Newswise — While there is no shortage of academic disciplines that extensively research issues of race, marketing is not on the list. A group of researchers, including one from American University, plan to change that through the study of how racial oppression, power and privilege impact the marketplace. 

In a recent publication, Sonya Grier, professor of marketing at American University’s Kogod School of Businesses discussed the formation of the Race in the Marketplace (RIM) Research Network, an interdisciplinary group of scholars and scholar-activists that will support research that support transformative public policies and community actions. 

The article, published in the December edition of Consumption Markets & Culture, highlights the need for a more critical, interdisciplinary, and international approach to studying issues at the intersection of race and markets.  The authors note the limited research in the marketing canon, despite daily marketing controversies such as those recently experienced by H&M, Dove and Kellogg’s Corn Pops.

For Grier, along with co-authors Kevin D. Thomas of the University of Texas and Guillaume D. Johnson of the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the decision to research race, despite the challenges faced by people of color in nearly every aspect of life, was discouraged by colleagues.

“The three of us were advised by multiple senior faculty ‘don’t study race, as a black person you will be typecast’ and ‘wait until after tenure for that risky topic,’ a story co-signed by PhD students who contact us for advice on how best to pursue such topics and the politics that come with it,” they write. 

Grier also believes that the discouragement her colleagues face extends beyond tenured faculty. If faculty are being told not to examine race, it also impacts classroom education, which impacts how students conduct themselves as professionals.

“This is how we are training students, without an understanding of race, and potentially why we see all these controversies in the marketplace,” she says. 

But, with communities of color worldwide disproportionately impacted by market-related issues, an intersectional research lens that ignored the role of race was all but impossible. 

With RIM, Grier and her colleagues aim to bring academic research out of the ivory towers and into communities and legislative bodies across the world. 

“Race is central to all kinds of markets, not just traditional product markets, but also health, education, housing and other markets that contribute to people’s well-being. And the reality of racialized hierarchies needs to be embedded in our research to have more equitable market outcomes.

The first RIM Research Forum was held last spring at American University and brought together more than 50 scholars from a variety of fields to discuss the role of race in the marketplace. 

The Research Network is currently in the process of developing an edited volume on race to provide a cohesive collection of critical, cross-disciplinary, globally conscious scholarship in the emerging RIM subject area. RIM will spend 2018 building organizational infrastructure, member recruitment, an edited book dedicated to RIM issues, and preparing for the 2019 RIM Forum to be held in Paris, France.  Grier and her colleagues want the network to contribute to the creation of a robust stream of research to support the development of more racially equitable marketplaces. 

About American University
American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 140 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.