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Article

Critical affect theory continues to hold promise for rhetorical theory and criticism. This article revisits the so-called affective turn in rhetoric and addresses subsequent critiques of the idea of a turn. Accounting for scholarship published since 2010, this article then groups critical affect work into six subareas of research in rhetorical studies: feminist, queer, trans, and crip affects; race and affect; Black women’s affective labor; affective publics and counterpublics; new materialism, materiality, and affect; and affective economics. This article outlines affective methodologies in rhetorical studies and highlights the affective dimensions of “theories of the flesh” in rhetorical inquiry. It ends by considering what is critical about affect theory in rhetoric.

Article

Joan Faber McAlister

The phrase gender in rhetorical theory refers to how gendered identities and dynamics have shaped the conceptualizing of rhetorical performances and interactions. Scholars have attended to this dimension of rhetoric by examining problems relating to gendered norms and representations as contexts, conditions, and functions for rhetoric. Despite the different aims and times of these inquiries, they share central concerns about the gendered productions and exclusions of discourses and rhetorical practices. Scholars also contribute to work in both rhetorical scholarship and gender studies by bringing diverse projects into contact to create new insights. Scholarly attention to gender in rhetorical studies has often critiqued conventional theories of rhetoric for importing simplistic accounts of gender or for failing to address its importance at all. Many crucial contributions to rhetorical studies have worked to correct this problem by drawing on interdisciplinary literature—particularly from feminist theory, intersectional analysis, queer theory, trans theory, and masculinity studies—enriching understandings of how rhetoric functions. Such research has enabled rhetorical theory to begin to account for distinct embodied encounters, material conditions, and performative agencies. Scholars have drawn on interdisciplinary literature to advance a more nuanced account of gendered experiences and representations in rhetorical theory. This research has often related sexism and misogyny to a host of other forms of bias and bigotry that are evident in some of the scholarly assumptions and abstractions guiding the discipline of rhetorical studies. These include universal and neutral standards of rhetorical efficacy, individualistic accounts of the rhetorical agent, and definitions of rhetoric as a representation of (or response to) an external reality that appeals to a preexisting audience. Rhetorical theorists have also contributed to broader conversations engaging complexities of gender by highlighting the role of discourse in the production of biological essentialisms; gender binaries; interlocking oppressions; and multiple vectors of marginalization, discrimination, erasure, exclusion, and violence.

Article

Approaching letter writing as a rhetorical practice—as epistolary rhetoric—is not an obvious priority for queer studies in communication. Yet the importance of letters to LGBTQ+ studies of rhetoric have come to the fore in two key ways. In a first approach, following the long-standing use of letters as evidence within interdisciplinary LGBTQ+ histories, letters serve as vital primary sources in histories of LGBTQ+ rhetoric. Letters act as evidence of LGBTQ+ romantic, erotic, and sexual relations within queer studies of public memory. Also, acting as so-called hidden transcripts, letters document other kinds of background information about rhetorical situations. In a second approach LGBTQ+ letters have been analyzed as rhetoric. Receiving the most attention are obviously public and political letters, such as those appearing in movement publications, the rhetoric of public officials and their political campaigns, and activist letter-writing campaigns. Especially in the case of LGBTQ+ life, however, letters often blur the lines between genres that are public and private, political and intimate. As such, even those letters considered most intimate, such as romantic and erotic letters, have been theorized as forms of epistolary rhetoric. Both approaches persist and are in productive tension with each other. Whether scholars underscore how LGBTQ+ letters are rhetoric or simply draw on them as records of information, letters are indispensable sources for the development of LGBTQ+ histories of rhetoric, studies of public memory, and research on communication.

Article

While each term denoting the area of “Rhetoric and Critical/Cultural Studies” denotes a broad area of academic study on its own, there are numerous to contain or capture a specific area of study. Regardless of how it gets cordoned off, the area is defined by similar themes. In one sense, the area now going under this banner begins with the march of British cultural studies (especially, the so-called Birmingham School under Stuart Hall’s leadership) into the U.S. academic discussion that began in the 1970s. As this particular study of culture found its way into communication studies departments across the country, many scholars emerging from their graduate programs were shaping the area of rhetoric and critical/cultural scholars in the very act of researching the ways meanings/ideology were constrained and enabled by the operation of the entire circuit of meaning (i.e., production, consumption, representation, identity, and regulation). As the critical/culture study of rhetoric and communication has grown, several themes have emerged: (a) the study of ideological and discursive constraints (often linked to a critique of neoliberalism); (b) the study of media ecology and its way of shaping meaning; (c) studies focusing on reception/agency/resistance; (d) studies concerning materialism and the ways communication is altered by the political economy; (e) studies based in performativity; and (f) studies based in affect theory. In general, regardless of the orientation, these studies are concerned with issues of power and action around intersectional axes such as gender, race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, class, and nationality.

