Workshop 14: Cultural Politics & Activism
Primarily Synchronous (June 1-4)
Offering an empirical warrant for a novel theory of radical protest in 1969, Robert L. Scott and Donald K. Smith observed that “confrontation crackles menacingly from every issue in our country, hemisphere, and globe.” Scott and Smith’s theory of confrontational rhetoric addressed the function of New Left speech in the late 1960s, challenging the disciplinary preference for civility and the field’s inattention to “obscenity, threats of violence, and the like.” Since then, rhetorical scholars have come to understand the tricks civility can play in establishing and preserving power relations, and along the way, confrontational rhetoric influenced the field’s understanding of social movements. This workshop returns to confrontational rhetoric to discover what it might tell us about cultural politics and activist rhetoric.
The workshop will be divided roughly in half. In Part 1, we will map confrontation’s trip through rhetorical studies, consider its relevance to contemporary political discourse, and evaluate confrontation’s potential to inform disciplinary trends associated with the study of politics and power. In Part 2, participants will be invited to present works-in-progress relevant to the workshop theme. Participants can expect that our hands-on approach to papers and projects will be informed by theoretical and critical reflection drawn from conceptual resources in rhetoric, political theory, and critical communication research.
We welcome projects that engage cultural politics and activism according to one or more of the following themes:
- social movement theory
- historical social movements
- histories and theories of political power
- race, gender, sexuality and/or (dis)ability
- generational rhetorics
- theories or case studies of coalition formation and/or solidarity
- late capitalism/neoliberalism and the political economy of rhetoric
The list above is by no means exhaustive. We are most interested in work that is thoughtful, innovative, creative, and which addresses the workshop themes writ large.
Dr. Lisa M. Corrigan (Ph.D. University of Maryland) is a Professor of Communication and Director of the Gender Studies Program at the University of Arkansas. She researches and teaches in the areas of intimacy studies, social movement studies, the Black Power and civil rights movements, prison studies, feminist studies, and the history of the Cold War. Her first book, Prison Power: How Prison Politics Influenced the Movement for Black Liberation (University Press of Mississippi, 2016), is the recipient of the 2017 Diamond Anniversary Book Award and the 2017 African American Communication and Culture Division Outstanding Book Award, both from the National Communication Association. Her second book is titled, Black Feelings: Race and Affect in the Long Sixties (University Press of Mississippi, 2020). Finally, she co-hosts a popular podcast with Laura Weiderhaft called Lean Back: Critical Feminist Conversations. She is currently working on a book about political intimacies.
Abraham I. Khan is the Laurence and Lynne Brown – McCourtney Early Career Professor in the College of Liberal Arts at Penn State where he is also an Assistant Professor in the Departments of African American Studies and Communication Arts & Sciences. His work exists at the intersection of sport, the politics of racial justice in the US, and theories of civic engagement. Abe’s broad interest in public narratives surrounding Black athletes has taken shape in scholarly essays on individuals like Jackie Robinson, Michael Sam, and Richard Sherman, in addition to a book on baseball player Curt Flood and the history of Black political culture. His current interests center on the “renaissance of the activist athlete,” defined by both a resurgence in the number of Black athletes engaging in political speech and the emergence of a sophisticated media discourse dedicated to narrating it.