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Rhetorical Field Methods/Rhetorical Ethnography  

Roberta Chevrette, Jenna Hanchey, Michael Lechuga, Aaron Hess, and Michael K. Middleton

Rhetorical scholars have recently taken up rhetorical field methods, rhetorical ethnography, and other participatory methods to augment textual approaches. Following critical rhetoric, field researchers engage emplaced and embodied perspectives, thereby gaining an immediate understanding of rhetoric and its effects on audiences. Rhetorical field methods/ethnography challenge key assumptions and ethics about rhetorical research, including conceptions of text, context, the critic, the rhetor, and audiences. Although antecedent work at this intersection exists, only recently have rhetorical scholars given full attention to how fieldwork orientations and participatory approaches challenge the project of rhetoric. Rhetorical field methods/ethnography have been applied in a wide array of topic areas, including social movement research, public memory, environmental/ecological rhetoric, digital rhetoric, international contexts, and audience studies. Tensions that have arisen as a consequence of taking up participatory perspectives include whether such research engages in critical/cultural appropriation or can effectively be conducted within groups that researchers ideologically oppose. Moreover, incorporating participant perspectives, non-textual elements, and affective considerations opens rhetoric to forms of expression that span well beyond traditional, logos-centered criticism. Such a move may dilute rhetorical research by flattening expression, making nearly all elements of human life open for critical consideration. Finally, rhetorical field methods/ethnography have emerged in a larger context of disciplinary reflexivity, with many questioning rhetoric’s racist and colonial histories and legacies. To this end, we offer anti-colonial landmarks, orienting toward multidimensionality, liquidity, queering, and community, while disorienting from citizenship. These landmarks trouble rhetoric’s legacies, and invite scholars to engage more deeply with de/colonial possibilities of rhetorical fieldwork.

Article

Propaganda and Rhetoric  

John Oddo

Propaganda was first identified as a public crisis following World War I, as citizens discovered that their own governments had subjected them to deception and emotional manipulation. Today, it seems no less disturbing. Accusations swirl decrying fake news, spin, active measures, and, again, propaganda. But with nearly every accusation there is also a denial and, more important, a counteraccusation: that propaganda is merely a label applied to messages one dislikes, a slippery word that says more about the accuser’s politics than it does about supposed defects in communication. The slipperiness surrounding propaganda has fascinated scholars for over a century, as they have grappled with whether and how it can be distinguished from other kinds of rhetoric. One crucial sticking point concerns propaganda’s means of persuasion. It is commonly supposed that propaganda relies on falsity, emotion, and irrational appeals. However, adjudicating what is true and reasonable is not as clear-cut as it may seem, and much work attempts to differentiate manipulation from legitimate persuasion. Another key concern is the morality of propaganda. Some theorize that it is intrinsically wrong because it seeks its own partisan agenda. But others argue that partisanship is characteristic of all advocacy, and they wonder whether propaganda can and should be employed for worthy democratic purposes. Finally, scholars propose different models for how propaganda works. One model features a propagandist who deliberately targets a passive audience and attempts to move them for selfish ends. But other models see propaganda as a more collective activity, something that audiences pass around to each other, either purposefully or without any design. Difficult as it is to define propaganda, however, scholars do agree on two things: It is enormously powerful, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Article

Ancient Rhetoric  

Susan C. Jarratt

In the Greek-speaking cultures of the ancient Mediterranean, effective and artful speech was highly valued: practiced and reflected upon from the time of Homer (ca. 8th-century bce), and conceptualized as “rhetoric” in the 5th and 4th centuries bce. At the moment of its emergence, rhetoric was bifurcated: the new discipline of philosophy denigrated it as a realm of mere opinion and potential deception while teachers and public figures began a process of building from its resources an elaborate edifice of training—a paideia—essential for success in political, legal, and cultural life. Consolidated as the queen of arts in the medieval curriculum, rhetoric was studied by European and Arabic scholars and remained at the center of elite learning for centuries, reaching a high point in the Renaissance, when significant texts of ancient rhetoric were revived. With the study of ancient Greek and Latin languages and literature at its foundation, this model of university education was adopted by colleges in the American colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. The rise of modern science and the utilitarianism of the Industrial Age eroded this classical foundation in the late 19th century. The rediscovery of ancient rhetoric in 20th-century U.S. university departments of speech communication beginning in the 1920s and 1930s and a decade or so later in the adjacent fields of English and composition studies has brought ancient rhetorical concepts and debates under new scrutiny. A story dominated by readings of Aristotle’s Rhetoric for most of 20th century has been transformed by revisionist reinterpretations from the 1990s onward emphasizing, among other changes, (a) a sophistic line of influence running from classical Athens through the Roman imperial period, (b) a revaluation of epideictic (ceremonial) rhetoric with its wide range of genres, and (c) a shift in periodization to take in late antiquity and the Byzantine era. Twenty-first-century scholars draw on ancient sources to generate new rhetorical conceptions of time, space, energy, and imagination, putting visual and material as well as verbal texts under analysis in this dynamic field of study.

