The Freedom/Domination Problem:
Feminism and Critical Rhetoric
Preparation Guide 2014
Contemporary rhetorical theory moves the locus of rhetoric from the
individual speaker making the rhetorical decisions to address an audience
to communities of discourse within which socio-political life proceeds.
But what if this greater circumference is itself too narrow? What if the
power of language to guide human action gives language sufficient power
to constrain that action? Foucault makes this move.
The question that opens up runs through contemporary rhetoric. In 1969, Robert
Scott and Donald K. Smith charged rhetorical critics and theorists to consider
that traditional rhetoric entailed assumptions of oppression. Traditionally
rhetoric has been punctuated as a means of individuals exercising power over
other human beings. This raises the problem of the distinction between power
and domination: Is rhetoric a means of domination? Much of this work answers
"Yes" but adds that rhetoric also contains the power of freedom from
that domination. Foucault objects quite explicitly to thinking of power confined
to domination. Once this issue has been raised, however, then the problem of
whether rhetoric's power is best seen as a power of the individual or of the
culture comes to the foreground. Within issues of how power is performed, freedom/domination
becomes a central dimension of theorizing about rhetoric.
In many ways the most thorough work on these issues is by Michel Foucault.
Foucault lays out a relatively complete theoretical basis for the move complete
with concepts that allow it to be perceived and tracked. But the move is also
central to the great concentration of work surrounding the feminist critique.
Of course, the intellectual movement we call "feminism" is as multifaceted
as any other movement. There are political feminists, cultural feminists, radical
feminists, marxist feminists, and so on. Not all are amenable to a role for
rhetoric. The ones we will read take the feminist critique as a rhetorical problem.
Finally, those of us in rhetoric, particularly those of us who are rhetorical
critics, should attend to McKerrow's important work on the "Critical Rhetoric."
McKerrow is explicit in his acknowledgement of his debt to Foucault, but he
brings it down to the question of the purposes of the critic.
Clusters: Discursive formations; Postmodernism; Feminism; Ethnocentrism;
Afrocentrism; Postcolonialism; Critical Rhetoric; Intrersectionality
Questions for Reading Preparation
On November 11, I suspect you will have passages of Foucault that you do not
understand. Bring those and we will work on them.
- What is power to Foucault? Why does he reject definitions of power overconcerned
with "domination" or negative power?
- What role does discontinuity have in Foucault's theory? What implications
on rhetorical theory?
- How does Foucault differentiate himself from "structuralists"?
What are "structuralists"?
- How does Foucault reject Marxian notions of "ideology"? What is
his position of "repression"?
- What is the difference between the universal and the specific intellectual?
- What are the three bases of "power" analysis as Foucault sees
it? How is his different than the other two?
- What is the relationship of truth and power? Is truth
a key rhetorical concept for Foucault?
- hooks begins with a consideration of the definition of feminism. Before
you read the essay, write down your own definition of "feminism."
Then critique your own definition using her argument. And, when finished,
revise your definition. Can you bring other definitions into conversation
with her position?
- How does hooks formulate the "ends" of feminism? Would this differ
- Contemplate embracing the term "feminist." How does it help the
scholar? Are their dangers? Is it a move that captures conceptual frames?
Is it just a practical, perhaps even political, move? How would hooks view
these questions? How does the question relate to Foucault's notion of the
- How does hooks think a change in the stance of the feminist can alter the
approach to theory? How does her last paragraph set an agenda for theory?
- What is the difference for McKerrow between the critique of domination and
the critique of freedom? What are the differences in method between the two?
On November 18, these questions should assist your reading:
Hariman; Charland; McKerrow
- How does Hariman challenge McKerrow conceptualization of critical rhetoric? How does Charland challenge McKerrow conceptualization of critical rhetoric? How does McKerrow respond to these criticisms? Do you agree or disagree with Hariman and Charland’s criticisms of McKerrow’s original work? Why?
- What are the distinctions between a theorist and practitioner?
- Why does Charland believe “praxis is halted” under McKerrow’s understanding of critical rhetoric?
- How do Hariman, Charland, and McKerrow construct the speaker and the audience?