Article

Colonization and decolonization continue to be debated both in terms of their meaning and their efficacy in Communication Studies scholarship and across related fields of inquiry. Colonization is part of ongoing processes of subjugation that are linked to other forms of oppression including labor, occupation, and resource extraction. Inquiries about processes of colonization also involve examining corresponding efforts in decolonization processes. Decolonization entails an effort to critically reflect on colonialism and its impact upon colonized people and environments, it involves processes entangled with issues of sovereignty, self-determination, and territory, and so on. Indigenous Studies scholarship helps to foreground Indigeneity as a place from which broader inquiries on colonization and decolonization may be launched. The legitimacy of colonialism and its communicative dimensions has been a concern for scholars. Within the field of Communication, it notes particular contexts of colonization inquiry that overlap across topics and various areas of the discipline. Research on colonialism and its influence spans throughout rhetorical theory and critical/cultural studies to organizational communication and global communication. This scholarship has employed expansive methodologies from applied research to theoretical work and considered a wide range of issues from domestic, international, and transnational perspectives. The study of these powerful structures in rhetoric draws on interdisciplinary fields and raises challenges to intellectual traditions of the West, which have maintained the rhetoric canon. Rhetorical scholars call for the need to examine artifacts that exist at the “margins” and “outside” the imperial centers. They have theorized methods of rhetorical analysis that attend to the colonial and decolonial elements of discourse, power, and identity.

Article

The decolonization of nations in Asia, Africa, and Latin America in the late 20th century made possible the arrival of postcolonial academics who engaged in a critical and thoroughgoing analysis of the ways in which colonial histories have affected and continue to influence not only our understanding of phenomena, such as culture, but have influenced the very frames and processes of the creation and dissemination of knowledge about phenomena such as culture. While this work was initiated by postcolonial scholars of literature, postcolonial theory and frameworks have been adopted by several allied fields, including the communication field. Since the 1990s, communication scholars have been using postcolonial frameworks to deconstruct the colonial and neocolonial representations and tropes present in news and popular culture discourses. They have also brought communication theory to bear upon key concepts within postcolonial study, such as hybridity and diaspora. In the mid-1990s communication scholars joined the larger debate on the continued relevance of the postcolonial framework, and as with postcolonial scholars in other fields, they have continued to insist that the interruptive and political impetus of postcolonial theory provides an important entry point for the study of a world still shot through with colonial and neocolonial power relations. Although there is still a lot of scope to make the postcolonial approach more central to the communication field and its subfields, communication scholars have continued to use postcolonial theory to shed important insight on several vital communication issues. Feminist scholars of communication have been at the forefront of the effort to increase awareness and use of postcolonial frameworks for the study of communication.

