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PWR 2SC: Are We There Yet? The Rhetoric of Mobility

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Catalog Number: PWR 2SC

Instructor: Selby Schwartz

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP)

Prerequisite: WR-1 (PWR 1; ESF; ITALIC 95W)


Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

At a time when our streets and screens are filled with urgent calls to envision a more just future, movements from Black Lives Matter to Ni Una Menos to Climate Emergency have mobilized millions of people. Marching through cities, sending hashtags streaming around the globe, even dancing in the streets: this moment asks us to consider what mobility means for bodies and their politics. 

In this class, we begin with a seemingly simple question: what does it mean to take a walk? But from a disability-studies perspective, even the smallest unit of movement raises questions about accessibility and structural inequity. Rethinking the category of mobility allows us to challenge assumptions not only about disability, but also about place, belonging, and the navigation of identities. As massive numbers of people flee violence and hardship, we also see how crucial the rhetoric of mobility can be for human rights. What categorizes one person as “refugee” and another a “migrant”—or, for that matter, as a “traveler,” “immigrant,” “tourist,” “homeless,” “alien,” or “DREAMer”? The politics of borders illuminate how rhetorical situations shape our understanding of our places in the world—and what constrains or enables us as we move around in it. 

In this class, we will explore questions about mobility through writing, research, media, and oral presentation. The dynamic mode of presentation lends itself to topics that move us, and we will practice strategies for persuasive, engaging writing and speaking. Over the course of the quarter, you will shape and develop a project of your own, supported by a collaborative process of making as giving

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5 minute live oral presentation; written text of 600-1200 words): To investigate a project through the lens of mobility, you first propose a central question and a case study, then sketch out your research plan. Projects might investigate the ethics of auto-play algorithms, the labor politics of ride-sharing, the role of social media in justice movements—or conversely, you could analyze constraints like incarceration, transphobic laws, or barriers to social mobility. 

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) Addressing the central question you've proposed and using your case study as a touchstone, you draw on your research to craft a persuasive essay that conveys your way of seeing. 

Delivery of Research

(10 minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) This is your chance to move your audience towards new ways of thinking and doing. In translating your RBA from the page to a live space, you distill your project for the present audience.

Genre/Modes Assignment

(1-2 min film) Adapting the international Mobile Film Festival’s format for our class, you’ll make a micro-film that teaches us one thing you’ve learned in your research so far. Whether you create your super-short film from slides or shoot video on your phone, you’ll engage your audience and prepare us to follow your project as it develops.