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Workshop 8: The 2020 Campaign and Its Aftermath: Presidentiality and Peril

Primarily Synchronous (June 1-4)

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Workshop Leaders:

Karrin Vasby Anderson, Colorado State University:
Vanessa B. Beasley, Vanderbilt University:
Shawn J. Parry-Giles, University of Maryland: 

The 2020 Democratic primary winnowed the most diverse major-party field in history to two white male septuagenarians. The nominee faced incumbent President Donald J. Trump, whose tumultuous first term produced attacks on women, people of color, immigrants and residents without citizenship, queer folks, people impacted by disability and health precarity, and poor and working-class individuals. Rhetorical scholars contended with Trump’s erosion of democratic norms and with debates about “electability” that reinforced normative white male cisgender presidentiality. Participants in this workshop will reflect on the rhetoric of the 2020 campaign and its aftermath, thinking collaboratively about presidentiality and peril with a focus on presidential identity, discourses of “electability,” and systemic oppressions in democratic culture.

Specifically, this workshop will focus on questions such as the following: What can we learn from a Democratic primary process that began with the most diverse major-party field in history and concluded with the nomination of a white hetero male septuagenarian? How did the 2020 campaign reinforce Whiteness and white supremacy? In what ways did the 2020 campaign challenge and reinforce the patriarchal, cisgender, and hetero norms of the U.S. presidency? How did radical and reactionary discourses collide in 2020? How did candidates and voters resist presidential norms such as Whiteness, masculinity, heterosexuality, ability, and Judeo-Christianity? In what ways and to what effect did politics and popular culture intersect in 2020?

Workshop participants will discuss readings on campaign rhetoric, presidentiality, and systemic oppressions in democratic culture. The workshop also will include time and space for participants to share their own scholarship and provide feedback to one another. Projects in any stage of development (topic idea, partial draft, or full paper) may be submitted, and peer feedback and guided discussion will enable workshop participants to move their projects forward to the next stage of development. We welcome participants at various career stages who research and teach the rhetoric of political campaigns from a variety of perspectives.

Karrin Vasby AndersonKarrin Vasby Anderson is Professor of Communication Studies at Colorado State University, where she serves as Director of Graduate Studies and teaches courses in rhetoric, political communication, and gender and communication. She is the current editor of the Quarterly Journal of Speech and is coauthor or editor of three books: Woman President: Confronting Postfeminist Political Culture; Women, Feminism, and Pop Politics: From “Bitch” to “Badass” and Beyond; and Governing Codes: Gender, Metaphor, and Political Identity. Dr. Anderson is a recipient of the National Communication Association’s James A. Winans and Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address, the Outstanding Book Award from the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender, the Michael Pfau Outstanding Article Award in Political Communication from NCA’s Political Communication Division, the Organization for Research on Women and Communication’s Feminist Scholarship Award, and the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women in Politics.

Vanessa BeasleyVanessa Beasley, a Vanderbilt University alumna and expert on the history of U.S. political rhetoric, is vice provost for academic affairs, dean of residential faculty and an associate professor of communication studies. In this role she oversees Vanderbilt’s growing Residential College System as well as the campus units that offer experiential learning. Beasley attended Vanderbilt as an undergraduate and earned a bachelor of arts in speech communication and theatre arts. She also holds a Ph.D. in speech communication from the University of Texas at Austin.

Following stints on the faculty of Texas A&M University, Southern Methodist University and the University of Georgia, she returned to Vanderbilt in 2007 as a faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies. Beasley’s areas of academic expertise include the rhetoric of American presidents, political rhetoric on immigration, and media and politics. She is the author of numerous publications and the author of two books.

 Shawn J. Parry-GilesShawn J. Parry-Giles is Professor of the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is also the Director of the Rosenker Center for Political Communication & Civic Leadership at UMD. She studies rhetoric and politics with a focus on the presidency and the first lady. She is the author, co-author, or co-editor of seven books, including: Memories of Lincoln and the Splintering of American Political Thought; Hillary Clinton in the News: Gender and Authenticity in American Politics; and The Rhetorical Presidency, Propaganda, and the Cold War, 1945-1955. She also is co-editor of the NEH-funded Voices of Democracy: The U.S. Oratory Project and Recovering Democracy Archives: Speech Recovery Project. She has published in such journals as Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and Political Communication. She teaches classes in U.S. public address, presidential rhetoric, and politics and media.

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