Place, Protest, and Rhetoric

This week’s readings examined the relationship between place, protest, and rhetoric. Roxanne Mountford’s “On Gender and Rhetorical Space” argues that rhetoricians need have undertheorized space in their scholarship. Although thinking of space as a metaphor for “the cultural landscape of laws, customs, and beliefs that form the geographies of our lives” (41), Mountford argues that rhetoricians should also consider physical spaces and their influence on “communicative event[s]” (42). She uses the pulpit to illustrate how a theory of rhetorical space might work. The pulpit, Mountford argues, has been a gendered place that valorizes masculinity and sets a wall between the preacher and his audience. In  “Location Matters: The Rhetoric of Place in Protest,” Danielle Endres and Samantha Senda-Cook explain that rhetoricians have long consider place and space as useful tools for argument but they have not fully considered how place and space are arguments themselves. Using current scholarship on place and space as a foundation and as support, Endres and Senda-Cook unpack what place-as-rhetoric. They argue that social movements draw on three tactics when they use place-as-rhetoric:  build on pre-existing meanings of a place, temporarily reconstruct the meaning of a place, and repeatedly reconstruct that result in new place meanings (266).


Last week at the end of my commentary, I played around with this idea about the spaces coding camps train minority youths. I bring this up because historically the classroom, has been a contentious space for African Americans; the meaning of these places and the actions that occur in these places support a white middle class background. Of course, African Americans have created their own spaces with curricula that reflects their experiences, both in HBCUs and public schools. These places were created partly out of necessity and partly out of protest against curricula that tried to hide or re-name the enslavement of Africans and their descendents. In fact, trying to hide the tragedies of America continues today.

So I’m thinking about the movement in education to rewrite the classroom. Some teachers calls this hacking the classroom where they re-arrange the furniture. Or schools will build or renovate a classroom that it signals the need to collaborate (like putting swivel chairs in the room instead of those stiff, 19th-century desks, which populates MUCH of Helen C. White’s classrooms by the way).

The examples of women preachers in Mountford’s article resonated with me. I understand the place-as-rhetoric argument, but I’m more interested in this idea of literally taking existing materials and building your own place and space, like African Americans did during the Reconstruction era or the coding camps across our country. How do their classrooms resemble classrooms in official spaces of education? Because they would be outside the education system, how are these classrooms different?

I don’t have a question but just a possible topic we could discuss: what are some other examples of where groups created their own places/space for protest and argument out of raw materials? Must we always rely on existing places? This is an area I wished the scholars in this week’s readings would explore further

Published by aabyrd

I'm the instructor for WCATY's Media Studies in a Digital Age course for Summer 2015.

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