Rationality and environmental justice: the visual rhetoric of a culture at risk

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2005-01-01
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Bowers, Tom
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Helen Ewald
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English

The Department of English seeks to provide all university students with the skills of effective communication and critical thinking, as well as imparting knowledge of literature, creative writing, linguistics, speech and technical communication to students within and outside of the department.

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The Department of English and Speech was formed in 1939 from the merger of the Department of English and the Department of Public Speaking. In 1971 its name changed to the Department of English.

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1939-present

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  • Department of English and Speech (1939-1971)

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Abstract

Scholars in rhetoric have recently sought to expand their understanding of social movements and the public sphere by integrating studies of visual rhetoric. For scholars exploring the rhetoric of social movements and the public sphere, the environmental movement provides a fruitful avenue of research by which to consider the role of visual rhetoric in changing social consciousness. Drawing on a methodology that views social movements through a rhetorical lens, I explore how the visual rhetoric of the environmental justice movement challenges corporate practices and discourses that shape public perceptions of sustainable development and industry's commitment to open communication. In its efforts to redefine public understanding of sustainability, the environmental justice movement employs visual rhetoric to contend that industry's concerns for economic growth and profitability far outweigh its concerns for environmental stewardship. In its efforts to redefine public understanding of industry's commitment to open communication, the environmental justice movement employs visual rhetoric to illustrate how industry's notion of open communication constructs a public that is rhetorically ill-equipped to question industry's practices and successfully participate in public policy discussions. While the visual rhetoric of the environmental justice movement may redefine public consciousness with respect to sustainability and open communcation, the movement's visual rhetoric is nonetheless limited in its ability to fully promote public action to change these practices because the visual rhetoric examined in this study differs from the images of a culture accustomed to what Szasz refers to as "images of disorder." Therefore, an analysis of the effectiveness of a movement's visual rhetoric must take into account the ways in which various institutional practices and discourses shape a culture's habits of vision, habits which can erode the effectiveness of certain visual rhetoric. Scholars in rhetoric seeking to expand their understanding of social movements and the public sphere by integrating studies of visual rhetoric must therefore consider how a movement's visual rhetoric challenges and redefines the practices and discourses which construct a culture's habits of vision.

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Sat Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2005