The Rhetoric Society of America's conference has so far been my favorite. conference. ever. Just looking at the schedule gets me anxious for the semester to end - must get to Atlanta STAT. This year I'm presenting with a few folks I met in the Rhetoric & Ethics pre-conference workshop at CCCC in 2015. Because we're all interested in rhetoric and human rights, we've put together a panel titled "Structures of Imprisonment: Rhetoric and Change in 21st Century Prison Activism." My contribution to this May's line-up is research on Abu Ghraib Detention Center as a space where (sometimes violent) material rhetorics haunt us.
Here's a brief abstract:
The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib: On Violence and "Rhetorical Lifeworlds"
In light of growing attention to rhetoric's materiality and our participation in "rhetorical lifeworlds," this presentation theorizes the suasive materiality of the now-infamous Abu Ghraib Detention Center to imagine a Burkean way of placement, a shift in scope, that is attentive to rhetoric's material and symbolic violence. Critics like Thomas Rickert maintain that our notion of rhetoric "must be grounded in the material relations from which it springs, not simply as the situation giving it its shape and exigence, but as part of what we mean by rhetoric." Put another way, rhetoric changes us before recognizable symbols are produced and thus exceeds knowability. But where might the violence of rhetorical action--in this case, interrogational torture--fit in? How are we to reconcile what Elaine Scarry calls acts that "unmake" the world with current conceptions of rhetoric's generative materiality? If we are indeed "jointed" in a rhetorical latticework, as Rickert proposes, we are called to locate, if not understand, the destruction of the world wrought by torture. At stake in such efforts is the hope we have for rhetoric as a kind of making, as a democratic and emancipatory enterprise that creates the stuff of life.
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