- Why does Hariman believe “McKerrow does not quite achieve the change he recommends?” (67).
- Do you agree with Hariman’s characterization of the theorist/critic as a “throroughly modern self?” (68)
Klumpp & Hollihan; Biesecker; Harnett
- Klumpp and Hollihan state that “Contemporary rhetorical theory posits that rhetoric and criticism possess such a power to foster stability and change” (94). How do you see this power evident in the feminist/critical theorists we’ve read so far?
- According to Klumpp and Hollihan, what is the moral imperative? What is the rhetorical imperative?
- Can a rhetorical theorist ever be “morally neutral?”
- What does Biesecker mean when she states that theorizing is a “radical action?”
- Do you believe bell hooks would describe “theorizing” as a radical action?
- Do you agree with Hartnett when he states we should “forego allegiance to rhetorical criticism or critical theory and instead to work on topics of political salience?” What would this look in practice?
Foss & Foss; May;Wang; Gengler
- What is “re-powered feminism” in Foss & Foss’ article? Why is this concept important in our discussion of the Freedom/Domination problem?
- Hooks defines feminism as a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. How would Hooks respond to Foss & Foss’s new definition of “repowered” feminism? Would Hooks agree that it is a “fairly radical” interpretation?
- How does Wang’s article enhance or contradict Foss & Foss’ and/or Hooks’ definition of feminism?
- How does Wang’s article (which draws on Postcolonial and transnational studies to emphasize the importance of how we read rather than what we read) enhance or contradict Foss & Foss’ and/or Hooks’ conceptions of freedom? Of domination?
- How does Gengler’s article broaden our perceptions of “control” and “resistance?” How might ethnography be an effective medium for the discussion of such concepts?
- How does May define intersectionality?
- How do Gengler and Wang’s pieces broaden our understanding of intersectionality? How/Why is the concept of intersectionality indispensable to our discussion of domination and freedom?
Broader Concepts/Questions for Discussion (11/18):
- How do the theorists we read for this week define/conceive of Domination? Freedom? Power? Which of these definitions/conceptions do you find most enabling for your own work as a rhetorical theorist?
- What do contemporary rhetorical theorists make of the inherent tension between domination and freedom rhetoric? What is the relationship between these two concepts? Where do they overlap? How do these articles advance your own conception of domination/power?
- What is the difference between the critique of dominance and the critique of freedom?
- What kinds of responsibilities does the dominance/freedom problem pose to the theorist?
- Do theorists and critics have different social responsibilities?
- The Wang article advocates for a “geopolitical approach to rhetoric” and understanding: “transnational spaces, hybrid identities, and subjectivities grounded in differences related to gender, race, class, and culture. How does theory often privilege Western understandings of freedom, domination, and power? What are the implications of this for our theory papers this semester?
Basic Readings: * = Reading for November 11; ** = Reading for November 18
- * Foss, Foss, and Trapp on Foucault.
- * Foucault, Michel. The Foucault Reader. ed. Paul Rabinow. New York:
Pantheon, 1984. Read
"Truth and Power," pp. 51-75, and Sex and Truth, pp. 291-330
- Foucault, Michel. The Archeology of Knowledge and the Discourse on Language.
Trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Pantheon, 1972.
- ** Klumpp, James F., and Thomas A. Hollihan. "Rhetorical Criticism as Moral
Action." Quarterly Journal of Speech 75 (February 1989): 84-96.
- * McKerrow, Raymie E. "Critical Rhetoric: Theory and Praxis." Communication
Monographs 56 (June 1989): 91-111. (cmmc)
- Alan Ryan. "Foucault's Life and Hard Times." New York Review
of Books 8 April 1993: 12-17.
- * Foss, Foss, and Trapp on bell hooks.
- * hooks, bell. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Cambridge
: South End P, 1984. Read "Feminism:
A Movement to End Sexual Repression," pp. 17- 31.
- Asante , Molefi K. Afrocentric Idea . Philadelphia : Temple University Press, 1987.
- Bell, Vikki. "New Scenes of Vulnerability, Agency and Plurality: An
Interview with Judith Butler." Theory, Culture & Society 27,
no. 1 (January 2010): 130-152.
