Call For Papers


A public is an ongoing space of encounter for discourse. It is not texts themselves that create publics, but the concatenation of texts through timeMichael Warner, "Publics" (2002)

Carolina Rhetoric Conference
Clemson University
Feb 09-10, 2018

Scholars in rhetoric and composition have, in recent years, examined how publics, counterpublics, and public writing function in everyday spaces and places, as expression, argument, and resistance. If we consider, as Michael Warner does, a counterpublic as a public that is in “tension with a larger public” and one that has participants who are “marked off from persons or citizens in general,” we can then see the possibilities for the manifestations of what this conference calls counter/publics. Nancy Fraser’s explanation of counter/publics as subaltern communities “whose parallel discursive arenas give rise to inventing and circulating counter-discourses and thus interpretations of their identities” allows us to further note the actions and rhetorics of differing publics.

In response to world-wide events and political changes, networks – informal and formal – use the public sphere to communicate dissensus and resistance, making visible the rhetoric of counter/publics in tension with larger publics. Although some individuals are intentionally members of counter/publics, others are unaware of their position within these networks. According to Jenny Rice, “. . . becoming oriented to the public sphere is never simply a matter of joining publics or counterpublics. Whether or not we know it, we are already a part of multiple networks.” What constitutes a public and a counterpublic also continues to shift, especially in an increasingly digitized world. Still, issues of public identity, ideology, and influence persist, regardless of the location of the public – material, or virtual. As these identities, ideologies, and influences are becoming more fragmented and divided, we wonder how rhetorics can encourage collaboration and consensus among varying counter/publics.

This conference asks how rhetorics are employed to participate, engage, and even challenge publics. We are interested in the ways in which counter/publics use rhetorics to enact agendas and facilitate action through collaboration and dissent; included, but not limited to queer/ing publics, disability and difference, digital and material participative spaces, pedagogical applications, and community-based writing.

Questions for consideration and response are:

  • How are 21st-Century rhetorics poised to engage public ideas?
  •  What are the roles of academic instructors in counter/public sphere(s)? What is the relationship between counter/publics and pedagogy? Can a classroom be a counter/public?
  • As instructors of writing and rhetoric, how can we use publics and public rhetorics to “move” our students (physically, emotionally, intellectually)?
  • Can changes emerging in the digital ecologies and environments be employed to better position counter/publics toward enacted change? Will these technologies expand communicative opportunities that lead to persuasion and action?
  • To what extent is the digital realm a public or counter/public? To what extent does social media promote or hinder agency?
  • Can the rhetorics of subaltern counter/publics offer to larger dominant publics a strategy for articulating interests and needs of all communities?
  • What are some discourses and/or strategies for change or voicing dissent?
  • How are counter/publics advantaged or limited as they relate to place and community?
  • How can we consider the use of non-traditional rhetorics by counter/publics?
  • How do various communities address issues of difference and dissensus?
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