Emergent Strategies: An Invitation for Reflection

There are numerous ways we could have closed the reading portion of this course this semester, but I am so glad that we went with Adrienne Maree Brown’s Emergent Strategy. It not only brings us full circle from starting with the endoftheworld podcast discussion of electoral politics, it also emphasizes the importance of appreciating the small acts and actions towards liberation: the everyday acts. To start our discussion I would like to share a screenshot of an Instagram repost from the author.

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This image is a repost of a pictorial interpretation of an image of dandelions as natural brilliance, with a woman of color blowing out dandelion’s seeds, showering a gathering of people planting and watering other wild flowers, together. There is also an image of the roots growing under them, which calls up the oak trees metaphor Brown also brings up in her work. I was struck by the explanation of how oak trees’ roots protect them from the storms, thinking specifically of storms that my people survived recently.

illustration of hurricane María's impact on Puerto Rico with a set of light posts on top of a destroyed house flying a Puerto Rican flag.Interestingly, there is mention of this particular storm–hurricane María, in a recent video from The Intercept, where AOC explains (and imagines via illustrations from Molly Crabapple) the future after passing the Green New Deal.

Perhaps these examples can help us reflect on the emphasis of this course, of going Beyond Electoral Politics, and engaging Public Advocacy in Everyday Life. How do they illuminate the objectives of this course?

  • Identify and describe different rhetorical approaches, specifically focusing on the use of (multi)modality towards public advocacy in a wide range of efforts.
  • Recognize the ethical and pragmatic dimensions involved in such efforts.
  • Critically consider the rhetorical situations within which everyday public advocacy occurs, and their relation to different composition processes.

In pairs, consider each bullet point above and reflect on the examples I’ve provided, as well as the readings assigned. How will you apply these insights to your own work?

  • Produce supplemental material for an existing organization.

The rest of the time will be spent talking through the progress of your work.

 

Decolonization and Native American Activism

A loose plan for today: After going over your thoughts on the panel from last week, as well as the online exercise, here are a few resources I would like for us to think with and through:

The main questions I would like for us to address are:

  1. How would you define decolonization?
  2. How does the American Indian Movement factor into your understanding of public advocacy in the US?
  3. What are some of your lingering questions or concerns regarding the reading?

 

Everyday Rhetorical Situations, Health, and Advocacy

First, let’s talk through what you thought of Jessica Wilkerson’s presentation of her book last Thursday! How do you see it connecting to our class?

For today, discussing the readings assigned should illuminate the importance of considering public advocacy in rhetorical situations that are embedded, yet expansive in their implications.

Image result for christa testonFor example, Christa Teston’s Rhetoric, Precarity, and mHealth Technologies” certainly addresses the importance of paying attention to situations, as she employs a situational analysis of wearable and mobile technologies of health. There are competing expressions of the impact of these technologies from individuals to a more nuanced consideration of these individuals’ societal position and location. She suggests the concept of precarity as one analytical frame that helps explain the importance of paying attention to the systematic issues affecting peoples’ health.

On the other hand, in the American Public Health Association’s brief on “The Power of Advocacy” we get a more hopeful consideration of the impact that individual’s advocacy efforts would have on general policies regarding health concerns impacting the various populations/constituents represented in governmental bodies. In a way, this one-page brief provides suggestions about what can be done in response to the precarity articulated by the participants in Teston’s study. However, do you think that would be enough?

  • For today’s discussion I would like us to return to the various readings we’ve done in the past to connect several insights we’ve already garnered in relation to publics, advocacy, everyday, and multilayered rhetorical situations.
  • After considering these concepts, I would like us to address more contemporary situations and challenges from a transnational perspective:

Games and Advocacy

Recap

Since it has been a while, I would like for us to go back to a few of the brief conversations that we had the few weeks before spring break, which could also apply to today’s readings. Mainly, I want to emphasize (multi)modality in public advocacy:

  • What do you make of Warren-Reilly and Versoza Hurley’s piece, especially their distinction between public advocacy and activism? This question is inspired by a presentation I did during 4C’s (which was held during spring break).
  • How would you put your experiences (in this course and otherwise) with digital rhetorics and public advocacy with the work of the writers assigned for Week 9? You can talk through the work as presented by Sawyer, but I would like you to hone in on how digital rhetorics is enmeshed in/with public advocacy.
  • Lastly, how does form and content affect (or afford) public advocacy? Here I am referring to the previous readings, but also, and perhaps more specifically, on the ones for this week.

Games and Advocacy

As previously, this week we read a variety of authors from different disciplines, including an avid gamer and staff writer of VentureBeat, Information and Technology Sciences scholars, and a more closely related writer trained in rhetoric.

