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Workshop 18: From Grassroots to Institutions: The Murky Politics of Transnational Advocacy

Primarily Synchronous (June 1-4)

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Workshop Leaders:

Rebecca Dingo, University of Massachusetts, Amherst:
Shui-yin Sharon Yam, University of Kentucky:

This seminar seeks to bring together conversations from transnational rhetorical studies (Hesford; McKinnon; Dingo; Reidner; Yam) with rhetorical studies of advocacy and activism (Britt; Kahn; Loehwing). Both areas have been a crucial part of our field of studies in recent years, with an increasing amount of attention directed to campaigns and movements led by marginalized communities, such as undocumented immigrants, queer people, and women of color outside of the U.S. (e.g., Chávez; Cisneros; Schell; Stillion Southard; Wanzer-Serrano). In order to ethically contextualize and examine the rhetorical practices of transnational actors, scholars across our disciplines have proposed and enacted methodologies that attend to the geopolitics, histories, and uneven networks of power and economies that rhetors must navigate (Dingo, Reidner, and Wingard; Mohanty; Shome). Together, the current body of scholarship has demonstrated the methodologies and inquiries needed to uplift the actions and voices of marginalized rhetors in transnational contexts.

This workshop continues this project by interrogating transnational advocacy and social movements from two perspectives: seemingly progressive mainstream advocacy from supranational organizations and corporations that nevertheless bolsters the existing status quo and American exceptionalism (Dingo; Hesford and Kozol); and decentralized grassroots movements that enact non-hierarchical and fluid tactics (So; Tufekci), such as the anti-authoritarian protests in places like Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, and Kashmir. In doing so, we ask the following questions:

  1. How and why do some nation-state, sociopolitical, and economic structures amplify some actors and rhetorical practices over others?
  2. What are the tensions between each level of stakeholders (e.g.. grassroots activists, nonprofit workers, government officials) that inform their rhetorical strategies?
  3. How do activists rhetorically enact their visions and commitments for social justice both locally and transnationally? What models of justice do they amplify through their advocacy? 
  4. Whose voices and lived experiences are amplified by mainstream global media, and whose get stifled, and why?
  5. As rhetoricians, how can we ethically and critically evaluate the effectiveness and outcomes of transnational advocacy, taking into account its specific cultural politics, histories, and contexts?

In addition to reading different theories and approaches to transnational rhetorical studies, activism and advocacy (e.g., Britt; Brown; Dingo, Reidner, and Wingard; Fortun; Silliman, Fried, Ross, and Gutierrez), we will also examine case studies that showcase how these strategies and tactics come to bear in across different rhetorical contexts. Participants will share ideas and develop proposals for a special journal issue on the scopes, targets, ethics, and tactics of transnational advocacy and social movements.

Dr. Rebecca Dingo Dr. Rebecca Dingo is an Associate Professor of English and currently the Director of the Writing Program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Rebecca’s research has addressed transnational rhetorical and composition studies and in doing so she forwards a transnational feminist lens attuned to global political economy. She is the author of Networking Arguments: Rhetoric, Transnational Feminism, and Public Policy Writing, which received the W. Ross Winterowd Award in 2012. She has published widely in both the field of Women’s Studies and Rhetorical Studies.  As Writing Program Director, Rebecca has also offered workshops and trainings across the globe on her research, writing pedagogies, and writing development. Her pedagogy seeks to connect theory with practice and all of her classes tend to offer on-the-ground case studies paired with theoretical lenses. Rebecca earned her Ph.D. in English with an emphasis on Rhetoric and Composition from The Ohio State University.

Shui-yin Sharon Yam Shui-yin Sharon Yam is Associate Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies, and a faculty affiliate of Gender and Women Studies at the University of Kentucky. Her research focuses on citizenship, race, transnationalism, and reproductive justice. She is the author of Inconvenient Strangers: Transnational Subjects and the Politics of Citizenship (2019, Ohio State University Press). Sharon’s work has been published in journals such as the Quarterly Journal of Speech, enculturation, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Women’s Studies in Communication, and Composition Forum. She is also a contributor to Hong Kong Free Press.

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