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The Conceit of Context

Resituating Domains in Rhetorical Studies


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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20 Southern Traditions of (Ms.)Remembering: Place, Purpose, & Personae of Black Freedom Commemoration (Kristan Poirot)


Kristan Poirot

In October 1988, academics and black freedom activists convened at the Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) Center for Nonviolent Social Change to discuss the central role women played in modern civil rights movements.1 The conference laid the ground work for gender recovery efforts that have thoughtfully supplemented “great man” narratives of black resistance.2 Sadly, despite the progress that has been made since the organizing of this convention in extant historiography, women are largely absent in publicly memorialized narratives. In fact, the site of the groundbreaking conference, the King Center, is itself indicative of the problem as it neglects to image or even mention many germinal women of the movement, including those like Ella Baker, Diane Nash, and Jo Ann Robinson who played pivotal roles in the associations and marches connected to King. It seems all-too-fitting that one of the most (if not, the most) gender exclusive narratives in the South’s civil rights movement commemorative landscape is placed in a setting explicitly designed to remember its “greatest” man.

Frustrated with sex/gender exclusive narratives that pervade the southern commemorative scene, I have asked rhetorical scholars to understand the representations of black freedom movements in southern museums in terms of rhetorical geographies of memory.3 While the important work of critical geographers has asked us to map the cultural and physical placement of commemorative sites, rhetorical sensibilities demand that we map the interplay among sites and locales, and to understand not only the place-making ←241 | 242...

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