Communication and Social Conflict

MW 9:30-10:45

CMCL 104

Communication and Social Conflict is an intermediate level introduction to the forms, functions, and implications of rhetoric in the production, maintenance, management, subversion, and transformation of the range of social and political interactions contained by the term conflict. By "rhetoric" we have reference to the sociality of language -- the capacity of language-in-action to constitute social being or identity -- and to the catalog of symbolic resources available in a particular culture for enacting sociality, including argumentation, visual and verbal imagery, metaphors, narratives, myths, ideographs, etc. By "conflict" we have reference to the range of ways in which the members of a particular culture constitute or stylize social and political differences in an economy of relationships of power, including antagonisms, competitions, debates, disputes, wars, etc. The goal of the course is to help students to develop a sophisticated understanding of the role(s) that rhetoric plays in constituting social, political, and cultural conflict at a variety of different sites of interaction ranging from the nation-state to the legislature and the courtroom and from the boardroom to the classroom.

We will proceed to our task in four stages. In Part I we will examine the socio-rhetorical functions of conflict, focusing attention on both how conflict is constituted as a function of the sociality of language and how it serves as a rhetoric of control for framing and structuring the life of the community. In Part II we will examine the ideological structure(s) of social and political conflict as they are manifested in and by ideographs and metaphors, two of the key languaging strategies central to the rhetorical constitution of social and political community. In Part III we will examine the role that rhetorical identification plays in the production of conflict and community, emphasizing the ways in which the "other" in a conflict -- whether characterized as adversary, alien, enemy, opponent, etc. -- is stigmatized through dramatized rituals of victimization, scapegoating, and exoticization In Part IV we will examine a variety of political styles helpful in characterizing -- and perhaps acting upon and transforming -- social and political conflict. In each section of the course we will consult a tutor text, an instance of public discourse that manifests the complexities of social and political conflict that will guide our analysis and discussion. By the end of the semester students should develop the ability not only to identify, analyze, and interpret the relationship between rhetoric and conflict in a particular case, but also the capacity to act upon or transform such conflicts in socially, politically, and culturally useful or productive ways.



The books listed below have been ordered by the IU Bookstore in the Indiana Memorial Union. Additional readings will be placed on reserve in the Journalism Library.

Goffman, Erving.  Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity.  New York:
Simonand Schuster, 1963.
Hariman, Robert.  Political Styles: The Artistry of Power.  Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1994.
Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson.  Metaphors We Live By.  Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1980.
Simmel, George.  Conflict & The Web of Group-Affiliations.  Trans. Kurt H. Wolff 
and Reinhard Bendix.  New York: The Free Press, 1955.





 1. Attendance. Preparation for and attendance in this class is presumed. I am committed to conducting this class as a seminar or discussion class. I will lecture some each week, but with the possible exception of 1/13, there will be very few (if any) classes where lecturing is the primary focus of our time together. Instead, our class sessions will be organized around discussions of the readings and the examination of key "tutor" texts &endash; instances of public discourse designed to help us work through the complexities of the conceptual materials we will be considering. Occasionally I will assign brief "position papers" or other in-class exercises to guide and facilitate discussion. Obviously you cannot profit from any of this if you are not in attendance or if you are not prepared to discuss the materials. If you do not attend class please do not ask me if we covered anything important (the answer is always "yes") or to repeat or summarize class meetings. If you miss class get notes and summaries from a classmate. Once you've reviewed that material if you have specific questions about or problems with missed material make an appointment to meet with me.

2. Journal. I am asking you to keep a journal of course readings and analyses of the course "tutor" texts. Beginning with the class on 1/20 and prior to each subsequent class you should provide a brief but specific summary of the central ideas or concepts developed in the reading for that day. These summaries should be between 75-100 words in length. Additionally, for each reading you should identify and discuss a specific example that illustrates, refutes, or otherwise helps you to react to one or another of the key concepts being developed and discussed. Examples can be drawn from your own everyday experiences, or from advertisements, newspaper and magazine reports, television shows, movies, novels, the internet, etc. And indeed, I encourage you to look in a range of places for such examples over the course of the semester. Additionally, on those days that we will be discussing "tutor texts" in class (this will occur on four or five separate occasions) I ask you to develop a brief (150-250 words), single-point analysis of a specific aspect of the text in terms of the concepts and issues we have been discussing. Your summaries and discussions of examples and tutor texts will play an important role in class discussions. Be sure to bring your journal with you to class each day! I will collect, comment upon, and grade your journals on three separate occasions over the semester. Your journal will count as 20% of your final grade for the semester.