Article

Joan Faber McAlister

The phrase “space in rhetorical theory” refers to scholarship that explores the relationships between place and persuasion, location and identity, and/or spatial dimensions of communication and communicative functions of spaces. These relationships have been theorized in a wide variety of ways, from classical conceptions of topos and the agora to recent work on new materialist and mobile rhetorics. Key themes in this research have included (1) settings where rhetoric takes place, (2) spatial metaphors for theorizing rhetoric, (3) rhetorical representations of public places, (4) the role of place in identity, (5) spatial aspects of rhetoric, (6) rhetorical functions of space, and (7) spatial-temporal-material relations. Rhetorical scholarship on such topics has been shaped by metadisciplinary movements, such as the visual, spatial, and affective “turns” in the humanities and social sciences. Rhetoricians of space have drawn on and contributed to widespread interest in public memory, mobile technologies, national borders, environmental communication, and global flows of capital and labor and tourism. Researchers in this arena of rhetorical studies have also addressed problems taken up by critical/cultural theorists more recently, including collective agency, posthuman subjectivity, and animate matter—each of which poses challenges to conventional distinctions between subjects (as individual human rational actors) and objects (as lifeless things to be acted upon). Reconsidering these categories is important when conceptualizing place-making processes and the forces exerted by living landscapes. In pursuing these topics and questions, rhetorical theorists have contributed to conversations among researchers in multiple areas of specialty within communication studies. Such research also engaged themes of interest to scholars of cultural geography, urban planning, gender and sexuality studies, literary criticism, environmental science, and additional diverse disciplines as well as interdisciplinary movements. Communication scholars studying precarity, mobility, and other evolving topics are generating promising new contributions to conversations on space and rhetoric each year. However, essential insights regarding space and rhetorical theory are still being mined from postcolonial/decolonial, critical race, feminist, and queer approaches that many critics argue are insufficiently incorporated into the rhetorical theories of space or spatial theories of rhetoric most often applied and taught.

Article

Zazil Reyes García

Political cartoons are rhetorical artifacts where journalism and popular culture intersect. Through the use of images and words, facts and fiction, political cartoons provide their readers with a point of view: a single frame loaded with vivid images and condensed meaning. Political cartoons perform several political and social functions; the main one is to provide political commentary on current events and social issues. Additionally, cartoonists often see their work as a weapon against the abuses of power. Thus, they seek to expose and ridicule the powerful. The result is not always funny, but it is often surprising. Political cartoons are valuable objects of study for many disciplines, such as art history, journalism, and sociology. Studying political cartoons can give us information about past and present political processes and social imagery; it can also serve to understand how visual elements are used to communicate; but most importantly, it provides insight into the cultural values, beliefs, and attitudes of the societies that produce them. Political cartoons are a form of communication with extraordinary rhetorical power. In order to construct meaning, and in hopes of persuading their audience, cartoonists use different rhetorical strategies, such as the use of metaphors and widely known cultural references. Like other rhetorical artifacts, political cartoons are not a straightforward form of communication. To understand one cartoon, people require multiple literacies, and often different people have different readings. Although the influence of political cartoons has diminished in some parts of the Western world, they continue to do political work around the world.

Article

Mats Ekström and Oscar Westlund

Epistemology is a central issue in journalism research. Journalism is among the most influential knowledge-producing institutions in modern society, associated with high claims of providing relevant, accurate, and verified public knowledge on a daily basis. More specifically, epistemology is the study of how, in this case, journalists and news organizations know what they know and how the knowledge claims are articulated and justified. Practices related to justification have been studied in (a) text and discourse; (b) journalist practices, norms, and routines within and outside the newsroom; and (c) audience assessment of news items and acceptance or rejection of the knowledge claims of journalism. Epistemology also includes the study of news and journalism as particular forms of knowledge. In journalism research, sociological approaches on epistemology have been developed to understand the institutionalized norms and practices in the processing of information and in socially shared and variable standards of justification, as well as in the authority of journalism in providing exclusive forms of knowledge in society. In recent years, epistemology has received increased scholarly interest in response to transformations within journalism: digitalization, emerging forms of data journalism, the acceleration of the news cycle, diminished human resources and financial pressure, and forms of audience participation.

Article

Matthew S. May and Kate Siegfried

Louis Pierre Althusser (1918–1990) is widely recognized as one of the most significant and influential Marxist philosophers associated with the structuralist turn in the middle of the 20th century. The ongoing publication of scholarly monographs that develop his conceptual legacy, the depth of his impact in disciplinary debates in fields across the humanities and social sciences, and the continued translation of his work from French into multiple languages, to offer only a few examples, testify to the consensus regarding the enduring importance of his theoretical innovations and often controversial interventions. He devoted tremendous intellectual energy toward a critique of humanism and phenomenological-based Marxism even as he eschewed traditional positivist economic explanations of history and exploitation—engaging in what amounts to nothing less than an effort to fundamentally shift the way the West reads and interprets Marx. Despite the controversial aspects of his interventions, there is little disagreement that the concepts produced by Althusser irreversibly affected and continue to affect the trajectory of Marxist and post-Marxist thought throughout the world, albeit often through the back door, smuggled in and unrecognized—in his lexicon: as an embedded but nevertheless absent cause.