Contemporary Black Rhetorics: Black Twitter and Black Digital Cultures

Contemporary Black Rhetorics: Black Twitter and Black Digital Cultures

Black discourses have been the major means by which people of African descent in the American colonies and subsequent republic have asserted their collective humanity in the face of an enduring white supremacy and have tried to persuade, cajole, and gain acceptance for ideas relative to Black survival and Black liberation.

—Keith Gilyard, African American Rhetoric(s): Interdisciplinary Perspectives

African American Rhetoric is “the study of culturally and discursively produced knowledge-forms, communication practices and persuasive strategies rooted in freedom struggles of people of African Ancestry in America.

—Elaine Richardson and Ronald Jackson African American Rhetoric(s): Interdisciplinary Perspectives

What does the difference between Kendrick Lamar’s “We Gon Be Alright” and older movement anthems like “Let Nobody Turn Us Around” tell us about differences in perspective held by contemporary Black activists and those of other eras? What strategies are people engaged in various kinds of work to “assert their collective humanity” and “gain acceptance for ideas relative to Black survival and Black liberation” using in the pursuit of those goals? What debates are taking place inside Black communities about activism? About community itself? What is it about twitter, vines and memes that have made those spaces such rich spaces for Black expressive cultures? What stylistic or aesthetic features mark those communicative efforts? Finally, what do young people themselves have to say about activism in this moment?

African American rhetoric as an area of study involves the examination of the wide range of discursive practices—verbal, visual, textual, performative, and visual—used by individuals and groups of Black people toward the ends of collective liberation as well as everyday communication.  These traditions and practices have public, semi-public, counter-public and private dimensions and include communicative efforts directed to Black people as well to members of other groups in this society.  This course will explore the contours of Black rhetorics in a few contexts: activism in and surrounding the #BlackLivesMatter movement, advocacy for Black interests during the 2016 presidential campaign, and Afrofuturism.

Completion of PWR 1 and PWR 2 or permission of instructor required.