- Biesecker, Barbara. "Michel Foucault and the Question of Rhetoric." Philosophy and Rhetoric 25 (1992): 351-64.
- Blackledge, Adrian. Discourse and Power in a Multilingual World. Philadelphia , PA : John Benjamins Pub., 2005.
- Blair, Carole. "The Statement: Foundation of Foucault's Historical Criticism." Western Journal of Speech Communication 51 (1987): 364-83.
- Blair, Carole, and Martha Cooper. "The Humanist Turn in Foucault's Rhetoric of Inquiry." Quarterly Journal of Speech 73 (May 1987): 151-71.
- Braidotti, Rosi. "In Spite of the Times: The Postsecular Turn in Feminism." Theory, Culture & Society 25, no. 6 (2008): 1-24.
- Brown, William R. Power and the Rhetoric of Social Intervention. Communication Monographs 53 (1986): 180-199.
- Celeste M. Condit. "Hegemony in a Mass Mediated Society: Concordance about Reproductive Technologies." Critical Studies in Mass Communication 11 (September 1994): 205-30. Dana L. Cloud. "Hegemony or Concordance? The Rhetoric of Tokenism in 'Oprah' Winfrey's Rags-to-Riches Biography." Critical Studies in Mass Communication 13 (June 1996): 115-37. Celeste M. Condit. "Hegemony, Concordance, and Capitalism: Reply to Cloud." Critical Studies in Mass Communication 13 (December 1996): 382-84. Cloud, Dana L. "Concordance, Complexity, and Conservatism: Rejoinder
to Condit." Critical Studies in Mass Communication 14 (June 1997):
193-97. Celeste Condit. "Clouding the Issues? The Ideal and the Material
in Human Communication." 197-200.
- Chaput, Catherine. "Rhetorical Circulation in Late Capitalism:
Neoliberalism and the Overdetermination of Affective Energy." Philosophy
& Rhetoric 43, no. 1 (February 2010): 1-25.
- Cloud, Dana. "The Materiality of Discourse as Oxymoron: A Challenge
to Critical Rhetoric." Western Journal of Communication 58 (1994) 141-63. (CMMC)
- Danisch, Robert. “Power and the Celebration of the Self: Michel Foucault's
Epideictic Rhetoric.” Southern Communication Journal 71, no.
3 (2006): 291-307.
- Dow, Bonnie J. "Feminism, Cultural Studies, and Rhetorical Studies."
Quarterly Journal of Speech 83 (1997): 90-106.
- Eagleton, Terry, Fredric Jameson and Edward W. Said. Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1990.
- ** Foss, Sonja K. and Foss, Karen A. "Our Journey to Repowered
Feminism: Expanding the Feminist Toolbox." Women's Studies in Communication 32, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 36-62. (CMMC)
- Greene, Ronald. Walter. Another Materialist Rhetoric. Critical Studies in Mass Communication 15 (1998): 21-41.
- Greene, Ronald Walter and David Breshears. “Foucault, Cultural Studies, and Governmentality.” Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies 1 (2004): 213-218.
- ** Hariman, Robert; Maurice Charland; Raymie McKerrow. "Critical
Rhetoric: Critiques and a Response." Quarterly Journal of Speech 77 (February 1991): 67-78. (CMMC)
- Ingram, Jason. Hegemony and Globalism: Kenneth Burke and Paradoxes of Representation. Communication Studies 53 (2002): 4-24.
- Krippendorff, Klaus. "Undoing Power." Critical Studies in Mass Communication 12 (June 1995): 101-32.
- Lazar, Michelle M. "Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis: Articulating
a Feminist Discourse Praxis." Critical Discourse Studies 4,
no. 2 (August 2007): 141-164.
- Lewis, Justin. "Reproducing Political Hegemony in the United States." Critical Studies in Mass Communication 16 (1999): 251-67
- McKerrow, Raymie. "Critical Rhetoric." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric.
Ed. Thomas Sloane. New York: Oxford U P, 2001: 619-22.
- McKerrow, Raymie E. “Foucault’s Relationship to Rhetoric.” Review of Communication 11, no. 4 (2012): 253-271.
