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The Conceit of Context

Resituating Domains in Rhetorical Studies

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Edited By Charles E. Morris III and Kendall R. Phillips

This edited volume features essays derived from presentations delivered at the 15th Biennial Public Address Conference held at Syracuse University in October 2016, as well as additional material. The Conceit of Context explores the often invoked—indeed a central term in the history of rhetorical studies—but less often engaged concept of context. In this volume, we center the notion of context as the site of engagement, critique, and imagination, seeking to deepen the critical and political promise of context in the study of public discourse.

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17 Captivated by Shared Judgment: Image Vernacular in South Korea’s 2008 Internet Protests (Jiyeon Kang)

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Jiyeon Kang

In April 2008, three months after the inauguration of President Lee Myung-bak (2008–2013), the U.S. and South Korean governments finalized negotiations to resume the importation of beef from the United States, which had halted in 2003 after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)—also known as “mad cow disease”—was found in North America. The decision stirred cyberspace over fear of the fatal disease, whose cause and means of transmission to humans were not fully known. South Korea’s online space was soon inundated with disturbing photos and videos of stumbling and downed cattle, of human patients’ sponge-like brains, and of the BSE epidemic in Britain between 1984 and 2009 when 180,000 cattle were infected, 4.4 million suspect cattle slaughtered, and 166 people killed.1 The Internet became a fount for the fear of mad cow disease, with images and stories from the British epidemic and with conjecture and conspiracy theories about the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that Lee pushed despite broad public disapproval. When President Lee signed the beef importation agreement on April 18, Internet users immediately proposed a protest in downtown Seoul to rebuke the import policy. The first major “beef protest” attracted fifteen thousand participants and then spread nationwide, galvanizing young Koreans with carnivalesque slogans, music, and dance performances.2 On May 13 when the National Assembly held a hearing on the U.S.–Korea FTA, a petition to impeach the president reached 1.3 million signatures. From there, Internet-born, youth-driven protests grew nightly and addressed...

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