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Never again: Interventionist rhetoric and social justice for the other

Joy Arbor, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


“Never again” has become a rallying cry for Jews and human rights activists alike protesting the Holocaust and genocides of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Rhetorical theorists through the ages, such as Cicero, Bacon, and others, have claimed that rhetoric could serve as an alternative to violence and persuade people to engage in ethical action. This dissertation weds rhetoric’s traditional civic and ethical foci with Rhetoric and Composition’s and human rights activists’ respective commitments to social justice in order to argue for interventionist rhetoric, a rhetorical theory promoting intervention in the sufferings of others. ^ Believing that the best way to prevent genocide and human rights atrocities is to understand them, I explore the social psychology of genocide perpetration and the passive bystander effect in order to develop principles for an interventionist rhetoric in Chapter 1. ^ In the second chapter, I focus on the Compassionate Listening citizen delegation in Israel/Palestine as an exemplar for promoting social justice for the other through activist listening across difference. The theories, practices, and goals of Compassionate Listening have much to offer Rhetoric and Composition’s “rhetorical listening” and “intercultural inquiry.” ^ The third chapter investigates the challenges of crafting artistic expression for social action. Here poems are crafted rhetorically in order to represent multiple perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I reflect on the challenges of writing to represent and encourage intervention in the sufferings of others in creative work. ^ Chapter Four focuses on interventionist rhetoric’s potential for the writing and rhetoric classroom, whose capacity to be promote student agency and civic participation is contested in Rhetoric and Composition. Drawing parallels and distinctions to Rhetoric and Composition scholarship in pedagogy and teaching, I outline and complicate what interventionist rhetoric principles mean for promoting critical community awareness and individual responsibility for the other in the writing classroom. ^ The Epilogue explores possibilities across different sites of praxis and reflects on interventionist rhetoric’s ramifications for the field of Rhetoric and Composition. ^

Subject Area

Speech Communication|Language, Rhetoric and Composition

Recommended Citation

Arbor, Joy, "Never again: Interventionist rhetoric and social justice for the other" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3271913.