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PWR 1BH: A Seat at the Table: Rhetorics of Belonging

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empty seat with the quote, If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.

The phrase a seat at the table is often used to describe an instance where someone is included in an opportunity that has the potential to lead them to some form of success. The symbolism of pulling up a chair to a table represents a sense of belonging and inclusion that wasn’t extended previously for one reason or another. What happens when you get “a seat” that you’ve pursued for a long time? This course asks you to engage with feelings of inclusion/exclusion by drawing from your own experiences of negotiating and fighting for your seat.

One way to think about this is to consider how your potential major (or careers relating to your potential major) relate to your body and how you are expected to exist in these spaces. In these moments of expectation, what are you willing to give? What is an acceptable cost (changing how you dress, talk, think, etc.) for your success? How can you fight to protect yourself and be successful? Is it possible to do both?

This course tasks you with exploring these important questions through your writing and by conducting research that allows you to examine your experiences and prior knowledge in major course assignments. For example, students might opt to research how a particular company, organization, or individual presents themselves to consumers (or followers), and then consider how this branding allows or restricts one's engagement/participation.

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages): Students will analyze a text of their choice representative of a space or group of which they are currently a member or would like to be a member of in the future (i.e., hometown, campus organization, future career). “Text” here includes but is not limited to a document reflecting a potential major, a campus club or organization, a news article or publication from their hometown, etc. Students should engage with how the text persuades the reader regarding who does and who does not belong in a particular space or group. One example is requiring a certain GPA or degree in a job posting.

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages): Students will pick 4-6 sources related to the topic of their choice that talks “around” a particular position or identity that they would like to have or that they feel welcomed to. These topics can be based in personal or familial experience or could explore social/conceptual frameworks. For example, a student could opt to research how the cosplay community defines “true/good cosplay,” and could use their own experience, interviews with other cosplayers, and/or online postings to discuss the topic. Students will analyze and explore these multiple texts to determine how different authors define the position or identity in question. Students will discuss how these various texts depict “belonging” in the context of a particular position (i.e., organization, race, language, gender, etc.).

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500; 12-15 pages): Building on research collected for the Texts in Conversation assignment, students will develop a research-based argument (i.e., identity, past time, organization, job, etc.) and discuss whether they feel included or excluded based on their research. Furthermore, students are strongly encouraged to discuss their perspective on the “cost” of belonging and whether or not they are willing to pay it. A question that can be used to start your research is, “what does it mean to be [selected topic]?” Students will use library and web-based research.