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PWR 1EH: Rhetoric of Resistance

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What narratives, knowledges, or ideologies do you resist—why? In this course we will examine what constitutes a narrative of resistance and we will use rhetoric to help us understand who decides when resistance is celebrated, needed, righteous, and who decides when it is condemned or misguided. Resistance is an important skill to cultivate and hone as we enter into public discourse as writers, researchers, and community members.

Narratives of resistance can be found in all fields so your topics can range widely, and I encourage you to research a topic you want to learn more about. For instance, you might analyze narratives for and against unionizing, debt forgiveness, GMO foods, or greenwashing. You might interrogate resistance narratives to chatGBT, prison abolition, or self-driving cars. Former students have mapped the language used by western newspapers when they report on Palestine as well as whether universities should accept money from fossil fuel companies to fund climate research. 

To begin, we will situate ourselves by examining texts from some contemporary rhetors who have fomented both academic and popular resistance. We will analyze how and why these writers ask their audiences to think about issues like race, identity, education, and power, and we will root our critical inquiry by closely examining how the language we use works to create or thwart a more just society.  All quarter, we will return to these questions: What is considered valid or needed resistance in the midst of our ever shifting social, political, economic, and environmental extremes?  What is the relationship between resistance and truth; resistance and democracy; resistance and our language choices? 

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words; 5-6 pages) This assignment asks you to analyze the rhetorical strategies of a text of your choice that makes an argument about resistance narratives. You’ll choose a text that examines counter narratives to topics such as standardized language use in the classroom, theories like identity politics, or tactics such as code-meshing. 

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words; 6-8 pages) This assignment marks the beginning of your research project. Here, you will research and investigate the larger research question you’d like to explore relating to resistance. You’ll analyze how different sources, voices, and perspectives inform the larger conversation about your topic. For instance, you might explore topics such as defunding the police, how AI can be racist, or how corporations have co-opted narratives of resistance. 

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words; 12-15 pages)  Your RBA is the final product of this course where your voice enters into the conversation. Here is where you’ll build on and expand the work you began with the Texts in Conversation assignment by integrating a variety of sources to produce your own complex, provocative argument about resistance as it relates to your topic. 

photo credit: Gayatri Malhotra