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Toward an Abolitionist Model of Media Literacy

A project of the Abolition for All Time Humanities Lab

Orienting Yourself to Media

An abolitionist approach to media literacy begins by developing what bell hooks (1992) calls an “oppositional gaze.” Rather than passively consuming media, we want to develop habits of critical reading, with an eye towards recognizing oppression and building resistance to / rebellion against representations and narratives that further oppression.. 

Traditional news media literacy tools like “information neighborhoods” (understanding what kind of information a website is trying to provide you, like entertainment, opinion, or news) and “lateral reading” (opening additional tabs to search for additional information) can help kickstart a critical approach to engaging with media. 

But we need to expand media literacy tools further and make them our own:

  • What "neighborhoods" do you regularly visit to consume news?
  • What kinds of tools, additional voices, and trusted resources do you have when a story strikes you as problematic?
  • What questions do you have when you sit down to read a newspaper, listen to a podcast, watch a TikTok, or visit Instagram?

Key Questions

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Humanities for All Times Initiative


The “Abolition for All Time” Humanities Lab at Knox College is an initiative to examine the theme of “abolition” as both a historical legacy of the College and as an urgent concern for its present and future. The Lab hosts course-based projects from all disciplines to generate new opportunities for civic and community engagement. Abolition Lab projects range from archival-based research courses with points of inter-institutional collaboration to experiential learning opportunities exploring contemporary social justice issues. The Lab promotes communication and cross-fertilization among projects and supports the production and presentation of digital humanities scholarship.