departure, n.

The action of setting out or starting a journey; the starting or setting out on a course of action or thought; a fresh start.1 

When I took up my editorship of Departures in Critical Qualitative Research (DCQR), which was up until my selection published under the title Qualitative Communication Research, University of California Press asked me to explore the possibility of expanding the scope of the journal and rebranding and redefining the aims of the publication. Thus, DCQR was conceived and launched. The new aim of the journal was to provide a forum for scholars across disciplines to consider, contest, and creatively reimagine the form, purpose, and mission of their work. The journal sought to feature essays charting scholarly and theoretical developments in critical qualitative research, exemplars of methodological innovation, and inventive demonstrations of research as an intervention and mode of critique. It was my hope that the journal would performatively embody the notion of departure in its fullest sense by taking seriously the notion of what a new course of action or thought in critical qualitative inquiry might mean, look like, and do, and by providing a space for exploring those beginnings and movements in all of their promise and possibility.

threshold, n.

Border, limit; the beginning of a state or action, outset, opening; (having a value or intensity) equal to that of a threshold.2 

To mark the shift in the journal's remit and mission, and my coming to the work of editorial curator/provocateur, I published two issues featuring “inventive, chance-taking, artful, and provocative essays on the theme of thresholds.”3 In the call to participate in those inaugural issues, I asked authors to consider Walter Benjamin's thinking on thresholds as “a zone. And in fact a zone of passage (Übergang). Transformation, passage, flux—all are contained in the word threshold.”4 

The essays in those first issues of DCQR explored the playfulness and productivity of crossing, inhabiting, and embracing thresholds as ontologies, as modes of thinking and inquiry, as means of creating and acting in the work, and as an affective, critical, and representational aesthetic. Jonathan Wyatt, in his essay “Always in Thresholds,” one of eighteen works across two issues, writes:

I don't know what to make of thresholds, and I'm not sure whether I like them, but my intuition, my gut, tells me it's where our research needs to be. I want to push thresholds… towards a place—a multiplicity of spaces and times—where categories (this and that, here and there) become indistinct, where we position ourselves and our inquiries as always in thresholds, forever liminal, forever refusing “here” or “there,” seeking out the pauses, not the notes in the song; the pauses as notes.

In such thresholds, our research can be at its most critical, where we take nothing for granted, where everything is at stake. It means conducting inquiries as if we do not know where they will take us. As if there were no more time.5 

In the five years that have followed, the essays submitted to and published in DCQR have engaged in threshold- and boundary-crossing, in thinking and inquiry that disrupts, if not denies, categories, destinations, and once-and-for-all claims to knowledge. If you look through volumes 3–7, you will find examples of scholarship that refuse the “here” or “there” in favor of movement and liminality and that seek out the pauses and places to rest and contemplate.

We have published scholarship that embodies the ethos of taking nothing for granted and working as if we have no more time. This is no more evident than in the contributions of the many critical scholars of color we have had the privilege to publish over the last five years—individually, as co-authors, and as part of special issues on Black Feminist Thought (5.3, guest edited by Rachel Alicia Griffin) and Black Girlhood (6.3, guest edited by Chamara Jewel Kwakye, Dominique C. Hill, and Durell M. Callier). As I wrote in a recent editor's introduction, “Making Our Stories Count,” the representation persons of color, LGBTIQ, and female-identifying editorial board members, reviewers, and authors, and the most-read articles over the last five years gives us reason to believe that DCQR is a place and a space where research can be at its most inclusive, incisive, expansive, and critical.6 That said, there is a good deal to be done to continue to increase DCQR's “conscientious engagement”7 with work created at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, spirituality, neuro-diversity, and geography. DCQR's incoming editor, Devika Chawla, is committed and well-positioned to do this, and I look forward to reading work that actively seeks to highlight how power is materialized in knowledge production, reject normative ideas about neutrality in research, and make manifest ways of decolonizing explanatory practices.8 

movement, n.

a journey … undertaken by a person or group of people; a course or series of actions and endeavors on the part of a group of people working… to advance a shared political, social or artistic objective; an act of will.9 

migration, n.

The movement of a person or people from one locality or place of residence to another; the action of passing from one place to another; a flock, herd, shoal of migrating animals; movement as part of a rearrangement of structure.10 

As I contemplated the final issue of my editorship and the transition to Devika's vision for the future, I was inspired by a piece she wrote for DCQR titled “The Migration of a Smile,” in which she explores whether the “ordinary affect” of something like a smile (what it signifies, expresses, contains, and holds) can tell a story of migrations: “I want to propose that telling the stories of smiles and the affects that produce them is akin to understanding the body as a historical subject and object, simultaneously shaped by and implicated in creating history.”11 Like Devika's writing on the migration of a smile, I wondered what a collection of essays, poetry, short fiction, and genre-blurring works might tell us about the movements we make when we cross time zones, geographies, memories. Or how such works consider the affective textures of movement and migration in and through circuits of power.

And so I settled on the themes of movement and migration to signal the close of my editorship, which I don't view as an ending, but instead as another threshold; a zone of passage and transformation.

grounded, adj.

Deeply or strongly founded; firmly fixed or established; resting upon a good basis.12 

metamorphosis, n.

