My work centres the cultural study of discourse, politics, and identities. I track flows of discourse as they move in and out of the public sphere influencing both individual and group identities, embodiments, and politics—both within cultural groupings and between those groups and the larger structures of society.
Specifically, my research addresses topics such as digital and platform intimacies, the relationship of intimacy and privilege, hybridity and mixed-race identities, the social and cultural aspects new media forms, and non/monogamy in the public sphere. It is situated disciplinarily at the nexus of communication and cultural studies; methodologically within discourse analysis; and draws theoretical energy from a wide range of sources such as feminist, queer, postcolonial, and critical race theories; semiotics, affect theory, event theory, and psychoanalysis.
In this early but still active research stream, I study how monogamy and non-monogamy are represented in discourse. It investigates how certain intimacies are privileged over others in the public sphere, in complex, intersectional, and emergent ways. Part of this stream, my monograph, Fraught Intimacies: Non/Monogamy in the Public Sphere (UBC Press, 2015) explores the increased mediation of non-monogamies since the early nineties—in every medium from television, to film, to self-help books, to the internet—and how such convergent mediation opens these discourses up to societal scrutiny, as well as transformation. By unpacking the privileged logics that frame our conceptions of intimacy, I flesh out the political and cultural implications of how we frame non-monogamy broadly in sexual discourse, as well as how the public sphere presences of three major forms of non-monogamy (adultery, polygamy, and polyamory) display a complex relationship with “intimate privilege,” an emergent state in which one’s intimacies are read as viable, ethical or even real.
While these explorations largely culminated in my monograph, I still engage with elements of this stream, and in particular how non-monogamies surface in digital culture (e.g., non-monogamies in videogames, in hashtags), in line with my research on digital and platform intimacies.
My primary research stream investigates the intimate potentials and problematics of digital culture and platforms, drawing insights from critical intimacy theory (a subset of queer theory), but extending its ambit to consider multiple forms of digitally mediated togetherness. This stream deploys methods from discourse analysis, to surveys and interviews, to digital ethnography, to digital methods, and explores existing and emerging forms of digitally mediated intimacies. These include such topics as hashtags as technosocial assemblages; the politics of race-activist hashtags such as #Ferguson; haptics and digital touching; the digital sociality of videogame spaces; game representations of sexualities; the intimacies of VR and AR worlds; and the emerging sex robot industry.
In conjunction with this stream project I edited the collection Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks (Digital Formations series, Peter Lang, 2015). This collection investigates the publics of the hashtag. Taking cues from critical public sphere theory, contributors are interested in publics that break beyond the mainstream—in other publics. They are interested in the kinds of publics that do politics in a way that is rough and emergent, flawed and messy, and ones in which new forms of collective power are being forged on the fly and in the shadow of loftier mainstream spheres. Hashtags are deictic, indexical—yet what they point to is themselves, their own dual role in ongoing discourse. Focusing on hashtags used for topics from Ferguson, Missouri, to Australian politics, from online quilting communities to labour protests, from feminist outrage to drag pop culture, this collection follows hashtag publics as they trend beyond Twitter into other spaces of social networking such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr as well as other media spaces such as television, print, and graffiti.
This research stream engages the concept of hybridity in both theoretical and popular texts, combined with discursive and textual analyses of the depiction of mixed identities—considered broadly from mixed-race and diasporic identities; to complicated sexual and gendered identities, such as bisexuality; to the extremist/mainstream “alt-right”, and human/machine, human/code, living/dead figures—in discourse. Finally, it explores the mixing of privilege and oppression and nuances of intersectionality in society, research, universities, academic canon, and other locations.
As part of this stream I edited the collection Intersectional Automations: Robotics, AI, Algorithms, and Equity (Lexington Books, 2021). This collection explores a range of situations where robotics, biotechnological enhancement, artificial intelligence (AI), and algorithmic culture collide with intersectional social justice issues such as race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and citizenship. As robots, machine learning applications, and human augmentics are artifacts of human culture, they sometimes carry stereotypes, biases, exclusions, and other forms of privilege into their computational logics, platforms, and/or embodiments. The essays in this multidisciplinary collection consider how questions of equity and social justice impact our understanding of these developments, analyzing not only the artifacts themselves, but also the discourses and practices surrounding them, including societal understandings, design choices, law and policy approaches, and their uses and abuses.
