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Precarious Rhetorics

Dr. Will Kurlinkus

Introduction. Rhetorical Recalibrations and
Hesford, Licona, + Teston

¡  Precarity: “the affective, relational, material conditions and

structuring logics of inequality…‘politically induced condition(s)
in which certain populations suffer from failing social and
economic networks of support and become differentially
exposed to injury, violence, and death’” (2-3).

¡  Fear: What are discourses of fear? How do they shape us? How
do they create insiders and outsiders?

¡  Movement: “We bear witness to increasing and increasingly

harsh restrictions on movement and mobility of entire
populations and the politically induced causes and precarious
conditions of displacement and dispossession” (2).
¡  How are our movements restricted or encouraged? Fast and slow?
¡  What places are we told not to go? (when we’re younger?)

¡  Solidarity: How is solidarity produced?

¡  “Bridging” vs. “bonding” social capital—Robert Putnam
How is fear used politically? How is it
generated and used to create insiders and
3. Necropolitics as Foreign Affairs Rhetoric in
Contemporary U.S.-Mexico Relations Sara
¡  Necropolitcs (necropower): the use of social and political power to
dictate how some people may live and how some must die. A nation’s
right to kill or expose other people to death. Creates “the walking
dead.” Examples?

¡  Mexico + U.S. Epideictic Discourse: “Contemporary history between the

two countries demonstrates continuous contestation over the
perimeters of sovereignty through insinuating necropolitical rhetorics of
precarity and violence that often give way to gestures of collaboration
and cooperation….the repeated staging of Mexico as violently out of
control and precariously close to collapse creates the friction;
collaboration and cooperation are the life-giving resolves” (63).

¡  The Other/Othering: The we and the not we. The subaltern. The Other
can be killed and treated harshly. What are rhetorical mechanisms of

¡  Neoliberal internationalism: Exp. The Merida Initiative shifts from security

forces and counternarcotics into reforming Mexican government and
law system to be more like (and benefit) the U.S. (75).
¡  See also the U.S. Bracero program + migrant labor policies

¡  Rhetoric of risk at boarders

4. Embodying “I Can’t Breathe”: Tensions and
Possibilities Between Appropriation and
Coalition Kimberlee Perez
¡  Coalition: “To resist, and to generate otherwise, and elsewhere,
across lines of similarity and difference, is one potential coalition…
occurs when political issues coincide or merge in the public sphere
in ways that create space to reenvision and potentially reconstruct
rhetorical imaginaries” (82).

¡  Appropriation: “If one edge of appropriation is coalition from ‘like

me’ to ‘with me,’ another edge is appropriation which tips over to
replacement, an eclipse of ‘like me’ with ‘for me, as me, me.’” (83).
“Replacement functions in the service of a separation that
simultaneously refuses bodies that are both gay and black” (83).

¡  Requires Self-Critique: “There is the opportunity for viewing and

consuming publics to recognize themselves as complicity with
conditions and enactment of violence….even as we critique the
nation, we are never outside of it, and benefit from as much as we
are harmed by it” (88).
¡  “Coalitional gestures are neither pure nor complete on their own. They
require ongoing labor across sites of difference as well as a turn within.
Turning within enables the recognition ‘that this shit is killing you too
however much more softly you stupid motherfucker’” (97).
6. Reversals of Precarity: Rewriting
Buffalo’s Refugees as Neoliberal Subjects
Arabella Lyon

¡  Refugee: “A refugee is defined by persecution, well-

founded fears, and an unwillingness or inability to return
home” (125).

¡  epistemic vulnerability: Admitting we don’t know.

Admitting we were wrong.

¡  “U.S. citizens are often celebrated as self-reliant,

entrepreneurial, and civically engaged; alternatively,
refugees are often characterized as precarious” (131).