- Mailloux, Steven. Re-Marking Slave Bodies: Rhetoric as Production and Reception. Philosophy and Rhetoric. 35 (2002): 96-119.
- Minh-Ha, Trinh T. Woman, Native, Other. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 1989.
- Murphy, John M. "Critical Rhetoric as Political Discourse." Argumentation
and Advocacy 32 (Summer 1995): 1-15.
- Phillips, Kendall R. Spaces of Invention: Dissension, Freedom, and Thought in Foucault. Philosophy and Rhetoric 35 (2002): 328-44
- Pollock, Della, and J. Robert Cox. "Historicizing 'Reason': Critical Theory,
Practice, and Postmodernity." Communication Monographs 58 (June 1991):
- Shome, Raka and Radha S. Hegde. "Postcolonial Approaches to Communication: Charting the Terrain, Engaging the Intersections." Communication Theory 12 (2002): 249-270.
- Shugart, Helene A. "Counterhegemonic Acts: Appropriation as a Feminist Rhetorical Strategy." Quarterly Journal of Speech 83 (1997): 210-29.
- Simpson, Jennifer S. “Performing Purity: Whiteness, Pedagogy, and the Reconstitution of Power” Quarterly Journal of Speech 91 (2005): 327-35.
- Smitherman, Geneva. Talkin' That Talk: Language, Culture, and Education in African America. New York: Routledge, 2000.
- Vivian, Bradford. "Freedom, Naming, and Nobility: The Convergence
of Rhetorical and Political Theory in Nietzsche’s Philosophy."
Philosophy & Rhetoric 40, no. 4 (2007): 372-393.
- Yin, Jing. "Negotiating the Centre: Towards an Asiacentric
Feminist Communication Theory." Journal of Multicultural Discourses 4, no. 1 (2009): 75-88
- Zerilli, Linda M. G. "Toward a Feminist Theory of Judgment." Signs 34, no. 2 (Winter 2009): 295-317.
Recent Work: (Selected by Amanda Gogarty and Melissa Lucas)
- Ahmed-Goush, Huma. “Dilemmas of Islamic and Secular Feminists and Feminism.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 9 (2008): 99-116.
- Allsobrook, Christopher. “Blackout: Freedom Without Power.” Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory,” 59 (2012): 60-78.
- Arduser, Lora and Koerber, Amy. “Splitting Women, Producing Biocitizens, and Vilifying
Obamacare in the 2012 Presidential Campaign.” Women’s Studies in Communication 37 (2014):117-137.
- Bartolucci, Valentina. "Terrorism rhetoric under the Bush Administration: Discourses
and effects." Journal Of Language & Politics (2012) 562-582.
- Bean, Hamilton, Laura Lemon, and Amy O'Connell. 2013. "Organizational Rhetoric,
Materiality, and the Shape of Organizational Democracy." Southern Communication
Journal 78 (2013) 256-273.
- **Biesecker, Barbara. “The Obligation to Theorize, Today." Western Journal of Communication 77 (2013): 518-522. Hartnett, Stephen John. "On Postmodern Intellectuals, Implied Obligations, and Political Constituencies." Western Journal of Communication 77 (2013): 523-528.
- Campell, Perry and Kelly, Petter. “In/Between Feminism and Foucault: Iraqi Women's War
Blogs and Intellectual Practices of the Self.” Critical Sociology 39 (2012): 189-199.
- Chevrette, Roberta. "Outing Heteronormativity in Interpersonal and Family
Communication: Feminist Applications of Queer Theory “Beyond the Sexy Streets”". Communication Theory. 23 (2013): 170-190.
- Condit, Celeste Michelle. “How Ought Critical Communication Scholars Judge, Here, Now?” Western Journal of Communication Studies 77 (2013): 550-558.
- Dilliplane, Susanna. 2012. "Race, Rhetoric, and Running for President: Unpacking
The Significance of Barack Obama’s "A More Perfect Union" Speech." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 15 (2012) 127-152.
- Donovan, Josephine. Feminist Theory: The Intellectual Traditions, 4th Edition. New York, NY:
Continuum International Publishing Group, 2012.
