Charlton McIlwain

Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication; Director of Graduate Studies

Charlton McIlwain

Phone: 212.992.9495

As a researcher, writer and teacher, my primary interests focus broadly on issues of race and media, particularly within the social and political arena. My previous work centered on how political candidates construct, mobilize, benefit or suffer damage from race-based appeals. In 2011 I co-authored the book Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns (Temple University Press). In 2012, the book won the prestigious Ralph Bunche Award, given by the American Political Science Association for the best book addressing ethnic pluralism. The same year, the American Library Association recognized the book as one of the Best of the Best books among academic publishers. In addition to authoring/coauthoring four additional books and close to thirty scholarly journal articles and chapter in edited volumes, and regularly providing expert commentary for local, state, national and international media, I continue to pursue research about racial appeals through collaborative work focused on analyses of individuals’ real-time perceptions of race-based appeals in political advertising, as well as a variety of cognitive/physiological responses to racialized communication. You can stay informed about my ongoing work in that area at the RaceProject.

My recent interests, however, have turned to the intersections of race and digital media, principally as they relate to three primary questions: to what degree can/has the internet and other forms of digital media use lead to increased political participation, voice and influence for people of color?; in what ways might internet use provide greater access to social, professional and economic mobility for people of color?; and in what tangible ways do forms of racial discrimination, disparate treatment and denial of opportunity take place in online environments? I’m currently working on a number of projects in this area, including:

  • A pilot study comparing the racial composition of, and degree of social capital present in Black and White users' professional networks built on LinkedIn. You can read a bit more about that here
  • A book project titled The Racial Web: A History of Black Politics, Organizing & Activism on the Internet, where I develop an alternative history of race and racial minorities online. This narrative focuses on: a). the ways that racial minorities – particularly African Americans – have engaged in the critical work of racializing the Internet (countering the race-neutral framing of the medium) over the past two decades; the way that black and other users of color built identifiable, and simultaneously dense and open networks of race-based journalists, academics, legal agents, community organizers, activists, activist organizations, artists and public officials; and c). the ways that these networks have mobilized online and through digital communication tools to promote race-based political agendas and challenge systemic racial injustice.
  • Another fun book project titled, Good Feelings: The Story of Race & Barbecue in America with my friend Kathleen McElroy.
  • A final book project with my friend and longtime research partner Stephen Maynard Caliendo titled Nigger 2.0: The Turbulent Transformation of a Still Troublesome Word.

In addition to these projects, Robin R. Means Coleman and I edit the Routledge Transformations in Race & Media book series for Routledge.



The Project on Race in Political Communication

Excellent Geo-services for my research provided by Texas A&M Geoservices




Courses Taught