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Workshop 13: Rhetoric and Sexual Violence

Primarily Synchronous (June 1-4)

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Workshop Leaders:

Annie Hill, University of Texas at Austin:
Ashley Noel Mack, Louisiana State University:

Invitation: What constitutes sexual violence? How do definitions of sexual violence materialize, and what rhetorical implications adhere in these definitions? How might rhetorical interventions make victims and perpetrators of sexual violence more or less legible in public discourse? Such questions are at the heart of ongoing and burgeoning conversations in rhetorical scholarship on this topic. In our workshop, we will facilitate discussion of rhetoric’s role in both the production of and challenges to sexual violence in myriad forms. For example, what have rhetoricians said, and what might we have yet to say, about rape scripts and silence breakers; Title IX and sexual entitlement; nondisclosure clauses and freedom of speech; nascent claims that we “believe all victims” and legacies of racist violence in the wake of accusations of rape? How do rhetoricians interpret the banality of systemic sexual violence amid the continual expressions of shock after each scandal involving politicians, newscasters, athletes, actors, academics, and celebrities? To address these questions, we will proceed from the assumption that not only can rhetorical studies intervene in sexual violence, but it must, to redefine this phenomenon and produce insurgent and intersectional accounts of power, persuasion, passion, and harm.

For these reasons, we hold that rhetoricians can offer vital insights into what constitutes sexual violence, and this workshop is one space to unpack that potential. And, we hold this workshop well aware that academic institutions are themselves sites where sexual violence is both enabled and enacted. The workshop also intends to interrogate that reality in order to rupture it. 

Organization: The days of the workshop will be split into seminar-style discussion of assigned texts as well as engagement with participants’ projects-in-progress, grouped by research area and interest. The goals of the workshop will be to (1) center rhetorical studies scholarship on sexual violence and create a set of questions to advance this research; (2) build a shared bibliography (initiated and partially read beforehand) for use in research and teaching; and (3) engage with projects-in-progress (two-page pre-circulated proposals) that resonate with the workshop theme. 

Annie Hill Annie Hill is an Assistant Professor in Rhetoric and Writing and an affiliate in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas, Austin. Her scholarship focuses on state and sexual violence, sex work, and sex trafficking in the United States and United Kingdom. In support of this work, Dr. Hill has won both Fulbright and Ford fellowships, in addition to other grants and awards. Her research appears in diverse journals including Women’s Studies in Communication, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, Anti-Trafficking Review, and Feral Feminisms, as well as in edited volumes and public media. She is an investigator on research teams for a Sexual Violence Prevention Collaboratory and a Sex Trading and Community Well-Being Initiative. Dr. Hill also curates the Violence section of The Gender Policy Report, a blog hosted by the Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Ashley Noel Mack Ashley Noel Mack (they/them) is an assistant professor of rhetoric & cultural studies in the Department of Communication Studies at Louisiana State University. They also serve as an affiliate faculty member in African & African American Studies and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Their research explores how differences and disparities are communicated and naturalized through rhetoric in contemporary US Culture, and also how rhetoric is wielded by historically marginalized bodies and communities as a resource for creating a more just and equitable world. Their work is informed by decolonial, Black, and trans feminisms and queer of color theories. Their writing has been published in Departures in Critical Qualitative Research, Journal of Communication Inquiry, Women’s Studies in Communication, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, and Journal of Homosexuality.

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