Unruly Rhetorics is a smart, funny, and provocative collection of articles that are theoretical, pedagogical, historical, and sometimes polemical, but that always usefully interweave theoretical concerns with specific examples. The authors include scholars from both the speech and composition regions of rhetoric, thereby making the collection particularly useful for teaching.
What forces bring ordinary people together in public to make their voices heard? What means do they use to break through impediments to democratic participation? Unruly Rhetorics is a collection of essays from scholars in rhetoric, communication, and writing studies inquiring into conditions for activism, political protest, and public assembly. An introduction drawing on Jacques Rancière and Judith Butler explores the conditions under which civil discourse cannot adequately redress suffering or injustice. The essays offer analyses of “unruliness” in case studies from both twenty-first-century and historical sites of social-justice protest. The collection concludes with an afterword highlighting and inviting further exploration of the ethical, political, and pedagogical questions unruly rhetorics raise. Examining multiple modes of expression – embodied, print, digital, and sonic – Unruly Rhetorics points to the possibility that unruliness, more than just one of many rhetorical strategies within political activity, is constitutive of the political itself.
The strength of this collection and its chapters is the focus on the amorphousness of protests, how rhetoric as an act and as a set of persuasive means should be studied as unruly, communicative potentials in many modes. . . . Unruly Rhetorics is a refreshing, blatantly political collection that sits at a crucial intersection in the field of rhetoric and writing studies—that of rhetorics of protest and theories of incitement and action.
The resistance at Standing Rock Reservation, the Keystone XL pipeline protests, the teacher walkouts in Oklahoma—these events warrant the attention of scholars, inviting us to take seriously the use of disruptiveness as a rhetorical tactic and catalyst for social change. Unruly Rhetorics: Protest, Persuasion, and Publics, edited by Johnathan Alexander, Susan Jarratt, and Nancy Welch, offers a timely meditation on these very issues, as it seeks to uncover the communicative possibilities of protest at a time when the most strident forms of activism are dismissed as ‘uncivil.’
Jonathan Alexander is Chancellors Professor of English and Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, where he is also founding director of the Center for Excellence in Writing and Communication.
Nancy Welch is professor of English at the University of Vermont where she teaches classes in public writing, fiction writing, and social movement rhetorics. She is also the coordinator of the UVM Graduate Writing Center.