Transformative Topics

In recognition of Black History Month, this month we feature work the insightful article, “Critical Reflexivity: Teaching about Race and Racism in the Advertising Classroom" by Kevin D. Thomas and Naya Jones. To see information for the paper on the TCR website click here.


Kevin and Naya reflect on the paper and the importance of this research topic: 

This article emerged from co-teaching during our time at the University of Texas at Austin. At UT Austin, we taught a course focused on food justice and food sovereignty with detailed attention to issues such as race and racism, white supremacy, power and oppression. Our focus allowed us to bring our interdisciplinary backgrounds in marketing and communications (Kevin) and critical geography (Naya) together. In addition, the course built upon our public scholarship project called Food for Black Thought (FFBT). For FFBT, we co-created community-engaged conferences and co-facilitated workshops with youth farm programs.


Today, we continue to explore engaged scholarship and pedagogy as co-founder of Race in the Marketplace (Kevin) and as director of the Black Botany Studio (Naya). As life partners, we also share an embodied and contemplative approach to our work. Inspired by this approach, we encourage the reflexivity we describe in this article among the students - and with ourselves.


To find more work on the topic, search the TCR's publication archives, typing a keyword or author into the search box.




Kevin D. Thomas, and Naya Jones. (2019) "Critical reflexivity: Teaching about race and racism in the advertising classroom." Advertising & Society Quarterly 20 (2).



Abstract: Race is sewn into the very fabric of advertising, yet it remains largely absent from the practice of advertising pedagogy and from scholarship on teaching advertising. Indeed, most students begin their professional career without earnestly considering the significance of race, particularly their own, in relation to how advertising is coordinated, implemented, and received. As consumer markets continue to become more racially diverse, the relationship between race and advertising is sure to evolve—increasing in complexity and nuance. In order for the next generation of advertising practitioners to be adequately prepared for the future that awaits, advertising educators need to deepen their commitment to purposefully exploring race/racism and advertising with students. In this article, we highlight how a focus on critical reflexivity supports meaningful and lasting learning around race, racism, and advertising. Based on co-teaching an advertising and food justice course together since 2012, we outline a critical paradigm and four practices we use to foster critical reflexivity: acknowledging shared inheritance of racism, critical storytelling, deep listening, and kitchen table talk. In closing, we highlight considerations and challenges that often accompany teaching about race and racism, as well as the importance of self-care and debriefing for instructors. Throughout, we offer tools for cultivating a reflexive classroom that engages deeply and directly with issues of race and racism.


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