Dr. Robin M. Boylorn is the inaugural Holle Endowed Chair of Communication Arts and founding director of the forthcoming Holle Center for Communication Arts in the College of Communication and Information Sciences at the University of Alabama. She is also Professor of Interpersonal and Intercultural Communication in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Alabama. She teaches and writes about issues of social identity and diversity, focusing primarily on the lived experience(s) of black women in the U. S. American South.
As a critical autoethnographer she studies culture through the context of lived experience. Her current research focuses on racialized representations of gender/sex. She coined the terms "ratchet respectability," "blackgirl (one word/no space)" and "blackgirlism" to critically engage representations and lived experiences of black womanhood. She uses ratchet respectability to discuss the oxymoronic and problematic class characterizations of black women on reality TV, and theorizes blackgirlism as a way of understanding the indivisiblility of race and gender in the marginalized lives and experiences of black women.
As a scholar/activist, writer, speaker, and thinker she is committed to a life and work (life's work) that prioritizes social justice, is rooted in love, self-care, and accountability, and is housed with honesty and humility.
She describes herself as:
crunk, creative, courageous, generous, ambitious
a poet, a professor, a visionary, a realist
a sports fan(atic), a storyteller, an old school hip hop head
an Alice Walker womanist (or a black feminist)
a cultural critic, a christian, a contradiction
a fashionista, a loner, a wordsmith, a misfit
a writer, a hustler, a survivor, a keeper
a fully recovered former people-pleaser
charming, discerning, smart, quick-witted
a North Carolinian living in Alabama by way of Florida
who is a writer who teaches, and/or a teacher who writes
about taboo topics and truth
She is also: loyal, liberal, honest, ethical, focused, independent, sentimental & "sensitive about her shit." (Badu)
Boylorn's work concentrates on ways of documenting marginalized lives and making them accessible and available to wide audiences. She seeks to give voice to silenced experiences and offer strategies for talking about and across difference (in its many manifestations).
Her first book, Sweetwater: Black Women and Narratives of Resilience (Peter Lang, 2017/2013), which is currently available in a Revised Edition, received the inaugural H.L. "Bud" Goodall, Jr. and Nicholas Lee Trujillo "It's A Way of Life" Award in Narrative Ethnography in 2013, the 2013 Book of the Year Award from the National Communication Association's Ethnography Division, and the 2014 Outstanding Qualitative Book Award by the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry. The book offers a semi-auto/ethnographic narrative that includes the intergenerational experiences of black women growing up in a small rural community in North Carolina.
She is co-writer and co-editor (with Brittney C. Cooper and Susana M. Morris) of The Crunk Feminist Collection (The Feminist Press, 2017), and co-editor of Critical Autoethnography: Intersecting Cultural Identities in Everyday Life (Second Edition published in 2020) and Advances in Autoethnography and Narrative Inquiry: Reflections on the Legacy of Carolyn Ellis and Arthur Bochner (Routledge, 2021).
She was the Primary Scholar for the Kentuck Art Center's 2021 Exhibition Season and was a 2021 inductee into the XXXI Society at the University of Alabama. Her public writing and cultural commentary is available at Slate, Ebony, The Guardian, Salon, Gawker, and The Crunk Feminist Collective.
She is currently Editor of Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, a journal of the National Communication Association.
She is also a member of the Crunk Feminist Collective, and an award-winning commentator for Alabama Public Radio.