Communication and Culture | The Rhetoric of Social Movements (Topic: Illness, Violence, and Resistance)
C340 | 8684 | Pezzullo, P.

MW, 2:30 PM-3:45 PM, C2 203

Fulfills College A&H Requirement
Carries College Intensive Writing Credit
A portion of this class reserved for majors

Instructor: Phaedra Pezzullo
Office: C2 223
Phone: 855-2106
Instructor’s Website:

“In the midst of a massacre, in the face of torture, in the eye of a
hurricane, … do you, the observer, stay behind the lens of the
camera, switching on the tape recorder, keep pen in hand? Are there
limits—of respect, piety, pathos—that should not be crossed, even to
leave a record?  But if you can’t stop the horror, shouldn’t you at
least document it?”
-Ruth Behar, 1996, The Vulnerable Observer, p. 2

Legendary environmental activist and scientist Rachel Carson once
emphasized that we as people have “the obligation to endure.” As
Behar’s (above) questions stress, however, the choices presented by
the politics of enduring are rarely simple. This upper level
undergraduate course on social movements will focus on the
rhetorical dilemmas of resistance posed by bodies in pain. Our
readings and discussions will engage practices and theories of
movements resisting a range of contemporary causes, such as breast
cancer, prostate cancer, AIDS, hate crimes, animal welfare, violence
against women, and drunk driving. Given these topics, we will
grapple with questions about illness, violence, and resistance—
including, but not limited to: what is U.S. contemporary public
culture’s attitude towards death and illness?  How do our
dispositions vary depending on the cause of death?  In what ways
does language limit and make possible our ability to communicate
about bodies in pain?  Do nonverbal modes of communication such as
photographs or marches minimize or amplify these rhetorical
constraints? Which ethical positions do actions of trauma, hate, and
sickness provoke us to imagine, reinvent, and/or abandon?  What are
the politics of memory? And, perhaps most importantly, given all the
illnesses and violent acts in the world, how does studying the
rhetoric of social movements enable us to identify resources of hope
for a more just world?

As an IW course, we also will discuss how to improve one’s writing
skills, particularly in constructing an argument that may both
inform and inspire. Since writing skills are linked to oral
communication skills, creative group presentations and engaged
classroom discussions are expected.

Required Readings likely will include:
* Samantha King, Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics
of Philanthropy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006).
ISBN-13: 978-0816648986 Available at: Boxcar Books and Community
Center <>
* Additional required readings are available at: E-Reserves [E-R] or
Oncourse [OC]

Course Requirements:
Active and Informed Participation: 15%
Group Presentation: 15%
3 Critical Research Papers: 15% (4-5 pages); 20% (4-5 pages); 35% (9-
10 pages)