The award was presented for Dr. Johnson’s doctoral dissertation entitled “Queer Possibilities in Digital Media Composing,” written for his PhD at Ohio State University in 2020.

“I am very honored and humbled to receive this national recognition from NCTE and CCCC,” Dr. Johnson says. “This project is about possibilities and the ways teachers and students might work together to create assessments, curriculums, and pedagogies that ‘queer’ — disrupt; work on and against — current learning practices. I am excited about the possibilities for enacting this socially just, anti-racist, and culturally sustaining digital praxis at CBU.”

Dr. Johnson was born and raised in southeast Louisiana and is a first-generation college student, also holding a BA from Nicholls State University and an MA from North Carolina State University. He joined the CBU faculty in 2020 and teaches courses in composition, multimodal writing, cultural rhetorics, service-learning/community engagement, and digital media. His award-winning research on emergent pedagogy, coalitional learning, queer theory, and digital technologies is published or forthcoming in Computers and Composition, Composition Studies, College Literacy and Learning, Peitho: The Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, Pre/Text: A Journal of Rhetorical Theory, and various edited collections.

“As a first-generation graduate, I know that no research project — and certainly no dissertation — is completed without the support of a coalition of voices,” Johnson adds. “I’m very thankful to the students who participated in this study, my mentors at Ohio State University who guided my writing process, my colleagues and students at CBU who welcomed and engaged this work, and my family and friends who continue to support me and my research. I share this award with all of you.”

This Lavender Rhetorics Award is presented annually to three works (one book, one article, and one dissertation) published within the past two years that best make queer interventions into the study of composition and rhetoric. Works should rise to a high level of excellence in their originality, the significance of their pedagogical or theoretical contributions to the field, and their existing or potential influence. The Selection Committee considers the nature of the problem(s) addressed, the contribution’s timeliness, how effectively the work utilizes research or scholarship to fill voids in our existing knowledge, how well the work demonstrates potential for application (pedagogically or in other contexts), and what promise the work holds for future exploration and investigation.

Dr. Johnson will formally be announced as a recipient of the CCCC Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship’s Dissertation Award during the 2021 CCCC Awards Presentation this Spring.


For more information about the CCCC Lavender Rhetorics Award for Excellence in Queer Scholarship, including past winners, see

Dr. Gavin Johnson’s website:

Abstract for the dissertation: Using a transdisciplinary, multi-method framework of queer rhetorics paired with kinky empiricism (Rutherford, 2012), this dissertation takes as its central concern the question: How can teachers work with students to invent and orient learning toward queer possibilities without reifying culturally oppressive norms through neoliberal accountability logics? This line of inquiry, established in Chapter 1, orients toward digital and multimodal compositions, which offer rhetorical power within and beyond the classroom. Furthermore, digital media composing, when oriented through queer rhetorics, can be a space for dis-identification from institutionalized accountability logics and related oppressive systems (Muñoz, 1999; Ahmed, 2006).

In turn, this project studies assessment practices (Chapter 2), curricular developments (Chapter 3), and pedagogical engagements (Chapter 4) as conduits for queer possibilities in digital media composing classrooms. The concluding chapter asks, “what’s the use” (Ahmed, 2019) of queer possibilities in digital media composing and argues for a rhetoric of queer optimism to support the tactical strategies outlined throughout: response-ability, navigation, and coalitional praxis. In contrast to hope or cruel optimism (Berlant, 2011), queer optimism (Snediker, 2009) isn’t about finding happiness in neoliberal futures but rather asks us to compose inventive ways to live (not just survive) in the present. In sum, we shouldn’t aspire to certain, predetermined outcomes but try to make queer possibilities thinkable.