Feminist Rhetorical Science Studies: Politicizing Posthumanisms, Rhetoricizing New Materialisms
Friday, October 6, 9:00 – 10:45am
Jenny Bay, Purdue University
Amanda K. Booher, University of Akron
Julie Jung, Illinois State University
Alex Layne, Metropolitan State University
Jen Talbot, University of Central Arkansas
Kyle P. Vealey, West Chester University
Use this LINK to sign up by September 15th.
The most recent material turn associated with posthumanism decenters the autonomous human subject in order to examine how worlds come into being in excess of human action and intention. In posthumanist rhetoric studies, scholars no longer focus on only humans’ uses of language; instead, they consider how nonhuman animals, objects, forces, and matter participate alongside humans to effect change. While such theories offer important challenges to an ideology of human exceptionalism, their focus on the nonhuman tends to eclipse issues of difference within the category of “human” and thus elide questions about how such distinctions get made, why, and to what effect. Too often, posthumanist studies fail to ask questions of race, culture, gender, disability, or other features that differentiate humans from each other (and thus from their relationships with nonhumans) in important, impactful ways. In so doing, they ignore power asymmetries that exist among differently embodied—and differentially valued—human beings.
This seminar responds to the above-mentioned concerns by exploring posthumanist rhetorical approaches to science studies that are explicitly feminist. Before the conference, participants will receive an advance copy of the critical introduction to the forthcoming edited collection Feminist Rhetorical Science Studies: Human Bodies, Posthumanist Worlds (published in Southern Illinois University Press’ Feminisms and Rhetorics series). Titled “Situating Feminist Rhetorical Science Studies,” this reading identifies connections between feminist science studies and rhetorics of science via four theoretical frameworks: posthumanism, feminist new materialism, posthumanist rhetoric, and feminist posthumanist rhetoric.
During the seminar, participants will investigate these frameworks and the risks and affordances they pose for feminist rhetorics in discussion with seven authors whose contributions to Feminist Rhetorical Science Studies consider issues such as fetal personhood legislation, non/compliance in health and medicine, gender in technical communication, and object-oriented ontology’s disregard for feminist thought. Through this collaborative discussion, seminar participants will develop a better understanding of how
- interdisciplinary feminist scholarship can contribute to existing research in posthumanist rhetorics and rhetorics of science and why this contribution is vital to the profession;
- scholarship in feminist rhetorics can contribute to emerging research in feminist science studies;
- complex cultural materialist theories (posthumanism, new materialism, and object-oriented ontology) intersect with and diverge from rhetorical theories;
- the work of feminist new materialist and theoretical physicist Karen Barad can contribute to scholarship in feminist rhetorical science studies;
- feminist new materialist rhetorical frameworks can be adopted to guide future research in and beyond rhetorics of science; and
- research in activist rhetorics can effectively respond to emerging critiques of feminist new materialism.
To guide the discussion, we will begin with each seminar leader sharing a brief position statement that  argues for a specific way of approaching interrelations among rhetorics, feminisms, posthumanisms, and science studies; and  suggests how the specified approach points to emerging questions and/or areas of inquiry important to scholars in feminisms & rhetorics.
After sharing these position statements, seminar leaders will facilitate a Q&A about them, as well as issues and tensions outlined in “Situating Feminist Rhetorical Science Studies” (distributed prior to our gathering in Dayton) and participants’ own current research projects. Ultimately, the goal of the seminar is to provide participants with a better understanding of how they can approach posthumanist science studies in ways that align with their feminist political commitments.
If you have any questions about the seminar and/or ideas about how it can be most useful to you—including suggestions regarding ways to enhance the seminar’s accessibility—please email Julie Jung (firstname.lastname@example.org) by September 6th.
Use this LINK to sign up by September 15th.