Academic journal article Communication Studies

Who Said What: Subject Positions, Rhetorical Strategies and Good Faith

Academic journal article Communication Studies

Who Said What: Subject Positions, Rhetorical Strategies and Good Faith

Article excerpt

For years, communication scholars have been concerned with speakers and audiences. Early studies in rhetoric assessed the style of individual speakers across many occasions as well as the effectiveness of individual speakers in specific instances. Sophists and other practitioners of rhetoric theorized ethos--the character of the speaker as portrayed in the speech itself--and its contribution to rhetorical success. Book II of Aristotle's Rhetoric suggests a more than casual concern with the qualities and characteristics of audience members (the old and young, how to incite anger and pity, etc.). Early theorists of argument identified the fallacy of the ad hominem to account for the effects of personal (irrational) attacks against speakers (Corbett, 1971).

Later work has continued to address the particularity and variety of speakers and audience members. Communication theory and scholarship still concerns itself with the modern counterpart of ethos: credibility. Argument theory continues to draw attention to the ad hominem fallacy, as well as other speaker and audience-related fallacies (e.g., plain folks). In speech, composition, communication, and communication-related classrooms teachers and professors continue to stress the importance of speaker ethos, audience analysis, demographic variables of speakers and audiences, appeals to the egocentrism of individual audience members, and diversity. A look inside current speech, rhetoric, composition, persuasion and argumentation textbooks suggests as much (e.g., Lucas, 2001; Ross, 1994).

In scholarship, theorists and critics of communication have used a variety of disciplinary and methodological approaches to keep up with popular political discourses, many of which recognize the multiplicity of perspectives on issues of concern. Since WWII, social scientific approaches to communication have increasingly addressed social categories and the parts they play in communication processes (e.g., personality typing, birth-order research). More recently, communibiological approaches to human behavior and communication have identified "natural" categories of genetically based differences in temperamental set points and asserted the role of these differences in public speaking (particularly speech apprehension) and interpersonal communication contexts (McCroskey, 1997). In the 1970s and 80s, debates over the appropriateness of "ideological" criticism marked rhetorical scholars' entry into explicit discussions of the relationships between power, difference, and truth (e.g., Campbell, 1972; Campbell, 1983; Gronbeck, 1983; Hill, 1972; Hill, 1983; McGee, 1984; Megill, 1983; Rosenfield, 1974; Wander, 1983; Wander, 1984; Wander & Jenkins, 1972). Since then, other qualitative scholars have continued to bring politics and cultural studies to bear in critical theory and praxis (e.g., Blair, Baxter & Brown, 1994; Crowley, 1992; Dow, 2001; McKerrow, 1989; Nothstine, Blair, & Copeland, 1994; Sloop & Ono, 1997; Wood & Cox, 1993). In many cases, this recent critical scholarship deals explicitly or implicitly with the notions of subject, identity, and how producers of discourse situate themselves and are situated by others in various communication contexts.

Notions of subject, identity, and demographic categories are often used to make sense of how people engage in argumentation and action. For example, the events of September 11, 2001 have fueled debates over racial and ethnic profiling in law enforcement, the significance of various religious affiliations to subsequent fighting, the treatment of Arab and Muslim Americans by other U.S. citizens, and U.S. legal and military policy. Questions asked have included "Do recent events justify closer scrutiny of persons because of their race, sex, and age?" "Do (certain/many) religions doctrines and traditions offer fertile ground for totalitarian sentiment?" and "Should captured suspects be called "prisoners of war," qualifying them for treatment according to international rules and regulations, or "terrorist detainees" without a country and rights to established strictures of conduct? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.