Waves and Wakes

Four Corners Graduate Conference 2021 Call for Papers

The theme for this year’s Four Corners Graduate Conference is “Waves and Wakes.”  Waves indicate transformation, change, and new beginnings, washing away the old and bringing in something new. In their wake, we often find both things natural and hidden beneath the surface and things lost and forgotten. Waves are metaphorically used in history (historical waves) and activism (social movement waves), and they also engender thoughts of science and the environment. Our world currently finds itself occupying many waves — waves of disease, political turmoil, social unrest, and more. How can we characterize the wave(s) we currently inhabit? How do we keep from drowning, being overtaken by these waves?

Metaphoric uses of “waves” often ignore what comes after: the wake—a space of quiet movement. Our theme this year asks scholars to reflect not only on the waves we are currently navigating, but also what will come in their wake. “Wake,” as conceptualized by cultural and literary studies scholar Christina Sharpe (2016) includes “the track left on the water’s surface by a ship; the disturbance caused by a body swimming or moved, in water; it is the air currents behind a body in flight; a region of disturbed flow” (p. 3). Sharpe uses this metaphor and the many definitions of “waves” and “wakes” to engage with chattel slavery and its history/ies, and she encourages readers to understand “wake” as a consciousness, a state of Being, an analytic tool, and a methodology. Her “wake work” asks us not to only look at waves, their crests, and their troughs, but also what lies before and what comes after the wave(s). How did we get to the wave(s) we’re in today? What kind of world do we seek to create once these waves crest, fall, and dissipate? What will these waves expose in their wake? What wave(s) comes next? What is it to Be in these waves, in their wakes?

As in previous years, this conference centers discussions on identity, cultural and political formations, while encouraging diverse, interdisciplinary methodologies and non-Western and/or non-White epistemological perspectives. The Communication and Journalism department at UNM takes a critical eye to the study of communication. Critical orientations are utilized across each of our subject areas (intercultural, culture and media, culture and health). As such, the Four Corners Graduate Conference encourages submissions that are critical, intersectional, interdisciplinary, and social justice-oriented.

In addition to key questions listed above, other areas related to Waves and Wakes scholars may consider include:

  • Environmental issues in our current sociopolitical/-cultural wave
  • Waves in/of the academy/communication discipline at-large
  • Critical waves in the study of communication
  • Ideological and methodological waves/wakes/disruptions in the communication discipline
  • Waves of social movements
  • Temporal, ephemeral, and/or affective waves
  • Waves in/and communication and technology
  • Political waves
  • Social justice (movements) and waves
  • Relationships between waves, the tide(s), communication, and the cosmos
  • Other interpretations of terms “wave” and “wake” like non-verbal communication (waving hello/goodbye), end of life communication (funeral/wake), etc.
  • National, international, and transnational waves in Communication
  • Physiological waves and/or waves related to bodies, identities, performance(s), and/or space(s)
  • Structural waves/wakes (shifts in media, capitalism, understandings of space/time, etc.)
  • Waves related to health, (fake) news, the pandemic, and/or digital spaces in our sociopolitical and cultural moment
  • “Waking” up/being “woke”
  • Any topics in the communication field that do not necessarily center the theme of the conference and submissions from other disciplines outside of the communication field are also welcome.

This year’s conference will be held virtually with more details about arrangements and organization forthcoming.


Sharpe, C. (2016). In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Duke University Press.

Eligibility and Cost

The conference does NOT charge any fees for students to participate or present. This year there will be a $5 registration fee. The fees collected will be donated to a local social justice-oriented nonprofit organization.


Submissions will be accepted from October 31, 2020 until January 31, 2021, 11:59 pm MT. To avoid technical problems, early submission is encouraged. Acceptance/rejection notices will be sent directly to submitters by March 15, 2021.