3. Examinations. There will be a mid-term and final examination. The mid-term examination will take place in-class on (3/3) and will consist of short answer and essay questions. The final examination will be a take home examination handed out during the last week of classes and due no later than the end of the regularly scheduled examination period for this class. The final examination will consist of three essay questions from which you will choose two to answer. Each examination will count 20% towards your final grade for the course.

4. Project. Each student will conduct a semester long project that will consist of a detailed study of the rhetorical dimensions of a social or political conflict. The "conflict" under study can be either historical or contemporary, and it can be international, national, or local. However you proceed you must describe the conflict, making a case for its contemporary significance; analyze and interpret the ways in which it is rhetorically constituted; and develop an argument for how we might most profitably and productively engage it -- in the case of a historical conflict that would consist of explaining what we might learn from it as we face analogous or similar conflict situations in our own time; in the case of a contemporary conflict that would consist of considering how we might transform or operate within its context. The project will develop in three stages: Essay #1 will be a brief but specific (3-4 pp.) description of the social or political conflict you want to study, along with a discussion of its potential contemporary significance. Essay #2 will be a 5-7 pp. analysis and interpretation of the ways in which the conflict is rhetorically constituted. Essay #3 will be a 8-12 pp. essay (typed-double spaced) that integrates and develops the materials from essays 1 & 2 in a final essay that makes a case for how we might productively act upon this conflict. The project will be worth 40% of your final grade for the course. I will grade each essay, but assuming continued improvement, your entire grade will rest on your final essay. In the event that your final essay is evaluated lower than either of your first two essays then the average of your first two essays will count as 20% of your final grade and the final essay will count as 20% of your final grade. Essay #1 is due on 2/10; Essay #2 is due on 3/31; and Essay #3 is due on 4/28. I will hand out a more detailed description of the assignment in the first few weeks of the semester.



General Grading Information. All assignments will be graded according to the following scale:

A+ = 98-100

B+ = 87-89

C+ = 77-79

D+ = 67-69

F = 0-59

A = 95-97

B = 84-86

C = 74-76

D = 64-66

A- = 90-94

B- = 80-83

C- = 70-73

D- = 60-63

Plagiarism on paper assignments (and cheating on examinations) as these are defined in the University rules and regulations will not be tolerated. Ignorance of the appropriate rules and regulations is not considered a defense. Be sure to read the Student Code of Ethics. If you have questions ask. All offenders will be dealt with according to the strictest letter of the law!


Grading Criteria for Formal Essays. I believe that the ability to communicate is a necessary sign and condition of being an educated, responsible, and effective citizen. I thus have high expectations for what an Indiana University student -&endash;&endash; especially one who studying communication &endash;&endash; should be able to accomplish. Formal essays (as with public speeches) are always addressed to a specific audience with the purpose of addressing a specific problem or concern. Accordingly, in evaluating formal essays I place a very high premium on the clarity and economy of your expression. You must write only in complete sentences and with careful attention to grammar and spelling. Always remember that communication is YOUR job. Each essay will be an exercise in adapting to an audience. I am the audience for these essays, and if I don't understand what you are trying to say, it is YOUR fault, and YOUR grade will suffer. Of course, it is difficult to adapt to an audience if you have no idea what the audience is expecting to find in your essay. I will hand out specific descriptions of each writing assignment at the appropriate time detailing my expectations regarding the content of your essay. Generally, however, your essays will be graded in accord with the following four sets of questions:


1. Does the essay show evidence of careful preparation? Does it have clearclear organiztin (introduction, body, and conclusion)? Does it seem to have been written from an outlilne? Does it seem to have gone thorugh more than one draft? (25 points)

