Public Science and Tropes

A dark-skinned hand holds out a microphone against a dark background

My research on harassment of public scientists and racist Hollywood tropes is featured in two new books!

First, my research on the Sociology of Public Harassment Prevention Policies has been featured in a new textbook by Faith Kearns. In her 2021 book, Getting to the Heart of Science Communication, Kearns writes:

Zuleyka Zevallos, an applied research sociologist, developed a framework that outlines steps in individuals and institutions can undertake to address some of the risks involved in public scholarship, particularly for those who work on controversial topics and are marginalised by factors such as race, gender, sexuality, and age. She first notes that, of course, scholars have a responsibility to use their knowledge for the public good. Simultaneously, Zevallos writes that institutions have a duty of care for their employees. “Institutions benefit from media interviews and social media work by academics and researchers. That means equity and diversity considerations must be undertaken to support staff when they are besieged by public abuse as a result of their justice education, publications, media appearances, and social media discussions. Media policies should not simply tell academics what to say, or what not stay. These policies must also clearly show measures and processes to protect the safety of staff and students when their lives are endangered.” (Kearns 2021: 51).

Second, my research on racist tropes in Hollywood films—the ‘Magical Negro‘ and the ‘Noble Savage‘—is referenced in the book, The Practice of Mission in Global Methodism, edited by Darryl Stephens and David Scott. In Chapter 2, ‘Decolonising Methodist mission partnerships,’ Taylor Walters Denyer writes:

Sociologist Zuleyka Zevallos (2012) analysed racist tropes common in Hollywood films, describing the Magical Negro trop (when Black persons are ‘benevolent, self-sacrificing figures who exist only to teach the white character a life affirming lesson’) and the Noble Savage trope (‘the over-simplified stereotype of Indigenous people’ that involves ‘the white protagonist being the saviour of the Indigenous group’ that involves ‘the white protagonist… being the saviour of the Indigenous group’ and at times even becoming romantically involved with a member of the group being saved). Zevallos showed how such tropes undermine and dehumanise the very communities they claim to admire. For example, ‘by painting the white protagonist as a saviour, the Indigenous people are conversely rendered as passive, submissive and amenable to being conquered’) (2012). (Walters Denyer 2021: 38).