I would gladly serve on committees for students researching digital culture, platforms, intimacies, robotics/AI/human augmentics, social media, games, global/diasporic communication; and representations of race, gender, or sexuality in the media.
2015 Rambukkana, Nathan. Fraught Intimacies: Non/Monogamy in the Public Sphere. Vancouver: BC Press. 229 pages.
Australian Feminist Studies, 2017
2021 Rambukkana, Nathan, ed. Intersectional Automations: Robotics, AI, Algorithms, and Equity.Washington, DC: Lexington Books. 273 pages.
Symbolic Interaction, 2022
2015 Rambukkana, Nathan. Hashtag Publics: The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks.New York: Peter Lang. 304 pages.
Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft (M&K), 2016
2020 Rambukkana, Nathan, and Keer Wang. “Digital Intimacies.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Communication, edited by Patricia Moy. New York: Oxford University Press. https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199756841/obo-9780199756841-0250.xml.
2015 Rambukkana, Nathan. “Open Non-Monogamies.” In The Psychology of Sexuality and Gender, edited by Christina Richards and Meg Barker, 236–260. London: Palgrave.
2010 Rambukkana, Nathan. “Sex, Space and Discourse: Non/Monogamy and Intimate Privilege in the Public Sphere.” In Understanding Non-Monogamies, edited by Meg Barker and Darren Langdridge, 237–242. New York: Routledge.
2007 Rambukkana, Nathan. “Taking the Leather Out of Leathersex: The Internet, Identity and the Sadomasochistic Public Sphere.” In Queer Online: Media Technology and Sexuality, edited by Kate O’Riordan and David Phillips, 67–80. New York: Peter Lang.
2018 Rambukkana, Nathan, and Matthews, Sara, eds. Subject Cluster: “The Intersectionality of Hate.” Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture, and Social Justice 39, no. 1: 41–69. https://journals.msvu.ca/index.php/atlantis/issue/view/358.
2015 Lenon, Suzanne, Susanne Luhmann, and Nathan Rambukkana, eds. Subject Cluster: “Intimacies and Affects.” Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture, and Social Justice 37, no. 1: 3–34. https://journals.msvu.ca/index.php/atlantis/issue/view/284.
2022 Rambukkana, Nathan. “Research in Brief – Towards an Audit of Race and Canonicity in Canadian Communication Syllabi.” In “On the Margins of the Margins: Racism and Colonialism in Canadian Communication Studies,” edited by Faiza Hirji, Yasmin Jiwani and Kirsten McAllister. Special issue, Canadian Journal of Communication 47, no. 3: 501–513. https://doi:10.3138/cjc.2022-07-05.
2021 Ley, Madelaine, and Nathan Rambukkana. “Touching at a Distance: Digital Intimacies, Haptic Platforms, and the Ethics of Consent.” Science and Engineering Ethics 27, no. 5: 63 (17 pages). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-021-00338-1.
2021 Rambukkana, Nathan. “The Zombie in the Grey Flannel Suit: Romero’s Classic Living Dead Trilogy and Metaphors of Mass Subjectivity.” Horror Studies 12, no. 1: 27–44. https://doi.org/10.1386/host_00027_1.
2019 Rambukkana, Nathan. “The Politics of Gray Data: Digital Methods, Intimate Proximity, and Research Ethics for Work on the ‘Alt-Right’.” Qualitative Inquiry 25, no. 3: 312–323. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1077800418806601.
2018 Adams, Meghan Blythe, and Nathan Rambukkana. “‘Why do I Have to Make a Choice? Maybe the Three of us Could… uh…’: Non-Monogamy and Normative Sexuality in Video Game Narratives and Practices.” Game Studies 18, no. 2. http://gamestudies.org/1802/articles/adams_rambukkana.
