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Workshop 24: The Futures of New Materialism

Primarily Synchronous (June 1-4)

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Workshop Leaders:

Byron Hawk, University of South Carolina:
Diane Marie Keeling, University of San Diego:
Thomas Rickert, Purdue University:

What is called “new materialism” has been around for over a decade now. It has been studied under different names (Critical Realism, Object Oriented Ontology, Speculative Realism, Thing Theory, and more) and across many different fields, using a variety of questions, and motivated by innumerable interests. Nonetheless, it retains a distinctive stance: matter and meaning, ontology and epistemology, are entangled—they presuppose and complexly inflect each other. New materialist perspectives have generated innovative ways to discuss how material objects and phenomena are woven into the fabric of life. They have opened us up in different ways to discussing new body-mind-thing-world circuits, showing how rhetorical work is scaffolded and distributed. They have produced new understandings of connectivity, such as ecologies, networks, and assemblages. New materialism has offered much, and delivered much. But what more does it make possible?

In this workshop, we address new materialism less as an introduction and more as a challenge. As technological advancement and globalization continue apace, new materialist perspectives must also evolve. Given what has been accomplished, what new work is now opened up? If rhetoric is a more holistic art than we have previously understood or articulated, how so? Conversely, what has new materialism not been able to accomplish? What are its omissions or concealments? One way participants could approach these questions is by rethinking major rhetorical concepts or issues that new materialist work has been hesitant or slow to address. These might be related to subjectivity, economy, inequity, politics, justice, idealism, language, or thought, all of which are vital to our understanding of rhetoric and its workings. Participants are also invited to continue thinking about rhetoric’s relationship to other fields, including neurology, biology, environmental studies, or moral psychology. These fields and others beckon us toward new thinking on issues of cognition, feeling/emotion, decisioning, and pressing questions about how we are to flourish in the face of an uncertain future.

Organization and preparation: We will split our time between reading discussion and project development. Readings for the workshop will be shared in a Dropbox folder in advance of the workshop. Prior to the workshop, we will ask participants to share abstracts and drafts of their projects. Authors we read may include Elizabeth Grosz, Karen Barad, Martin Heidegger, Eduardo Kohn, Tero Karppi, Isabelle Stengers, Alfred North Whitehead, Taina Bucher, Edouard Glissant, and Gilles Deleuze.

Byron HawkByron Hawk is Professor of English at the University of South Carolina. His primary research interests are histories and theories of composition, rhetorical theory and technology, sonic rhetorics, and rhetorics of popular music. He is the author of Resounding the Rhetorical: Composition as a Quasi-Object (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018) and A Counter-History of Composition: Toward Methodologies of Complexity (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007), which won JAC’s W. Ross Winterowd Award in 2007 and received honorable mention for MLA’s Mina Shaughnessy Prize in 2008. He has published in journals such as Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Philosophy and Rhetoric, Argumentation and Advocacy, College English, Pedagogy, Technical Communications Quarterly, JAC, and Pre/Text. He is also the editor of the online journal enculturation, a book series for Parlor Press titled New Media Theory, and co-editor of two collections, Small Tech (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), and Digital Tools in Composition Studies (Hampton Press, 2010).

Diane Marie Keeling Diane Marie Keeling is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of San Diego. Her research interests include rhetoric’s intellectual history, feminist new materialism, and rhetoric of science. She collaborates and co-authors with evolutionary biologists, marine ecologists, and physicists to invigorate philosophical orientations of rhetorical theory. Keeling is published in Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, POROI: Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Review of Communication, Rhetoric Review, eLife, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication and the edited volumes Tracing Rhetoric and Material Life and Border Rhetorics. Her current book project addresses the rhetorical emergence of the liberal arts from the myths, geography and archeological record of Bronze Age Crete. Keeling is president of the Organization for Research on Women and Communication ( and the faculty producer of USD’s There’s More podcast (

Thomas Rickert Thomas Rickert is a Professor of English at Purdue University. His primary research interests include histories and theories of rhetoric, critical theory, digital media, ecology, and music. He published his first book, Acts of Enjoyment: Rhetoric, Žižek, and the Return of the Subject, with the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2007. It won the 2007 Gary A. Olsen Award from JAC for best book of the year published in Rhetoric and Cultural Studies. His second book, Ambient Rhetoric: The Attunements of Rhetorical Being, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2013. It won the 2014 Outstanding Monograph of the Year Award from the Conference on College Communication and Composition. He has produced numerous essays on rhetorical theory and history, appearing in journals such as Philosophy and Rhetoric, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Review of Communication, Quarterly Journal of Speech, Enculturation, JAC, and others. His current book project uses new methodological perspectives to argue that rhetoric is a fundamental human commonality that can be traced alongside the emergence of modern humanity in the Paleolithic era.

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