¡  West Side Bazaar: “has come to represent a public sphere

constituted in what can be comfortably known, shown,
and said by long-term residents. For many , it is the limit of
initial engagement….In the in-between, people position
themselves in ways that might lead to epistemic
vulnerability, to not knowing and being wrong and yet
venturing” (135).
Key Rhetorical Terms
¡  God terms + devil terms (these are actually from Richard
Weaver!): Words reflecting core sociohistorical values in a
culture or subculture in a particular period, which are
consequently prominent in cultural rhetoric. For instance, in the
USA, such terms include freedom, motherhood, and justice.
These are positively-evaluated, potent, but vague concepts.
Devil terms are negatively-evaluated, but similarly potent and
vague (for example, un-American).
¡  Is there such thing as god + devil images?

¡  Terministic screens: "a screen composed of terms through which

humans perceive the world, and that direct attention away
from some interpretations and toward others….Even if any given
terminology is a reflection of reality, by its very nature as a
terminology it must be a selection of reality; and to this extent it
must function also as a deflection of reality (Burke, Language as
Symbolic Action 45)."

¡  Identification and division

7. “Where am I? Do you Have WiFi?”: Vital
Technologies and Precarious Living in the Syrian
Refugee Crisis
Lavinia Hirsu
¡  “Smartphones, in particular, are among the first objects
that refugees use to find a secure path and contact their
families” (146).
¡  The control of boundaries between self and Other: “It’s
because the refugees many of us have conjured in our
imaginations are starving and wearing tattered clothes,
relics of a cultural past that helps separate them from
us” (150).
¡  “Images of Syrians engaging with their phones were read as
images of visual detachment from the viewers….audience
seems to act as an uninvited guest….How can these people
need us when they do not engage with their audience” (160).
The only help we want to give is controlling patriarchy
Nostalgic Othering
¡  Nostalgic others differ from other “others” of scholarly
discourse (e.g., Said’s Orientalism) in that their alterity is not
primarily based in race or ethnicity. Rather, in concurrent
identifications and divisions, the nostalgic other is
distinguished from the rhetor by time. We live in the
present; they live in the past. The creation of the nostalgic
other allows mainstream populations to commodify the
racial purity and stability of the past but refuses the
community agency to change in the present by
highlighting its negative traits.
¡  Examples: Refugees, Applachians, Native Americans
¡  Bill O’Reill: “[t]he culture in Appalachia harms the children
almost beyond repair. Their parents are screwed up. Kids get
married at 16 or 17, their parents are drunks. . . . I don’t want to
rebuild the infrastructure of Appalachia. I want to leave it
pristine, it’s beautiful.”
8. The Non/Image of the Regime of
Distortion Adela Licona
¡  Non/Image: “Non-images need only to be
imagined to circulate as terrorizing
images” (169).
¡  “non-normative others are ultimately seen as
terrorizing and therefore always racialized
subjects to be contained, deported, debilitated,
or otherwise eliminated, which, in turn, sediments
the urgent need for protections of particular and
paritlcularly valued populations in Arizona” (170).

¡  “the culprit produced as non/image argues

for—is evidence of—the need for greater
measures of securitization. The enthymeme
or premise left out of this visual argument is
that immigrants are always and only
terrorizing” (172).

¡  “What does it take to refuse the conceptual

closure that precludes more than one way of
looking and seeing and that enforces
specular logics that are predicated on false
and limiting binaries?”
9. The Precarity of Disability/Studies
in Academe Margaret Price
¡  The topic of disability studies has become popular over
the last decade “But disabled people in academic life
seem to be struggling…underemployed” (192).

¡  Neoliberal Terministic Screens Produce Disability: “the

ability to be productive, in an economic sense, is
considered a person’s most important characteristic—
indeed, is taken as evidence of whether one is a valuable
person at all” (194).

¡  Crip Spacetime: “the imaginative logic of using

accommodation as a means toward access relies on the
assumption that disability is stable and knowable…in
predictive ways.” Crip spacetime refuses this stability/
trackability (196).

