RSA Bi-Annual Conference

20th Biennial Conference of the
Rhetoric Society of America
Baltimore, Maryland
May 26 - 29, 2022

Conference Co-Chairs: Vanessa Beasley, Martin Camper, Eric Detweiler, Casey Ryan Kelly, and Jennifer LeMesurier

The theme of the RSA 2022 biennial conference, “The Charge for Change,” invites us to engage with rhetoric’s purposes, demands, and energies in a post-pandemic world when the allure of returning to “normal” is in tension with the opportunity for reparative transformation. For many, “normal” was never inclusive, generative, or accessible. It was instead exclusive, narrow, and, in the parlance of the theme of the unfortunately cancelled 2020 RSA Conference, purposefully inhospitable.

As members of RSA prepare to meet in person for our biennial conference in 2022, we will once again consider new ideas and arguments as well as invitations to community, friendship, and kinship. Yet this meeting is also a moment to examine who--and how--we want to be together as scholars and teachers of rhetoric, as a scholarly association, as members of the academy, and as stewards of the future. What’s the charge for change?

Consider the multiple meanings of a charge. It can be a command, an imperative directing its listeners to a desired outcome; a charge tells others what they need to do. It can also be an energy source, providing fuel and force in a world where energy itself must be reimagined if we want to save the planet and its inhabitants from climate change and other catalysts of destruction. Charge can also signal positive or negative connectivity, the spark that happens when two differently charged atoms draw near one another or when two people or groups meet, attracting through recognition and solidarity or repulsing in opposition and resistance. A charge might also mean a cost or debt we owe to (an)other—a bill that has come due that we are obliged to pay. 

Change was the theme of the 2016 RSA conference in Atlanta. Moreover, because of its place as a presumptive outcome of persuasion, listening, conversation, and expression, change is also one of the most basic elements of most rhetorical theories and practices throughout history.  While current demands for change may sound different as the world emerges from a global pandemic, they are part of a necessary and constant drumbeat of responses to the human costs of generations of oppression and violence towards people of color, immigrants and residents without citizenship, women, queer and trans folks, people with disabilities and health precarity, and poor and working-class individuals. In fact, in June 2020, and in response to anti-Black violence, the RSA Board of Directors committed to its own charge to change via the building of an “inclusive and equitable Society that works towards racial justice.

Change—particularly the kinds of change such a commitment will require—can seem daunting. It can seem hard to know where to start.  Yet it almost always begins with rhetoric, and so let us begin again with the 2022 conference. As New York Times bestselling author, professor, and rhetorician Roxane Gay has said, “writing for social change does not mean that the revolution begins tomorrow or that we have to change everything all at once. It means that we simply have to start.” We are delighted to announce that Dr. Gay will be joining us in Baltimore at RSA 2022 as our keynote speaker.

We invite members’ diverse and insightful voices to be at the center of the conference. To that end, we are pleased to issue this call for submissions of rhetorical scholarship, broadly defined and boldly imagined, that take up the 2022 theme. The submission portal is CLOSED.