Dr. Donica O’Malley wins the 2019 NCA American Studies Division Best Dissertation Award

Dr. Donica O’Malley has won the 2019 National Communication Association’s American Studies Division Best Dissertation Award for her 2018 “From Redheads to Gingers: Othering Whiteness in New Media” (advisor: Professor Ron Zboray). According to the chair of the award committee, reviewers found the dissertation both “fascinating” and “brilliant.”  Dr. O’Malley will be presented with the award at the National Communication Association Convention on Friday, November 15, at the American Studies Division Annual Business Meeting 12:30-1:45 PM in Room 325 of the Baltimore Convention Center.


It is easy to see why Dr. O’Malley’s dissertation is considered to be cutting edge research in the type of critical and cultural studies that the American Studies Division represents.  Her dissertation offers a far-ranging interpretation of the Internet-aided pseudo-racialization of people with red hair, light skin, and freckles in the Anglo-American world.  She argues that it is motivated by white fears of demographic deplacement in both the U.S. and U.K. and related anxieties over demasculinization as emboddied in the male ginger’s perceived “excessive whiteness.”  Moreover, the peculiar affordances of internet discourse that too often distill and amplify such fear and anxiety into various forms of virulent hate speech have fueled the widespread emergence of ginger prejudice based on gender.  


The dissertation draws its essential aims and analytical framing from both feminist and LGBTQIA scholarship, especially as it has embraced critiques of gendered whiteness.  And the dissertation is geographically and temporally ambitious in that it investigates comparative North American and British cultures in the 21st century, with forays into the early history of prejudice against people with red hair stretching back to the ancient world.