Towards a critical intersectional rhetoric: Critical rhetoric meets intersectionality

Document Type


Presentation Date


Conference Name

16th Biennial Rhetoric Society of America Conference

Conference Location

San Antonio, TX


The most recent treatments of critical rhetoric have attempted to expand its appropriate methodological focus (Hess, 2011; Hess & Herbig, 2011; Middleton, Senda-Cook, & Endres, 2011). It is within this expansion that I pitch this theoretical interrogation and building of critical rhetoric. While the newest research argues for a variety of in situ, ethnographic, and other considerations of ‘live’ rhetorics, my investments are more directly in the responsibility of critical interpretation of texts. McKerrow (1989) establishes a series of obligations for critical rhetoricians as they analyze rhetorical artifacts; two critiques, eight praxes, and a perpetual criticism is no small endeavor. I argue here, however, that this is insufficient in the analysis of the rhetorical productions of marginalized or vernacular discourses. Emerging from an analysis of the debate over Proposition 8 in California, I argue that critical rhetoricians must also attend to intersectional considerations as they emerge in the rhetorical productions of vernacular discourses. This project will articulate, then, a critical intersectional rhetoric that explores the project of critical rhetoric as it meets and is sometimes deficient in the consideration of intersectional identities. The project proceeds with a review of both critical rhetoric and intersectionality, then a consideration of their mutual commitments and divergent methods, and ends with a reflection of this perspective. Ulitmately, critical intersectional rhetoric encourages critics to interrogate and understand the discursive constructions of power and identity as they influence articulations of difference and coalition building in the interest of progressive social justice. Already foundational to both theories on their own is an attention to critical praxis and the deconstruction of ideological manifestations; a critical intersectional rhetoric would maintain these commitments and focus the rhetorical practice of articulating difference while maintaining space for an emphasis on paralleled oppressions. A critical scholar may investigate the possibilities of social movements, for instance, to borrow both strategic forms of rhetoric as well as some content to achieve equality. Simultaneously, the critic should be interested in the conditions under which this choice is made over other possible alternatives, how the choice might advance the goals of an oppressed group, and finally, the consequences of such a choice for coalitional possibilities with other communities that share a parallel oppression.



This document is currently not available here.