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Resistance, ontology, and affect

Joshua C Call, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation argues that in order for particular kinds of resistance to be useful, we need to think of them as both ontological and affective. The distinctions between "resistance" and "opposition" are useful for understanding how to read actions and reactions to power, and serve as a starting point for how I wish to extend those demarcations.^ I want to suggest that in order to make resistance useful, we look very carefully at the ways certain behaviors and responses signal the presence of useful resistance by their ontological and affective markers. This move represents the kind of thinking/doing work that is generative in the classroom, and signals resistance as something more than simply oppositional. It marks a way to read resistance as a kind of power-claiming and creative impulse for resistant students that can help us understand where and how we engage with both the power, and the student's sense of self that is at stake in moments of resistance. Reading resistance as ontological helps us see this move towards agency as something directly intentional for students, for the ways in which it is informed by their ideas, desires, and work.^ Finally, resistance always comes with felt, affective difficulty. Attending and responding to this affective condition is a necessary part of making resistance a useful part of the classroom, and useful for learning. Thinking through resistance as affective rhetoric can help suspend potentially problematic readings by seeing the affective conditions as a way to engage the issues that matter to the resistant student, and inviting that work.^ Because engaging with resistance means to deal with complex student subjectivities, and layers of felt difficulty, it requires care. Careful understanding, careful listening, careful speaking are all things readily identifiable as important facets of thinking about teaching in this way. For resistance this holds tremendous implications for the ways in which it asks teachers to suspend immediate judgment, and both listen to and work with students. For engaging with resistance, this is a necessary part of how we name, work with, and respond to the kinds of ideas and behaviors that resistance represents. ^

Subject Area

Language, Rhetoric and Composition

Recommended Citation

Call, Joshua C, "Resistance, ontology, and affect" (2009). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3369311.