Rhetorical Ontologies

full name / name of organization: 
Scot Barnett (Clemson) & Casey Boyle (Utah)
contact email: 
Scot Barnett [barnet6@clemson.edu] & Casey Boyle [casey.boyle@utah.edu]

This collection explores things that matter in rhetoric. Alongside related developments in philosophy, literary theory, and science and technology studies, scholars in rhetoric and composition have begun to inquire into things and the nonhuman more generally. Recent examples include examinations of how things exert material and suasive force: in the child’s toy that evokes sentiment and nostalgia (Hesse, Sommers, Yancey); in public monuments and museums that affect viewers individually and contribute to the construction of a shared sense of the past (Dickinson, Blair, Ott; Bernard-Donals); in the ways animals and animality complicate and enrich theoretical and historical understandings of rhetoric (Kennedy; Davis; Hawhee; Muckelbauer); in social networking platforms that gather and emplace users (Bay and Rickert); and in the problems of runaway objects such as global warming or the Deep Water Horizon (Spinuzzi; Engestrom). Such examples reveal the extent to which human and nonhuman beings are rhetorically intertwined and are ultimately irreducible to simple “subject-object” categorizations. Far from the inert objects or instruments we sometimes take them to be, things have their own particular suasion that contributes to the gathering of social, political, and rhetorical worlds.

Overall, these and other efforts to expand our human-centered rhetorics suggest that things matter rhetorically. Unlike cultural or epistemic rhetorics, which largely consider things as tools or backdrops for human activity, we see the emerging work on things as inviting scholars in the field to think rhetoric ontologically. By ontology we mean an attention and attunement to the inclusiveness of rhetorical practice. To what extent are rhetorical situations (Bitzer; Vatz) or ecologies (Cooper; Edbauer; Rice)--the circumference of rhetorical practices of invention and becoming--inclusive of both humans and nonhumans? A rhetorical ontological focus builds on our human-centered approaches to rhetoric to include how various material elements interact suasively. In what ways, we might ask, are student writers actively involved in rhetorical ontologies that include instructors and other writers, of course, but also classrooms, academic and government institutions, and cities as themselves writing technologies? Further, how might the work of administration or politics generally be productively rethought as “managing things” and taking account of a wide range of human and nonhuman actors? And what possibilities can we identify for rethinking public rhetorics so that they include those assemblages of human and nonhuman actors that compose our material environments and infrastructures, including highways, colleges, parks, and monuments? That such questions are not only thinkable to scholars in rhetoric and composition but have already begun to inform research in these areas indicates that our field is well situated to respond to the complex of relations between humans and nonhumans--the rhetorical ontologies--that collectively produce conditions and possibilities of everyday life.

For this edited collection, we invite chapter proposals that examine rhetorical ontologies by exploring the rhetorical co-operations between humans and nonhumans. While we are particularly interested in manuscripts that explore one or more of the following questions, proposed manuscripts can engage forms of
material suasion and questions of rhetorical ontologies in ways not prompted below:

• How have the field’s histories, theories, and practices challenged or contributed to rhetoric’s ontological turn? In what ways have related movements (e.g. posthumanism, feminist rhetorics, materialist rhetorics, etc.) also contributed and how might they continue to shape understandings of rhetorical ontologies?

• How can a rhetorical ontology approach inform current work in spatial rhetorics?

• What ethical implications follow an ontological turn in rhetoric and composition?

• How are issues of public rhetoric, civic engagement, and democratic deliberation affected by a turn to ontology?

• What are the ontological dimensions for medical rhetorics and neurorhetorics?

• How might race, gender, and/or class be engaged in terms of ontology?

• What challenges/possibilities do rhetorical ontologies pose for existing research methods and methodologies?

• In what ways do rhetorical ontologies matter in workplace and professional spaces?

• How could rhetorical ontologies refigure writing pedagogy, transfer, and assessment?

• How can issues of institutional labor, administration, and institutions of higher learning be re-thought in terms of rhetorical ontology?

• How might rhetorical ontologies problematize and enhance existing conceptions of technology and human-technology relations?

• In what ways could rhetorical ontology be a problematic venture?

500-word proposals should are due by February 15, 2013. Potential contributors will be notified by March 15, 2012 and completed manuscripts will be due September 15, 2012.

Questions and proposals should be directed to Scot Barnett [barnet6@clemson.edu] & Casey Boyle [casey.boyle@utah.edu].

A PDF of this CFP Can be found here: http://goo.gl/amf4B

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