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Rhetorics of Scientific Objects

Workshop Leaders: John Lynch, University of Cincinnati; Lisa DeTora, Hofstra University

Workshop Leaders:

John Lynch, University of Cincinnati
Lisa DeTora, Hofstra University

The emergence of the biotechnological disciplines and the rhetorical study of science began at a time when public discourses cast cancer as warfare amongst proliferating armies of cells. Since then various rhetorics of science and medicine have also proliferated. Today, we are well-positioned to consider multiple scientific discourses within the resources of prior scholarship in the rhetoric of science and medicine. As we consider the manifold discourses of science, we can examine the ways in which scientific objects of all shapes and sizes can be understood rhetorically. The cell is an example, but not the only one, of a scientific object situated at the intersection of multiple rhetorics. Scientists and physicians report on research or clinical outcomes of infection. Lawyers and biotechnology companies patent cells. News media praise cells used in life-saving research yet vilify the microbiological causes of deadly diseases. Journalists write about cells as if they think and act like humans.  

This workshop will focus on the primary interests of its participants, but we can imagine addressing a range of questions such as: How does rhetoric engage peer, legal and public discourses of science? How does rhetorical criticism work across these different discursive domains, and how does the critic theorize scientific objects while working across those domains? How does the rhetorical tradition enable this critical task? What additional rhetorical resources are needed? Which other domains: new materialisms in STS, new developments in historiography or the philosophy of science; must be incorporated, and at what cost for the rhetorical tradition? Preparatory readings will include rhetoric as well as ‘upstream’ materials and works in other domains, such as the philosophy of science or new materialism. Participants should be prepared to discuss their own projects and to provide feedback to their colleagues.

Questions should be directed to Lisa DeTora,

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