PWR 2 Summer 2020: The Rhetoric of Activism (Shannon Hervey)

PWR 2 Summer 2020: The Rhetoric of Activism

Course Description

In late 2019, Stanford was home to a great political and ideological fissure: Should Ben Shapiro be allowed to speak on Stanford’s campus? Hundreds of students, faculty, and staff showed up to protest the event. In February of 2018, riots broke out across UC Berkeley’s campus resulting in the cancelation of Milo Yiannopoulos, and in April of the same year, Ann Coulter canceled her appearance after political organizations, fearing the same type of violence, rescinded their support of her visit. In response to mounting college campus debates on how to protect free speech and also its student body, the University of Wisconsin adopted a three-strikes policy: any student found to have disrupted the free expression of others is expelled after a third infraction. But college campuses are not the only hotbeds of ideological rifts reflected in polarizing rhetoric. Not by a long shot. 
In 2018, the Guardian published a story titled, “We are living through the golden age of protest.” We can perhaps understand why such a claim might be made less than a year after an estimated 4 million  people participated in the Women’s March of 2017 in the United States alone (estimates reach 5 million worldwide). 
In this course, we will read from a variety of disciplines, from sociology to psychology, from political science to history, to investigate the role of rhetoric in social movements. We will explore topics like collective action, digital vigilantism, bipartisanship, technological warfare, and notions of “revolution”. We will analyze similarities in language and strategy across movements; what does the language employed by Greta Thunberg have to do with the language used by the Black Lives Matter movement? How do “grass roots” movements get up off the ground and what claim do they have to authenticity? How does or should civil disobedience look and under what circumstances does it elicit change? What is consumer activism and how does it impact shareholder activism? In addition to the rhetoric, writing and research skills students learned in PWR 1, this PWR 2 course makes an important shift in focus toward composing well-researched and rhetorically strategic presentations. 


Major Assignments

Research Proposal (5-minute oral presentation; written text of 600-1200 words): You will propose a topic for an RBA that examines some aspect pertaining to the intersection of rhetoric and social movement. Your proposal will identify a specific topic, introduce relevant scholarship and primary sources, and pose research questions. In addition to any of the topics above, students might explore the role of digital media in contemporary activist efforts, the controversy over judicial activism, or the phenomenon of "culture jamming."
Written Research-Based Argument (3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages): After presenting your proposal and receiving feedback, you will research your topic and compose a well-researched academic essay.
Delivery of Research (10-minute oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support): You will develop your RBA into a presentation. 
Genre/Modes Assignment (600-900 words or 2-3 pages): As a stepping stone toward your RBA, you will  represent your evolving research with an infographic where you will also explore visual and digital literacies.