Melissa Bianchi’s work offers an extension of a few conversations we’ve had in this class previously: mainly that of digital rhetorics and environmental studies. Jennifer Stromer-Galley and others present some interesting insights about gender-switching in online games, but how could we put these two articles together? How does action in real-life get mimicked or transferred to online spaces, and aren’t these already real life? Moreover, how is Jeff Grubb’s article presenting information that is classified as public advocacy? 

Latinx Rhetorics and “Community”

This week we will be talking about the concept of “community.” Like other weeks, we should think about the potential of this word when it is used in public advocacy efforts, but also the complexity of forming community, when there is the potential of exclusion. The readings assigned for today get at this complexity, especially in relation to Chicana activism. Reading Kendall León’s “La Hermandad and Chicanas Organizing: The Community Rhetoric of the Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional” and Ellen M. Gil-Gómez’ “Lesbianas Unidas: Shaping Nation Through Community Activist Rhetorics” provides two distinct positions around the same organization. In other words, even while attempting to build community, the Comisión Femenil Mexicana Nacional is admonished for creating exclusions.

How does history factor into identity building? What role does writing play into the formation of activist/intellectual projects? How does that writing look like? What tensions come up in the process of pursuing a liberatory project?

Beyond the questions that can come up in trying to form coalitions that are inclusive and intersectional, it is important to understand the broader idea of “a” Latinx community, that is, there is no one universal Latinx ideal. This happens because of the inherent plurality enveloped in the term: many different people from different countries, or different genealogies, embodying different identities, advocating for different priorities. However, there are some concerns that are distinct for Latinx folks, and it is important to consider some of these as part of a common agenda for community activism.

Focusing on the medium of radio, today we will have Victor Palomino from El Pulso Latino–Lexington Community Radio. We are thankful to have him talk to us about how community radio itself is a way to give voice to the people, especially those who may not be able to identify themselves in any other station. What are some of the ways in which El Pulso Latino engages in public, or community advocacy or activism?

Ethical Dimensions of Public Work

This week we will be discussing the philosophical and ethical concerns that come up when engaging in public work, especially that which is critical of the state. First, though, we should catch up with a few assignments:

— Visualizing Public Advocacy–Done!

Tiny Library

–Encountering Public Advocacy

On Risk and Asymmetrical Power

Before discussing the specifics of the work by Tamika Carey and Ben Keubrich, I wanted to point to the two dimension that they are addressing. One of them is social media, and the other one is community publishing. What do you think are the affordances and constraints of each of these? 

After considering the following quotes: what can we say about risk in public work?

Speaking truth to power requires either significant risk or a certain degree of privilege. For this reason, it is important for scholars who are outsiders to participate by taking direction from neighborhood residents, not pushing them with academic prescriptions of civility nor with privileged notions of popular outrage. (Keubrich 579-580)

And…

The risks awaiting black woman intellectuals who endeavor to speak freely and freely speak in highly surveilled spaces are growing; however…rhetorical research prioritizing exceptional communication over the consequences raced and gendered groups such as black women face in ordinary exchanges and compared to dominant groups is incomplete and partially irresponsible. (Carey 157)

Why is it important for us to consider the ethical implications of public work?

There are also notions about collective/individual work that is discussed throughout the readings. How can we update our considerations of this aspect of public advocacy?

For Thursday, please listen to this podcast episode featuring DeBraun Thomas in preparation for our conversation.

Public Memory, Racism, and Resistance

Catching Up:

Please refer to the feedback I provided on your blog posts and let me know if you have any questions. We should also revisit the prompt for the Visualizing Advocacy assignment, as it is due on Thursday. We will be doing the African American Heritage Trail field trip on Thursday, so we should also talk through logistics about that.

For Today:

Continuing our conversations about resistance, this week’s readings relate stories that are located in specific geographic, geopolitical settings. The stories that these places tell about their history, according to the authors, provides rich rhetorical understandings of their views around race and racism. Because this week we will be visiting Lexington’s expressions of history, I hope today we can develop a set of questions that we can ask ourselves based on the readings. We will use this Google Doc to construct these questions together.

Let’s keep in mind that these, or similar questions were also brought up by Ariana Curtis in her TEDtalk on how museums should honor the everyday:

Multifaceted Resistance

After our discussion of the concept of resistance, especially in relation to its liberatory potential, it is equally important to consider how resistance to resistance is also enacted. It is significant to point to the ways in which resistance is multifaceted, with a push-pull of conservation and progress, wherein diverging groups emphasize their own particular priorities. The set of videos from PBS on “White Resistance” to Civil Rights struggles are a poignant example of the complexity of applying the concept of resistance to public advocacy and activism.

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Why are two groups simultaneously advocating for their cause? What are each of them resisting? How is resistance symbolically deployed in each case? What does it represent?

