About Our Space

“A criminal, a gangster, a member of a religious organization of robbers and assassins in India,” these, we have long labeled as thug.

The Word

At least as far back as nineteenth century India, the word Thug was conceived by the British to describe a religious cult of bandits who saw attacking, robbing, and (bloodless) killing as a spiritual act. Much of what these “Thuggees” were purported to have carried out was concocted by colonizers, whose fear incited the accretion of a militarized police force. Today, the word is still used to stigmatize—typically, people of color who may not subscribe to White socio-cultural and political norms. Some resist the word. Others embrace it. We were drawn to the word Thug not out of a desire to claim it, but to remind us of cultural meaning-making, and to invite us to reflect on our disputed history. We are drawn to those who have not always been afforded the time, space, and/or opportunity to reclaim their world and their humanness through the creative arts: artists, writers, educators, humans. Some might call them the critics, others disruptors. We call them “word thugs.”

The Я is the last letter in the Cyrillic alphabet, and in U.S. popular culture, is inserted into TV and film spy dramas, etc. to make a scene “look Russian” and/or connote communism and/or large fur hats. Like the word “thug,” it is a coded trope advertising the confusion of most (if #notall) its users. The letter, in its use and pronunciation, also has no relation to the use or sounds made with an “R.” We like it for the same reason we like the word “thug,” because it reminds us of how easy it is to get things backwards, to misunderstand, and to poorly and prejudicially represent based on relationship to familiar ideas. We also use it because Word Thug is secretly plotting to eliminate capitalism and take your guns. Of course. But mostly the first part.

The Mission

Word Thug is a new, all-volunteer critical and literary multimedia magazine with an emancipatory call for creative expression by community artists, writers, and educators. We contend that if the language arts emboldens the power to disrupt social apathy, inspire social change, and organize communities toward the world “as it could and should be,” then we must expand the boundaries of language access, power, and privilege, and redefine what it means to know and to draft toward that knowing. We must question what we assume about writing and writers, reading and readers, and what kinds of language we privilege, and whose.

Find Your Space

We are home to three critical spaces designed to engage in conversations about the cultural, social, political, and historical exercises of power and privilege, and the preservation of that power and privilege. They are as follows:

Creative Voices is a space for the literary arts. Writers, artists, and educators of the everyday perform counter-narratives and stories in various forms: written, short film, audio/oral history, photographs, and mixed media.

Section Editor: Bernadette Esposito

Learning Voices is a space for critical essays about craft, process, language, and the practice and teaching of them. Writers, artists, and educators of the everyday explore and critique what it means to labor through craft within and beyond dominant cultural spaces.

Section Editor: Meg Jacobs

Disorderly Voices is space for ongoing conversations about current issues related to language, culture, politics, privilege, power, and everything in between.

Section Editor: Stephen McNutt

about our word thugs


Rossina Zamora Liu – Editor

Stephen McNutt – Managing Editor

Jeremy Swanston – Webmaster and Media Editor

Section Editors

Bernadette Esposito – Creative Voices

Meg Jacobs – Learning Voices

Stephen McNutt – Disorderly Voices

Anna Kilzer – Photographer & Photo Editor

Charles Truong – Videographer & Video Editor

Regular Contributors (bloggers and essayists)

Raj Chakrapani

Ngoc Le

Kelli Rushek


We are currently inviting abstract submissions for our spring 2018 pilot that critique the cultural, social, political and historical exercises of power and privilege, and the preservation of that power and privilege. For Creative Voices, we like literary counter-narratives and stories exploring self in dominant cultural and/or racialized spaces.  For Learning Voices, we like critical essays examining craft, process, language, and the practice and teaching of them. And for Disorderly Voices, we like blogs reflecting on current issues of culture, politics, and everything in between. We like all forms—video, audio, oral history, photographic, mixed media—and we also like the regular, written kind. We like all genres—nonfiction, fiction, poetry, spoken word, hip hop—but please, no weird academic five-paragraphs. And we like all voices—dramatic, humorous, thoughtful, witty, smart—because let’s be real, no one likes to peruse work by robots.

To submit your abstract, please email us at submissions@WordThug.com.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Written essays: Up to 5,000 words.
  • Video and audio essays: Up to 10 minutes.
  • Photographic and visual arts essays: Up to 5 visual pieces
  • Mixed media/forms may be a combination of the above guidelines, e.g., 5 visual pieces accompanied by up to 10 minutes of audio.

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