectionality, and Marginalization in Health and Medical Discourse

Proposal Deadline: 16 December 2019
Full Manuscript Deadline: 15 April 2020

Editorial Information

Special Issue Editors:
Erin Frost, [email protected]
Laura Gonzales, [email protected]
Marie E. Moeller, [email protected]
GPat Patterson, [email protected]
Cecilia D. Shelton, [email protected]


Technical Communication Quarterly

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The social justice turn in technical communication pushes scholars and teachers to “reenvision the field” through a “larger tapestry” that not only draws on, but perhaps centralizes, interdisciplinary research and practice (Jones, Moore, Walton, 2016, p. 223). To continue working toward inclusion, as many technical communication researchers have shown (Del Hierro, 2018; Jones, 2016; Haas & Eble, 2018; Shelton, 2019), it’s important we expand our disciplinary grounding by incorporating research from fields outside of technical communication that have engaged in efforts for justice and inclusion for many centuries. This is especially true, we argue, when doing technical communication research in areas like healthcare—as there is a wide body of work in a wide variety of fields that addresses the intersectionality of healthcare and a multiplicity of bodies, but a dearth of technical communication literature that takes up more than a few token topics in these important areas.

For example, Sabrina Strings (2019) engages bodies at the intersections of fields such as Fat Studies, Critical Race Theory, and Gender Studies to address health issues such as food insecurity and type 2 diabetes. Relatedly, Zakiya Luna (2009) examines Sister Song’s women of color feminism (and organizing) to push academic conversations beyond the limited scope of reproductive rights and toward a more expansive vision of reproductive justice, which fights for access to equitable living conditions––often denied by systemic oppression––that a person needs to decide whether or not (and how) they want to have children. In an adjacent vein, C. Riley Snorton (2017) and Julian Gill-Peterson (2019) both examine how contemporary medical advances used to provide gender affirming care for (some, often more privileged) trans people were borne from centuries of white supremacist abuse––enacted by white doctors and their enablers, who targeted, enslaved, incarcerated, institutionalized, and/or kidnapped Black, Brown, immigrant, intersex, disabled, and poor people for the purpose of coerced, nonconsensual, and unnecessary medical experimentation (and torture). In technical communication, Avery Edenfield, Steve Holmes, and Jared Colton (2019) analyze user-generated instructions for administering do-it-yourself hormone replacement therapy (DIY HRT), urging the field to develop a new approach to queer theory that “refuses to align queer agency with stable identities” (p. 177). Drawing on this interdisciplinary research, then, this special issue emphasizes the importance of approaching healthcare through intersectional (Crenshaw, 1989) frameworks that center the experiences of multiply-marginalized bodies. Specifically, we seek scholarship on reproductive and gendered healthcare that pays careful attention to the ways in which gendered and racialized notions of health often destructively guide reproductive and/or gendered health conversations, practices, and care.

We also note that technical communication has recently seen a growth in work on women’s reproductive health. While cautious of trends that position women’s health as always already about reproduction, we position this special issue as a call to further parse how our field attends to what we understand and term “women’s health”—both women’s health as a category worthy of inquiry independent of reproductive function, and as a construct that (as currently configured) can lead to a myopic and flattened view of the bodies and ways-of-being included in and by such a category. We seek answers to questions such as (but not limited to):

  • How can technical communication scholars be attentive to patterns in field research so as to better represent the interests of our diverse stakeholders?
  • In what ways are technical communication researchers responsible for trends in healthcare wherein certain populations are underserved/victimized (e.g. Black cisgender women dying in childbirth at such high rates, queer and transgender folx being denied access to care, cisgender women being refused voluntary sterilization)?
  • How can technical communication research on medical and health rhetorics make direct impacts on healthcare practice?

We recognize both the imperative social justice nature of inclusive healthcare—given that, for example, medical institutions have typically engaged white cisgender men as the “neutral” body from which all treatments have stemmed. We know, for example, that while white cis men's health is centered as some kind of universal in terms of treatments and health initiatives. We also know that the "medical advances" around gynecology and gender-affirming treatments (which tend to benefit white cis women, and white monied trans patients, respectively) are borne from the violent (and ongoing) legacies of chattel slavery, eugenics, mass incarceration, and institutional racism––which targeted (and continue to target) Black, Brown, Indigenous, and intersex people in particular.