- Edgar, Amanda Nell. “R&B Rhetoric and Victim-Blaming Discourses: Exploring the Popular
Press's Revision of Rihanna's Contextual Agency.” Women’s Studies in Communication 37(2014): 138-158.
- **Gengler, Amanda M. “Defying (Dis)Empowerment in a Battered Women’s Shelter: Moral
Rhetorics, Intersectionality, and Processes of Control and Resistance.” Social Problems 59, (2012): 501-521. (JSTOR)
- Guillem, Susana Martínez. “Rethinking Power Relations in Critical/Cultural Studies: A
Dialectical (Re) Proposal.” Review of Communication 13 (2013): 184-204.
- Hallenbeck, Sarah. "Toward a Posthuman Perspective: Feminist Rhetorical Methodologies
and Everyday Practices." Advances In The History Of Rhetoric 15 (2012): 9-27.
- Hundley, Heather. “Power and Communication.” Western Journal of Communication 7
- Khan, Kherstin, and Blair, Diane. "Writing Bill Clinton: Mediated Discourses on
Hegemonic Masculinity and the 2008 Presidential Primary." Women's Studies In Communication 36 (2013): 56-71.
- Kelly, Casey Ryan. 2014. "We Are Not Free: The Meaning of Freedom in
American Indian Resistance to President Johnson's War on Poverty" Communication Quarterly. 62 (4): 455-473.
- King, Angela. “The Prisoner of Gender: Foucault and the Disciplining of the Female Body.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 5(2014): 29-39.
- Logie, Carmen H. “(Where Do Queer Women Belong?): Theorizing Intersectional and
Compulsory Heterosexism in HIV Research.” Critical Public Health (2014): 337-348 .
- Malhotra, Sheena and Rowe, Aimee Carillo, eds. Silence, Feminism, and Power: Reflections at the Edges of Sound. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
- **May, Vivian M. 2014. "“Speaking into the Void”? Intersectionality Critiques and Epistemic
Backlash". Hypatia. 29 (1): 94-112. (ASP)
- Ostergaard, Lori. "“Silent Work for Suffrage”: The Discreet Rhetoric of Professor June Rose
Colby and the Sapphonian Society 1892–1908." Rhetoric Review 32 (2013) 137-155.
- Park, WooSoo. "A comparitive study of rhetorical dispositions and military strategies."Journal Of Multicultural Discourses 7 (2013): 153-160.
- Ramakrishnan, Kavita. 2014. "Disrupted Futures: Unpacking Metaphors of Marginalization
in Eviction and Resettlement Narratives". Antipode. 46 (2014): 754-772.
- Rand, Erin J. “An Appetite for Activism: The Lesbian Avengers and the Queer Politics of
Visibility.” Women’s Studies in Communication 36 (2014): 121-141.
- Roy, Srila. "Feminist ‘Radicality’ and ‘Moderation’ in Times of Crises and Change". The Sociological Review. 61 (2013): 100-118.
- Skinner C. 2014. "Evolutionary Rhetoric: Sex, Science, and Free Love in Nineteenth-Century
Feminism, Wendy Hayden". Rhetoric Review. 33 (2014): 192-196.
- Sousa, Alcina, and Anna Ivanova. 2012. "Constructing Digital Rhetorical Spaces in Twitter:
A Case-Study of @BarackObama." Topics In Linguistics (2012) : 46-55.
- Spicer, Michael W. 2012. "Embracing Political Conflict." Public Integrity 14 (2012): 383-
- Vats, Anjali. 2014. "Racechange Is the New Black: Racial Accessorizing and Racial Tourism
in High Fashion as Constraints on Rhetorical Agency". Communication, Culture &
Critique. 7 (2014): 112-135.
- Vickers, Margaret H. 2012. "A Rhetorical Portrayal of the Sham Face of Organizational
Support." Administrative Theory & Praxis (2012): 533-556.
- **Wang, Bo. 2013. "Comparative Rhetoric, Postcolonial Studies, and Transnational
Feminisms: A Geopolitical Approach." RSQ: Rhetoric Society Quarterly 43 (2013):
- Wang, Georgette. 2014. "Culture, Paradigm, and Communication Theory: A Matter of
Boundary or Commensurability?" Communication Theory. 24 (4): 373-393.
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