Inventing and Intervening in the bath with ContraPoints
This paper was presented at the 2020 National Communication Association during the Top Papers Panel for the Critical and Cultural Studies division.
Hi all, thank you for coming today and for listening to my paper. I’m Matthew Salzano, a Ph.D. Student at the University of Maryland, coming to you live from my bedroom-office-conference room in Hyattsville, MD.
Through examples as varied as glitch art, urbexer photography, and DIY digital networks, Casey Boyle suggests a redefinition of rhetoric, one summarized in the title of his book: Rhetoric as a Posthuman Practice. “Practice,” like rhetoric, has many definitions; rhetoric is both a social practice and something that individuals practice. But this is not a rhetoric handbook in a posthuman register. Boyle’s project is not simply offering “posthuman methods” that rhetors can use to increase their persuasiveness. Instead, he is attending to the rhetorical consequences of contemporary digital information technology by transcending a humanist framework and theorizing that rhetoric “is a practice that exercises serial encounters within ecologies to inform bodies” (27). Boyle draws from scholarship on rhetorical ecologies and circulation, critical affect studies, and posthumanism to recast well-worn, ancient practices from rhetorical training as ways to exercise rhetorical capacities. Boyle’s work is thus relevant to seemingly disparate subfields of rhetoric and communication studies: rhetoricians engaged with in situ field methods may find his discussions of topoi complementary and provocative, scholars of historic public address may contend with his implication that persuasion is a result of serial encounters, and teachers of public speaking might consider whether assigning self-reflection papers about persuasive speeches is an adequate way to prepare students for contemporary civic life.
I’m excited to announce the publication of my first sole-authored scholarly article, “Lemons or Lemonade? Beyoncé, Killjoy style, and Neoliberalism” in Women’s Studies in Communicaiton. You can read the whole article at T&F’s site. The abstract is below:
This article focuses on the controversy surrounding bell hooks and Lemonade to contend with the neoliberal constraints of digital, feminist, public intellectual argumentation. I argue that hooks’s critique reveals her killjoy rhetorical style. Drawn from Sara Ahmed’s theorization of the feminist killjoy, hooks’s killjoy style provides a rhetorical interruption that reshapes the affective orientations of feminist communities. Its snappy affect opens up the potentiality for critical feminist theory amid the challenges of neoliberalism.
This essay was originally written as my PLU Capstone (pictured above). Thanks to all the killjoys that helped me take this paper from there to here.
As @RhetoricTweeter spews out formulaic criticism, it pushes on an existing paradigm of intervention. The tweets try to seem like they intervene in some ongoing theoretical or conceptual conversation in rhetorical criticism or in academic literature more broadly. In this way, I hope it asks us to think about how the form of academic writing might encourage a specific interventional approach.
But at the same time, as its tweets develop, it may be an inventional resource. The strange pairing of expansions that may not otherwise be placed together (e.g. in a test case, the bot wrote: “In my next paper, I will use decolonial theory to claim that Hilary Clinton’s emails frustrated the public sphere. #TeamRhetoric”) may lead to interesting new critical ideas. It may encourage a way of playing with how rhetoric and criticism happens on twitter, whether directly with the bot or inspired by it.
Here are a few of my favorite tweets it made and responses to it.
A record number of women were sworn into Congress on Jan. 3.
The influx of women candidates helped turn the midterm election into what many observers dubbed a “Year of the Woman.”
But despite a tide of voter sentiment favoring women, these winners got to Congress or a statehouse not by defining themselves as “women’s candidates,” but instead by sidestepping issues typically associated with their gender, from equal pay to reproductive freedom.
We found that, despite the momentum of the #MeToo movement, women were careful in playing the “gender card.” They avoided what are often construed as “women’s issues” that are associated with gender equality such as abortion, pay equity, sexual violence and harassment.
Finding Feminism: Do the television and movies that we consume reflect who we are? Speakers Bureau presenter Amy Peloff describes the hidden role that feminism plays in popular television and movies.
I wrote some corporate journalism for Humanities Washington as a part of my internship in the communications office. In this Q-&-A with a public intellectual who serves on the HumWA speakers bureau, I helped the interviewee elucidate the value of feminist theory and criticism to their public audience. You can read the whole story on HumWA’s website.
Amy Peloff grew up believing in feminism as a “self-evident fact.”
When she was five years old, Peloff played in Louisville, Kentucky’s first co-ed T-ball league. The boys on her team were displeased about her presence, and they taunted her. “I have this very clear memory of calling these little boys ‘male chauvinist pigs,’” she said, laughing.
And thus, a vocal feminist was born.
Peloff, who got her Ph.D. in Women’s Studies from the University of Washington, is a member of Humanities Washington’s Speakers Bureau. Her free talk, Feminism and Popular Culture, explores what feminism means, how it is revealed in popular culture, and teaches how to take a critical approach to popular media.
Peloff’s remarkably articulate response to the insults of those five-year-old boys drove her interest in pop culture today. When she started her Ph.D. in 1999, she wondered: “How did I have the ideas and language to think about feminism from such an early age?”
She turned to pop culture to start answering that question. Her research focused on women like Dolly Parton, who embodied feminist ideals without ever saying they were feminists. “Feminist ideas already exist in the popular imagination,” Peloff said. That presence is the focus of her talk. She uses contemporary examples from film and TV to explore the expected and unexpected locations where one can find feminism: from Black-ish to Mad Max: Fury Road.
“Even if you might not be comfortable with the term feminism,” Peloff says, “you might actually be a lot more comfortable with the ideas than you believe.”
Navigating native advertising in college media: Sponsored content finding a niche in college media marketing
I was asked by College Media Review editor Lisa Lyon Payne to do some reporting on college reporting for CMR. I reported on how student journalists and their advisers are starting and managing native advertising in their newsrooms. You can read the whole story here.