¡  Ambient uncertainty: “the sense of not knowing what’s at

stake when disclosing disability” (198).
10. “Are You Black, Though?”: Black
Autoethnography and Racing the
Graduate Student/Instructor
Louis M Maraj
¡  racializing assemblages: “construes race not as a
biological or cultural classification but as a set of
sociopolitical processes that discipline humanity into full
humans, not-quite-humans, and non-humans” (224).

¡  Safety notices on campus and vague descriptions of

“black men…rendering us out of place fitting the
description of illegitimate members of the campus
community…prompt affective responses from both Black
males (paranoia, alienations, anger) and other members
of on-/off-campus college communities about
them” (225)
¡  Autoethnography: research as storytelling—represents a
community, set of values, logic (ethnos) from within.
Employed when the writer’s situatedness in the ethnos
directly relates to the topic being researched and the
audience will be unfamiliar with that worldview.

¡  Voice in Rhetoric and Composition

¡  Instrumentalist: Style is decoration to a preexisting thought. Ideas
exist wordlessly and can be dressed in a variety of outfits, depending
on the need for the occasion, but those outfits do not fundamentally
change the composer’s idea. (Cicero, Strunk and White)
¡  Determinist: Style=ideology: Alternative discourses are less
acceptable or less valued not because their discursive tendencies
are deficient, but because the ideologies they are grounded in
challenge the dominate ideology
¡  Social Constructionist: Style (like identity) is peformative: when
Jacqueline Jones Royster’s colleague applauds, “How wonderful it
was that you were willing to share with us your ‘authentic voice,’” to
which Royster longs to respond, “All my voices are authentic.
12. Complicit Interfaces
Becca Tarsa and James Brown Jr.
¡  Speculative design
¡  Hypermediacy vs. Immediacy (aesthetics vs.
anaesthetics): “The argument here is not for an
interface that disappears in order to make one
more productive or that allows for smooth
interactions. Instead, a queer interface obliterates
the clear boundary between user and system,
understands the user interace relations as mutually
transformative, and never allows any single set of
functions to be naturalized” (259).
¡  “We speculate about interfaces that see
harassment as an embodied behavior and
therefore detectable and preventable via
actionary features” (267)
Speculative Design as a
Comp Assignment
In this project you’ll research the nostalgias and traditions
that frame a present techno-social problem or ideal and
create an imagined dystopian or utopian design that might
stem from it 10, 20, or 100 years in the future. What might, for
instance, breast feeding look like in the future if the traditions
and longings of working mothers were combined with VR
technology? Or how might the traditions of professional
football be adapted with the increasing likelihood that new
concussion avoidance rules will be taken up by the NFL?
Create a brief sci-fi story about an everyday interaction with
your design in the future. Have a main character, setting,
plot, etc. How is the character’s life affected by your
design? Focus on the culture that might develop around
your design, the laws that support it, the ways people resist
it, the ways it is warped.
13. Pathologizing Precarity
Christa Teston

¡  “In theory, precision medicine suggests that health and healing can
be achieved by marshaling the predictive power of genetic
information. In practice, precision medicine mobilized genetic
differences as warrants for claims about at-risk bodies” (276).

¡  Racialized and reductive: “reductively constructs bodies in ways

that often serve certain sociopolitical ends….what are the
unintendeded consequences of precision medicines fetishization of
genetic evidence” (277).

¡  Native American DNA: “How did it come to be that Native

American bodies are expected to serve as sources of biological raw
materials extracted to produce knowledge that not only does not
benefit the, but may actually harm them by challenging their
sovereignty, historical narratives and identiteis” (279).

¡  Key medical rhetoric terms: Biomedicine/allopathic medicine,

biopsychosocial medicine, integrative medicine, chief complaint
and chief concern of medicine—>healing vs. curing
23 and Me
Computers and
Writing CFP

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