This graduate seminar is focused on public rhetoric and placemaking. Drawing on public and place-based rhetorical theory and methods, urban studies, environmental communication, and interdisciplinary community-based approaches, this course engages in questions of how “places” come to matter; how they accumulate meaning; how they perpetuate various forms of violence and inequity; and how they also provide opportunity for joy, connection, and transformation. We might easily replace the metaphor of place with other like concepts—say: ecology, public, environment, or community. While these concepts have different resonances that you might prefer (and we’ll explore all of them), our work with them will be expansive to include material, symbolic, embodied, human, and other-than-human stuff that coheres, connects, and divides, dynamically, emergently, and unevenly, within various places.
This course also taps into rhetoric's longstanding civic role of preparing individuals and communities to respond nimbly, creatively, effectively, and ethically to our most urgent public problems. Rhetoric—which is foundational to all communication—is an interdisciplinary public art that facilitates capacities for resilience, problem solving, and collective action. We will explore ways that rhetoric as language and as ways of relating & being (including discourse, symbols, performances, images, ideas, genres, ideologies, dynamics of built and natural environments, public forces and affects, flows of collective energy) becomes emplaced and entangled in the world and how rhetoric as capacities of communication, connection, and action can help us engage in just and ethical placemaking (or worldmaking) practices. Rhetoric in this sense always evokes place and capacities of placemaking.
As we work together, we will also consider the possibilities for public scholarship as a praxis that holds the potential to transform and expand traditional forms, audiences, and genres of scholarship and teaching; to open up who participates in producing scholarship and what knowledges, wisdoms, and experiences are valued; and to create more avenues for publication and circulation of diverse knowledges within and beyond the academy.