Workshop 18: Whither Ethos?: From the Human to the Nonhuman, the Inhuman, and Beyond
Carolyn R. Miller and Peter Simonson
Aristotle identified ethos as the most potent means of persuasion. With its focus on the character of the speaker as displayed in rhetorical performance, the concept and practices of ethos helped sustain humanist conceptions of agency and gendered assumptions about rhetorical decorum. But what happens to ethos in a post-human era? How can ethos be conceived in the aftermath of the dissolution of the masculine bourgeois subject, to say nothing of the premodern virtue-constituted character?
Some new directions of thinking have included the concept of ethos as “haunts,” locations, or gathering places (Hyde 2004); a related emphasis on ethos as having a collective meaning, relevant to communities and polities (Halloran 1982); a more protean, ontoethical sense of ethos as cultivated dispositions of dynamic engagement (Connolly, 1995); a family of feminist-ecological approaches premised on relationalities and intersectionalities among and beyond humans (Ryan, Meyers, and Jones, ed., 2016); and an interest in technological hybridization that disperses ethos and related questions of agency across human–nonhuman networks (Miller, 2004, 2007; Rickert 2013); as well as a turn to an “inhuman” scale necessary for confronting physically large and temporally slow phenomena, such as climate change (Pilsch 2017).
We welcome participants engaged in projects that challenge, question, or struggle with ways to cultivate ethos in the present moment and invite applications that engage these issues from a wide range of theoretical and methodological perspectives. Before we meet, participants should plan to circulate a brief paper draft, extended abstract, or working outline of their project to the group. Recommended readings will include some of the items cited above and will engage a variety of approaches to conceptualizing ethos in what some cast as the post-human dispensation. Workshop activities will include issue-focused discussion of the readings, as well as group work on participant projects geared to establishing productive framing and directions for development. We’ll conclude with collective articulation of productive ways to think about ethos in the present moment, as well as concrete research plans for each participant’s project.