Of course, it is also important to consider the tactics each group engaged in. Some of them were extremely violent, as we know. How has that affected the national imaginary around events such as the Woolworth’s sit in or the Freedom Rides?

Moreover, how does governmental intervention shape the historical narrative of the struggle for civil rights?

This last question is in reference to the video about the multiple views on Eisenhower responses to the implementation of Brown V Board ruling. At one point we hear that he would simply not be an advocate, referring to an effort of neutrality.

Today we will be engaging in a conversation with Kate Chance from Southern Poverty Law Center and we will aim to connect some of these historical events with more contemporary issues that her organization is keeping track of.

Communities of Resistance

This week we will be addressing the concept of resistance, as it relates to public advocacy. To get our conversation going, let’s start by looking at a few of your posts regarding this week’s reading:

 

Could you say a bit about how these kairotic examples constitute resistance? Why do you think Phaedra Pezzulo and Ted Striphas focus on rhetoric’s resistance to writing about resistance?

There are other examples in our instagram account wherein you all continue to impress the importance of exploring resistance in relation to everyday (and mainly contemporary) events. In reading Daniel Berrigan and Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Communities of Resistance” it is important to consider the rhetorical situation wherein the text was produced. It is also significant to point out where this text comes from, and the way in which the editors situated it: The Power of Nonviolence: Writings by Advocates of Peace, and “Post-Vietnam to the Present (1975- )” respectively. How does an attention to context affect your conception of resistance?

It is also significant to account for the writers’ positionality. Both Berrigan and Nhat Hanh are renowned for being religious advocates for peace, and both were significantly ostracized by their communities for engaging in resistance work: even though they got recognition elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Daniel Berrigan passed away in 2016, though his legacy is documented in this New York Times article. A lot can be said about the liberatory ontologies of religious leaders. For example, have you seen Man on Fire? Telling the nuanced story of Charles Moore, a reverend who self-immolated to protest racism in his town, the documentary demonstrates how dedicated religious leaders can be in advocating for marginalized communities. Berrigan’s own activism was most notably centered around advocating against the war in Vietnam, though later in life was outspoken about issues such as Israeli militarism against Palestinians, and AIDS advocacy.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s story also delves into protesting war in Vietnam, where he was actively involved in the creation of a social service and Buddhism. It’s important to note that after he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he was exiled for 39 years. There is something about living in a diaspora while still engaging in resistance work that transcends beyond location. Of course, his influence is still felt globally and in the rising attention to mindfulness, we should consider his role in looking outward as well.

What are some of the characterizations of communities of resistance in this text? Where does it arise, and what is its potential drawback?

Conceptualizing Resistance

Using Google Doc’s word cloud generator, please write in key terms related to resistance using this Google Doc. Once it is done it will be reposted in this post.

 

Everyday Environmentalism

Engaging in scholarship and advocacy regarding the environment proves to be a daunting task, as Alex Loftus mentions in the introduction to his book Everyday Environmentalism: Creating an Urban Political Ecology. It is especially difficult when the conception of what “the environment” means is being challenged, as Loftus does. In his piece we find theoretical explorations of how to better elaborate a vision for environmentalism that accounts for everyday life. As this class concerns Public Advocacy in Everyday Life, his writing is particularly relevant.

Interestingly, the Pew Research Center’s report on “The Politics of Climate” demonstrates that even though people are aware of climate change, they don’t engage in everyday environmentalism. One reason, Loftus claims, is that the “recent narratives of global environmental change can be deeply disempowering … Apocalyptic visions feed this sense of powerlessness” (xvi). He goes on to articulate theoretical understandings of the reasons why there has been a sort of disconnect between nature and society that affects how people live their day-to-day as if they were somehow not entangled in the creation of their environment.

Screenshot of article titled "The Politics of Climate" reads "Polarized views about climate issues stretch from the causes and cures for climate change to trust in climate scientists and their research. But most Americans support a role for scientists in climate policy, and there is bipartisan support for expanding solar, wind energy. By Cary Funk and Brian Kennedy.

Moreover, “control has been ceded to new technocratic elites and the gadgets they wield” (Loftus xvii). Of course, here we are going into a consideration of the economic state of our society, and to issues of political participation and (dis)enfranchisement, which we have been discussing the last few weeks as pertinent to the potential for public advocacy. There are a series of debates about what should be prioritized in the “fight” against climate change, but Loftus’ position is that a larger ideological shift needs to happen:

The task ahead is clearly a monumental one. But it is one that is in the hands of many and not of the few: because of this, it feels, oddly, more achievable. (xxvi)

Today we have a visitor who will speak to the ways in which she and her organization attempt to engage in both an everyday environmentalism, and one that addresses the economic realities briefly referenced in the reading. Rachel Norton is Residential Energy Specialist at Mountain Association for Community Economic Development. Welcome Rachel!