2017 Rambukkana, Nathan, and Maude Gautier. 2017. "L’Adultère à L’Ère Numérique: Une Discussion sur la Non/Monogamie et le Développement des Technologies Numériques à Partir du cas Ashley Madison [Adultery in the Digital Era: A Discussion about Non/Monogamy and Digital Technologies based on the Website Ashley Madison]. Genre, Sexualité & Société 17. https://journals.openedition.org/gss/3981.
2015 Rambukkana, Nathan. “From #RaceFail to #Ferguson: The Digital Intimacies of Race-Activist Hashtag Publics.” The Fibreculture Journal: Digital Media + Networks + Transdisciplinary Critique 26. http://twentysix.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-194-from-racefail-to-ferguson-the-digital-intimacies-of-race-activist-hashtag-publics/.
2015 Rambukkana, Nathan. “Mutt, Monster or Melting-Pot? Mixed-Race Metaphor and Obama’s Ambivalent Hybridity.” Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media and Technology 6. http://adanewmedia.org/2015/01/issue6-rambukkana/.
2007 Rambukkana, Nathan. “Is Slash an Alternative Medium? ‘Queer’ Heterotopias and the Role of Autonomous Media Space in Radical World Building.” Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action 1, no. 1: 69–85. https://ojs.library.queensu.ca/index.php/affinities/article/view/6164.
2005 Rambukkana, Nathan. “Uncomfortable Bridges: The Bisexual Politics of Outing Polyamory.” The Journal of Bisexuality 4, no. 3: 142–154. https://doi.org/10.1300/J159v04n03_11.
Rambukkana, Nathan. 2005. “Uncomfortable Bridges: The Bisexual Politics of Outing Polyamory.” in Plural Loves: Designs for Bisexual and Poly Living, edited by Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, 142–154.
2004 Rambukkana, Nathan. “Taking the Leather out of Leathersex: BDSM Identity and the Implications of an Internet-Mediated Sadomasochistic Public Sphere.” GR: Journal for The Arts, Sciences & Technology 2, no. 2: 39–44.
2021 Rambukkana, Nathan, and Gemma de Verteuil. “The Shape of Platform Studies: A Multidimensional Methodological Model for a Vicissitudinous Concept.” AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2021.DOI: https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2021i0.12229.
2017 Harvey, Alison, Jessica Bain, Natasha Whiteman, and Nathan Rambukkana. “Networked Niceness: Gendered Affective Publics and Potentialities of Political Resistance.” AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, November. https://spir.aoir.org/ojs/index.php/spir/article/view/10025.
2015 Rambukkana, Nathan. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Community: Territoriality, Intimacy and Ownership in Online Spaces.” AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research 5 (April). https://spir.aoir.org/ojs/index.php/spir/article/view/9038.
2023 Rambukkana, Nathan. "Platform Intimacies” [Playlist article]. Canadian Journal of Communication 48, no. 1: 175–190. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjc.2022-0065.
2018 Matthews, Sara, and Nathan Rambukkana. "Editorial: The Intersectionality of Hate.” Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture, and Social Justice 39, no. 1. http://journals.msvu.ca/index.php/atlantis/article/view/5433.
2015 Luhmann, Susanne, Suzanne Lennon, and Nathan Rambukkana. 2015. “Introduction: Intimacies/Affects.” Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture, and Social Justice 37, no. 1, 3–5. http://journals.msvu.ca/index.php/atlantis/article/view/4787/pdf_33.
2005 Gautier, Sean, and Nathan Rambukkana. 2005. “Introduction: Some Preliminary Thoughts on Control Societies or Welcome to the Planet of the Apes.” GR: Journal for The Arts, Sciences & Technology 3, no. 1, 6–8.
2021 Rambukkana, Nathan. "Is the Distant Sociality and Digital Intimacy of Pandemic Life Here to Stay?" OUPblog, January 30. https://blog.oup.com/2021/01/is-the-distant-sociality-and-digital-intimacy-of-pandemic-life-here-to-stay/.
2017 Rambukkana, Nathan. “Critical Intimacy Studies in an Era of Intersectional Hate.” NOMOREPOTLUCKS46. http://nomorepotlucks.org/site/critical-intimacy-studies-in-the-era-of-intersectional-hate-nathan-rambukkana/.
Languages spoken: English, French
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