B.A. Indiana University
M.A. and Ph.D. Northwestern University
My teaching and research interests include African rhetoric and media, the role of performance in postcolonial political spheres, and rhetorical criticism of African popular culture. At St. Lawrence I teach courses on the history of communication (considering it within its traditions of rhetoric, media, and performance), intercultural communication, and media and performance in contemporary Africa. In the classroom I encourage students to debate the possibilities of deliberation, judgment, and advocacy within multicultural, democratic societies and reflect on the role of communication during their time at St. Lawrence and beyond. My classes are regularly dual-listed with African Studies, Global Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. Personal website: Erkjhnsn.net.
This summer (Summer 2015), I will be partnering with Madeleine Wong in Global Studies to lead an interdisciplinary group of students to Ghana for a three-week course, "Global Ghana: African Democracy and Postcolonial Culture." For more information on how you can travel to Ghana and earn SLU credit at the crossroads of African politics, diasporic cultural connections, and emerging global economics, email me or Professor Wong.
My research integrates methods of textual criticism, qualitative media studies, archival research, and ethnographic participation. My current project is a book-length study of political speech and performance in Ghana during the transition from colony to nation (1947–1966). Building on my research in Ghana since 2001, I explore compositions of power in communicative artistry with special attention to the way these compositions influence popular culture and mass communication. As part of this research I won the 2012 Benson–Campbell Dissertation Research Award, presented by the National Communication Association's Public Address Division in recognition of outstanding promise in doctoral research, and the 2016 Graduate Dissertation Award of Northwestern University’s School of Communication. Other ongoing projects include research into performance and citizenship among university students in the postcolony and an ethnographic media study of call-in radio shows in Ghana. For that project on students, I'm currently focusing on the song- and performance-traditions of the "Vandals" of Commonwealth Hall on the campus of the University of Ghana.
I have a background performing sketch, improv and stand-up comedy across the country, including training and performing with the Second City’s Conservatory Program, iO Chicago (formerly ImprovOlympic!), the Annoyance Theatre, and independent comedy troupes across the midwest. I draw upon these experiences to contribute to the Performance and Communication Arts department's ongoing conversation between traditions of performance/theater and communication/rhetoric.
Recent Publications and Presentations:
Erik Johnson, "Nkrumah and the Crowd: Mass Politics in Emergent Ghana," Advances in the History of Rhetoric 17, no. 1 (2014): 98-107.
This article analyzes Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah, which was published to coincide with Ghana's independence on March 6, 1957. Whereas the political and social imagination of the Anglo-American world during the postwar years was riddled with anxieties concerning the masses, the crowd scenes of Nkrumah's Ghana elaborate the characteristics of a political community centered on mass society. The article concludes by noting the possibility of a mass civic art culled from the rhetorical tradition of Ghana.
I've presented at national and international conferences in Communication Studies, African Studies, and in a variety of interdisciplinary forums, including regularly at the National Communication Association (NCA) and Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) conferences. For example, at the upcoming 2014 NCA Conference I will be chairing a panel discussion with Dipesh Chakrabarty to discuss his influential essay "The Climate of History" and be a roundtable participant in a Preconference Seminar on "Rhetoric and Legacies of Race in the United States."
A complete list of my scholarship including publications, invited talks, conference participation, and other activity is available on my CV.
African Studies Association (ASA)
American Society for the History of Rhetoric (ASHR)
Ghana Studies Association (GSA)
National Communication Association (NCA)
Rhetoric Society of America (RSA)
PCA 127: Introduction to Communication Studies
PCA 250: Research Methods
PCA 310: Culture & Media
PCA 321: Intercultural Communication (Dual-listed with Gender & Sexuality Studies and Global Studies)
PCA 3002: Global Ghana: African Democracy and Postcolonial Culture (Summer course in Ghana; dual-listed with African Studies and Global Studies)
PCA 4000: New Media in Theory and Practice
PCA 4010: Media Cultures and Performance Traditions of Contemporary Africa (Dual-listed with African Studies)
PCA 4034: Visual Rhetoric (Co-taught with Jessica Prody)PCA 4044: Global Media (Dual-listed with African Studies)
PCA 4070: African Rhetorical Traditions (Short-term Travel Component to New Orleans; Dual-listed with African Studies and Global Studies)