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Submission Instructions

We call for work that understands women’s health as more than reproductive health; we call for work that imagines reproductive justice beyond access to obgyn-related healthcare; we call for work that examines the connections between reproductive health and white supremacist violence; we call for work that centers the needs of queer, trans, and intersex women; we call for work that examines the deleterious effects––for people who do NOT identify as women––of equating reproductive health as “women's health;” and we call for work that examines any number of ways that reproductive healthcare is (and has been) weaponized to target, discard, and pathologize people from marginalized groups. In short, we call for work that examines how rhetorics of health and medicine both reflect and influence which lives, and whose bodies, matter.

We seek applied research, research articles, experience reports, visuals, policy critiques, guides, model genre examples (e.g. medical intake forms that are inclusive, etc.), theoretical re-visionings of the field’s orientations, archival work, critical analyses, personal/phenomenological narratives around medical violence, and (since educators are so often on the front lines of access issues) pedagogical research. We seek submissions on topics such as, but certainly not limited to:

  • Legislation and policy
    • The erasure of nonbinary people in trans-inclusive healthcare practices and policies
    • The ways in which anti-abortion legislation has been used to criminalize women of color in particular
    • Medical liberty protections, their documentation and implementation, and the impact on patient accessibility and services
    • Examination of court documentation of both implicit and explicit racism among medical professionals
    • Rhetorical analyses of dominant medical training materials (or lack thereof) for the varying bodies that medical providers and health providers encounter
    • The ways that racist housing, policing, and education systems impede/inhibit reproductive choice for Black, Brown, Indigenous folx
    • The categorizing of gender dysphoria in the DSM-V and implications for individuals seeking mental and non-mental health treatment from medical institutions
  • Social stigma and access issues
    • The existence and employment of the label of “maternal obesity” to discourage and shame particular bodies from engaging in reproductive activity as a form of a back-door eugenic action
    • Access to or lack of sexual education and sexual education materials, non-inclusive sexual education practices, and the significant impacts in particular for intersex and trans (binary and nonbinary) individuals
    • Access to joy, rest, recovery, and wellness are raced, gendered, and classed pre-conditions for health that go unnamed
    • Regulation of pain management, the racialized and gendered treatment of pain, and the opioid crisis that has altered how medical institutions discuss and address chronic pain and chronic illness
    • Rural healthcare, as well as what is understood as health issues—for example, the ACOG recognizes that rural women experience more accidental injuries, motor-vehicle related deaths and death from ischemic heart disease, yet their recommendations focus almost solely on reproductive health access
    • Patients’ previous experiences of racism, ableism, cissexism, heterosexism, fat phobia, HIV stigma, etc. at the hands of medical professionals contribute to a climate in which patients avoid or delay medically necessary treatments and health screenings
    • The intersectional barriers in both reporting sexual assault and accessing resources related to sexual trauma and intimate partner violence
    • Addressing the limits of “sex positive” discourse that centers whiteness, cisness, thinness, and straightness.
  • Epistemic dissonances
    • Rhetorics of public health knowledge, gendered presentations of symptoms of diseases, and public understandings and documentation of markers of diseases
    • Explorations of what sorts of work gets coded as “medicine” versus what gets coded as “health”
    • Tactics that subvert institutional knowledge/technical communication practices in order to enable the assertion of embodied knowledge
    • Interventions in field patterns that make queer and trans people only legible or important as the subjects of HIV/AIDS; cisgender women only legible or important as fetal containers; people of color only legible or important as study subjects whose literacies are questioned; addressing, in other words, issues of trust driven by research and the histories that legitimate such distrust

Anyone interested in engaging these or related topics may submit a proposal of no more than 500 words to the Special Issue Editors. Please be prepared to adhere to TCQ guidelines. Queries are most welcome.


  • Proposal due: 16 December 2019
  • Proposal acceptance: 1 January 2020
  • Full manuscripts due: 15 April 2020
  • Accepted, copyedited manuscript due to TCQ editorial team: 15 October 2020
  • Publication: January 2021