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Steinhardt professor receives prestigious award for his new book

Posted on October 10, 2012 | by Lesley Greenberg

Charlton McIlwain, Steinhardt associate professor of Media, Culture and Communication, received the Ralph J. Bunche Award in August from the American Political Science Association for his book, “Race Appeal: How Candidates Invoke Race in U.S. Political Campaigns.” Stephen Caliendo, an associate professor of political science at North Central College in Illinois, co-authored the book.

Every year, the APSA awards the best book published in the United States during the previous calendar year that explores the phenomenon of ethnic and cultural pluralism.

In “Race Appeals,” McIlwain and Caliendo examine the effect of voter’s race on their decisions during elections in which a candidate is a member of a minority group.

“It is an exciting, humbling and satisfying feeling to be recognized by and receive this level of praise and respect by my scholarly colleagues and peers,” McIlwain said.

Melissa Marschall, a professor at Rice University and member of the award committee for 2012, said the committee received more than 40 nominations this year, and it took weeks to select the winner. The committee made their final selection based on three categories: originality in terms of theory and argument, interesting or path-breaking data and potential contribution to literature on race, ethnicity and cultural pluralism.

“‘Race Appeal’ is not only a groundbreaking work that represents the most extensive and thorough treatment of race-based appeals in American political campaigns to date but also an outstanding example of multidisciplinary work that integrates research and theory across the fields of communication and political science,” the committee said on its website.

“Race Appeal” included a significant amount of research such as content analysis of approximately 800 political ads, two experiments testing the potential effects of different kinds of race-based appeals and a content analysis of newspaper coverage of contests featuring at least one candidate of color.

“The dynamics of today’s racial politics are changing rapidly given the increasing diversity of candidates, the increasing diversity of the electorate, the nature of media and forms of candidate’s political communications,” McIlwain said.

McIlwain said some steps need to be taken to achieve an ideal political environment.

“Greater recognition of the ways that racial inequity and discrimination exist would be a positive first step,” he said. “An increased willingness to talk publicly about race in substantive and productive ways would be a good second step.”

Marita Sturken, department chair and professor of Steinhardt’s Media, Culture and Communication department, said McIlwain and Caliendo’s book was a great piece of research.

“[‘Race Appeal’ is] a fine example of research that can illuminate key issues of how race shapes political ads and political discourse,” Sturken said. “This book is highly deserving of this honor.”

Jeremiah Wilson, a Steinhardt graduate student who had McIlwain as a professor, described him as a teacher and mentor both inside and outside of the classroom.

“I think professor McIlwain deserves the award for his book and his consistent work on race and ethnicity,” Wilson said. “After taking [Intro to Rhetorical Criticism], I started not only re-examining speech and discourse heard in the media but within myself
as well.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 10 print edition. Lesley Greenberg is a contributing writer. Email her at 


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