My research raises questions about the rhetorical systems and underlying epistemologies that enable violence in various forms and the complicated rhetorical work of those who oppose it. In particular, my work examines the intersections of human rights issues and both traditional and digital rhetorics, with particular attention to how changing modes of access complicate and/or complement existing structures of power.
My book project, Sensible Violence, examines the ways in which certain forms of violence maintain acceptability through self-reinforcing systems of epistemic injustice. The rhetoric that supports lynching, the death penalty, and stealth torture delineates the borders between groups based not just on who “deserves” violence, but on who can understand or access it. Evincing the “correct” understanding of these violent spectacles thus becomes a means of identification, a marker for “civilized, “reasonable” people, while “incorrect” understandings are constructed as evidence of an outgroup’s moral or intellectual inadequacy. These binaries become particularly complicated in relation to digital engagement with violence, including online spaces for witnessing such as the collection of lynching photographs available through the Without Sanctuary website. Examining how publics can be constructed around violent practices and shared interpretations of violence expands our understanding of what constitutes public discourse, the relationship of violence and rhetoric, and the intertwined rhetorics of acceptable violence and “appropriate” viewing.
Rhetorics of Violence
Interpretive Rights and Epistemic Injustice