Article

The Invention of Race in Turkey  

Matthew deTar

Racial thinking in the late Ottoman Empire and Turkey emerged out of a vast global network of hegemonic discourses. Modernity, colonialism, nationalism, and racism are mutually constitutive discourses with respect to their historical emergence in Europe, but they are also mutually constitutive as they emerge in other specific locations. Racisms that emerge subsequent and analogous to European racism help indicate the specific necessary connections among these kinds of broad overlapping discourses. The exploration of racism in Turkey holds significant potential for communication scholars as a means of refining theories of racism that do not typically focus on non-Western racism. The historical emergence of racism and racial thinking in Turkey also shaped the structure and content of Turkish nationalist history, making certain chronologies and “history-of-ideas” approaches to Turkish historiography fraught scholarly pursuits. Even explorations of the origins of the term Turk reflect this racial thinking, because the Turk concept only began circulating in the late Ottoman empire and early Turkish Republic alongside race science as the name of an ancient race. Race science is, however, only one domain of knowledge production and human experience, and it is not solely responsible for the invention of Turk as a race. Rather, modernization narratives of the 19th-century Ottoman Empire, a catastrophic series of wars in the Balkans, and contact with European nationalisms all uniquely helped establish racial thinking as a hegemonic discourse prior to the foundation of the Turkish Republic. More significantly, the horrors of the Armenian Genocide, the massive Greek population exchange, and policies of forced migration and assimilation toward Kurds during and after World War I materially established the hegemony of Turkish racial discourse and the presumed reality of a Turkish race itself. In the context of these events, Turkish nationalism must be understood not simply through its own idealistic lens as a project of civic republicanism, but instead as a discourse that emerged in connection with colonialist logics, racism, and modernity. Just as scholars have argued that European modernity is constitutively linked to colonialism and racism, Turkish nationalism embarked on a “modernizing” project beholden to colonialism and racism. Communication scholars interested in both the constitutive dimensions of discourse and the knowledge-producing effect of “universalization” as it appears in discourses like modernity, colonialism, racism, and nationalism will find that the Turkish historical encounter with these discourses offers important insight into the operation of universalization itself.

Article

Queer Temporalities  

Dustin Goltz

The political and ideological workings of temporality—how our engagement and understanding of time is culturally constructed and assigned meaning—has garnered much attention by queer theorists inside and beyond the field of communication. Specifically, queer temporality, as an interventionist project, interrogates the assumed naturalness of straight temporality, its governing logics, and its foreclosures. Stemming from the work of queer theorists such as Lee Edelman, Jack Halberstam, Jose Esteban Muñoz, and Elizabeth Freeman, queer temporality calls for reconsideration of how marriage, children, generativity, and inheritance define and confine cultural expectations of maturation, responsibility, happiness, and future. Additionally, queer temporality seeks to question how time is approached and performed, examining the political elements of these understandings. In short, queer temporality pushes against heteronormativity’s framing and disciplining of time, charting more queer ways to think about history, pace, relationships, notions of success, and the linear segmentation of past/present/future.

Article

Rhetorical Contexts of Colonization and Decolonization  

Tiara R. Na'puti

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

Postcolonial Approaches to Communication and Culture  

Rashmi Luthra

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

Space in Rhetorical Theory  

J. 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

Political Cartoons  

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

Ethics, Rhetoric, and Culture  

Ronald C. Arnett

Signification of human meaning dwells in ethics and culture, finding expression in and through rhetorical practices. Ethics and culture consist of goods and practices that gather the meaningful and the important together, yielding urgency for rhetorical employment of those practices. The union of ethics, culture, and rhetoric offers a coherent dwelling for the protection and promotion of the consequential. Ethics and culture house actions of meaningfulness that compel rhetorical expression, announcing a stance attentive to the vital, reminding self and informing other of a particular account of the consequential. Ethics and culture adjudicate a sense of ground that nourishes rhetorical understanding and engagement with the world. Rhetoric explicates practices of import that reflect the performative reality of ethics and culture, retelling self and other about the crucial. Rhetoric permits self and other to interrogate a ground of distinctive goods and practices that structure the noteworthy. Rhetoric facilitates discovery, testing, and knowledgeable implementation. It moves ethics and culture from points of abstraction to knowing public coordinates in a communicative social world that is impactful on self and others. The interplay of ethics, culture, and rhetoric in their triconstruction and enactment engenders human meaning. Rhetoric thrusts unique versions of ethics and culture into the public domain, and such action renders practical awareness of the existence of contrasting content of import. Acknowledging dissimilarity exposes and probes contrasting goods and practices. Rhetoric enhances public knowledge of differences undergirding juxtaposed ethical and cultural stances.