2. Does the essay have a clear thesis statement? In comparison with similar essays in this class, how well does it make its point? Is appropriate evidence drawn from the particular to support the argument of the essay? Are references to the text(s) and issues being analyzed clear and succinct, or would the reader have to substantial independent knowledge of those texts or issues in order to understand your main point? Does the author explain how evidence functions to demonstrate analysis, or must the reader supply large inferential leaps? (25 Points)

3. Does the essay respond to the particular assignment? Does it pose or respond to a significant question or issue? Does it communicate the significance of the point made? Does it demonstrate a depth of understanding of relevant principles and issues being considered in class? (30 Points)

4. Is the essay written in accord with the standard rules of English grammar recommended in handbooks such as Harbrace's College Handbook or William B. Strunk and E. B. White, The Elements of Style? (Common grammatical mistakes that I look for are: sentence fragments &endash;&endash; usually phrases missing either a subject or a verb &endash;- noun-verb disagreements, the misuse of commas or diction, misspelled words, and typographical errors. Students who have difficulty with the rules and conventions of English grammar should purchase and study one of the above writing handbooks, and/or make an appointment with the English Department Writing Center in the basement of Franklin Hall for help. Is an appropriate style sheet being used for referencing materials? I recommend using the MLA Handbook, but whatever style sheet you use be sure that you use it correctly. Please note that I will not edit your essays. I will place a check-mark in the margin next to a sentence in which you have made a grammatical mistake. It will be contingent upon you to figure out the error and correct it in any subsequent revisions you do. (20 Points)

Late essays will be penalized at the rate of five points @ day to a maximum of thirty-five points. An essay is considered late if it is turned in after 9:30 a.m. on the date due. No essays will be accepted after the last day of classes.



I am available to meet with students to discuss substantive matters growing out of class meetings, readings, essay assignments, etc., or to discuss the development and direction of your education in general. My offices hours are listed at the top of the syllabus. I will generally be in my office most of the day on MWF. I am generally not available on Tuesdays or Thursdays. If you need to see me at other times, make an appointment. Please do no feel shy about asking for an appointment if you need one. My home phone is 317-535-0719, but please do not call me there before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 PM. I can also be contacted via e-mail (lucaites@indiana.edu) and generally that is the easiest way to contact me.



NOTE: Because this is a new course and I'm not yet sure as to the pace at which we will move, I have not provided a detailed list of topics or reading assignments. I should have a good sense for how we will proceed after several weeks and will handout a revised, detailed course calendar. I have provided a detailed description of topics and reading assignments for the first part of the course plus I identify the due dates for all writing assignments and examinations.

PART I:  The Socio-Rhetorical Functions of Conflict

	1/11	Course Introduction

	1/13	Lecture:  Rhetoric, Conflict, and Social Order
		Read:  Simmel, "The Sociological Nature of Conflict" in Conflict & 
                                     the Web of Group Affiliations 13-55.
	1/18	No Class &endash; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
1/20	Discussion: The Rhetorical Dimensions of Conflict
Read:  Simmel, "Competition" in Conflict & the Web of Group 
          Affiliation, 57-85.
1/25	Discussion: Conflict as a Rhetoric of Control
Read:  Simmel, "Conflict and the Struture of the Group," in Conflict 
           & the Web of Group Affiliation, 87-123.
1/27            View:  Frank Capra's  "Prelude to War"
2/1	  No Class &endash; Professor Lucaites Lectures in Washington
2/3	  Discussion: The Socio-Rhetorical Functions of " Prelude to War"
PART II:  The Rhetorical/Ideological Structure of Conflict  
                   (2/8 to 3/3)
2/10	Essay #1 Due
3/3	  Mid-Term Examination
PART III:  Constituting the "Other" in Social and Political Conflict
                     (3/8 to /31)
3/31	Essay #2 Due
PART  IV:  Stylizing Conflict (4/5 to 4/28)
4/26	Course Evaluations; Review for Final Examination
4/28	Discuss Final Papers; Hand Out Final Examination
		  Essay #3 Due
5/3	  Final Examinations Due
Return to John Lucaites Home Page