Rethinking the Black Public Sphere: An Alternative Vocabulary for Multiple Public Spheres

Squires, Catherine R.
Communication Theory

Many theorists propose that there are multiple, coexisting “subaltern” counterpublic spheres. However, most discussions of these subaltern counterpublics rely on group identity markers to differentiate between these spheres and do not provide alternative means for distinguishing between subaltern public spheres. This essay presents an alternative vocabulary for multiple public spheres through an exploration of the history of the African American public sphere. Three types of marginal publics, enclave, counterpublic, and satellite, are defined as examples of how we might incorporate considerations of the kinds of resources different publics have available to them. This vocabulary facilitates more flexible descriptions of publics that are normally defined by identity and allows for more comprehensive comparisons across public spheres.