The action or process of changing in form, shape, or substance.13 

In putting together this issue, I returned to the place I began, casting myself in the role of curator/provocateur and inviting contributions from a range of thinkers exploring the themes of movement and migration as if everything is at stake. As if we do not have the luxury of waiting for what's next in critical qualitative inquiry but must, instead, do that work now. I invited thirteen scholars representing a range of disciplines, practices, geographies and moments in their careers to contribute to an issue on movement and migration, taking as provocations the following ideas:

  1. Rebecca Solnit's observation that “stories migrate, meanings migrate, everything metamorphoses.”14 

  2. Sara Ahmed et al.'s assertion that considerations of home/belonging and migration must challenge the “presumption that movement involves freedom from grounds, or that grounded homes are not sites of change, relocation or uprooting. Being grounded is not necessarily about being fixed; being mobile is not necessarily about being detached.”15 

I asked these authors to use these as an open invitation to create “inventive, chance-taking, artful, and provocative” work in response to the themes of movement and migration in short pieces of prose, poetry, and experimental text. What Francesca Rendle-Short, Fiona Alana Murray, Anne M. Harris, Bronwyn Davies, Bernadette Marie Calafell, Laura Hartnell, Enza Gandolfo, Tobias McCorkle, David Fa'avae, Haami Hawkins, Fetaui Iosefo, Lilomaiava Ema Tolua Fetu Vui Siope, Faavagaga Siope, Joshua Iosefo, Karissa Taylor, and Sophie Tamas have created and shared with us does this work—and so much more. Rather than rely on my words about what they have created and set in motion, I invite you to make a cup of tea or coffee (or other beverage of your choosing) and settle in for a glorious read. These essays are simultaneously and complexly grounding and metamorphizing in the very best ways.

In addition to the thirteen brief pieces that open the collection, there are two special sections that also embody the power and possibility of movement and migration. The first is a collection of essays created by the directors and actors of two productions of Heavier than Air, a play that Anne Harris and I created to give body, voice, and movement to the lives and experiences of queer teachers working as educators in primary and secondary schools. Drawn from interviews with teachers in Victoria, Australia, the play, which is a hybrid of verbatim and traditional playwriting, has seen productions in Singapore and throughout Australia.16 These authors and performance makers took up the challenge of staging their own productions of this play in geographies and spaces very different from its Australian home context—Edgar Rodríguez Dorans in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Elise Pineau, Alex Davenport, and A. B. in Carbondale, IL.17 As their reflections articulate, the migration of this play from one place and set of hands to another allowed Heavier than Air to become a “collection of stories that traveled freely,” though not without difficulty, across the world.

The second special section is a poetic call and response conversation between Amber L. Johnson, Javon Johnson, Imani Cezanne, Benny LeMaster, Rachel N. Hastings, Dana L. Cloud, Patricia A. Suchy, Ed Mabrey, Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock, Miranda Dottie Olzman, Jeffrey Q. McCune Jr., and Ronald L. Jackson II on what it means to become—in an active, verb-driven sense—the legacy and relevance of social justice scholars(hip) in the field of communication studies. Created as the Opening Session of the 2017 National Communication Association annual convention aimed at exploring “Our Legacy, Our Relevance,” this collection intervenes in and at the “learning edge, where comfort sparks change, where respect is complex, and where honesty can be deemed a radical act of resistance.”18 It does so in a world in which we cannot wait to enact the kinds of justice and community making that is central to not only communication studies, but also critical qualitative inquiry.

Taken as a whole, I hope this issue of DCQR might form a kind of collective transit into the then/there of what's next. I am humbled by the scholars, artists, and activists who have filled my editorial journey with wonder and who will no doubt take us into the future with the twin senses of hope and urgency. I am deeply grateful to the editorial board and ad hoc reviewers who have given their time and insight to developing the scholarship we have showcased over the past five years, to all of the folks at University of California Press for the opportunity to do so, and to the unflagging and visionary efforts of Managing Editor Sohinee Roy, without whom we would never have been able to do such good work. I have so enjoyed my time as editor of DCQR and I can't wait to see what Devika has in store for us.


Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “departure,”
Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “threshold,”
Stacy Holman Jones, “An Opening to Dream,” Departures in Critical Qualitative Research 3, no. 1 (2013): 2 original emphasis.
Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 1025.
Jonathan Wyatt, “Always in Thresholds,” Departures in Critical Qualitative Research 3, no. 1 (2013): 16 original emphasis.
Stacy Holman Jones, “Making Our Stories Count: Racial, Gendered, and Sexualized Antagonisms in the Academy,” Departures in Critical Qualitative Research 7, no. 2 (2016): 1–7.
Carrie Mott and Daniel Cockayne, “Citation Matters: Mobilizing the Politics of Citation toward a Practice of Conscientious Engagement,” Gender, Place & Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography 24, no. 7 (2017): 954–73.
Paula Chakravartty et al., “#CommunicationSoWhite,” Journal of Communication 68, no. 2 (2018): 25–66.
Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “movement,”
Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “migration,”
Devika Chawla, “The Migration of a Smile,” Departures in Critical Qualitative Research 6, no. 2 (2017): 7.
Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “grounded,”
Oxford English Dictionary Online, s.v. “metamorphosis,”
Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby (New York: Penguin, 2013), 172.
Sara Ahmed et al., “Introduction,” in Uprootings/Regroundings: Questions of Home and Migration (Oxford: Berg, 2003), 1.
For a detailed discussion of the creation and staging of this play, including a version of the playtext, see Anne Harris and Stacy Holman Jones, Writing for Performance (Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense, 2016).
The Carbondale cast was comprised of Elise Pineau, Charlie Hope Dorsey, Alex Davenport, and A. B.
Footage of the 2017 National Communication Association Opening Session is available at