NCA Preconference Seminar Call

Still Fighting: Rethinking our Relevance to Discourses of War, Gender, and Militarism

Wednesday, November 15: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Presenters: Jennifer A. Keohane, George Mason University; Kelly Jakes, Wayne State University; Sara L. McKinnon, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Description: War is an eminently discursive phenomenon. Each side marshals persuasive resources to justify their actions, build morale, and model appropriate actions for citizens to undertake. War is also a material phenomenon, one with increasing salience as governments and private industry implement militarization, securitization, and surveillance strategies as techniques of control. As rhetorical and critical cultural scholars have identified, these persuasive attempts and material impacts are deeply intertwined with gender as an organizing unit of social life.

This seminar will attend to the constitutive nature of gender, sex, and sexuality within contexts of war and militarism. We urge researchers to look beyond gender’s ability to prescribe action for individual citizens to its significance as a key signifier of power relations between warring groups. How, we ask, would studies of war, gender, and militarism change if we looked not at individual people but at relationships between larger actors (see, eg. Cloud 2004)? By orienting our critical focus similarly, we hope to prepare and embolden scholars to effect material change in the ways war and militarized action are represented. Given the prevalence of war in our society and the increasingly militarized nature of police patrols and political protests, this conceptual repositioning would draw attention to the ways in which gender offers a seemingly commonsense rationale for victory and defeat, occupation and liberation, resistance and collaboration. From DAPL protests at Standing Rock, to the armed surveillance of black neighborhoods, to the United States’ fight against ISIS, the proliferation of armed conflict in our world demands that we take seriously the ways in which state-sanctioned violence is legitimated and offer alternative discursive resources with which to interpret and resolve conflict. This, we hope, can be part of our discipline’s legacy and relevance.

This seminar invites scholars who are studying gender, war, and militarism or who see the utility of taking on these topics to reflect on questions such as these: How does gender structure overarching power relations between warring entities? How does expanding our understanding of rhetorical texts beyond political speeches (to include things like diaries, memoirs, etc.) provide insight into gender’s use and take up during times of war? How does gender influence militarized encounters (like along border regions)? How do material factors interact with discourse about gender to structure relationships between citizens? How do studies of war and gender help reassert communication’s relevance? In other words, how can rhetorical studies of war help reconstruct more productive discourses?

Requirements: Those interested in the relationship between gender and war or gender and militarism are invited to submit 500-word abstracts that critically reflect on these themes by August 15, 2017. Those interested, may for example, take one of the questions posed above as the basis to develop a position paper that articulates their thoughts about the relationship between gender and war in specific contexts. Those who are accepted to the seminar will be notified by September 1, 2017, and will be asked to elaborate their initial abstract into a 2000-3000 word essay, due October 15, 2017. Seminar participants will also be asked to read and reflect on selected readings before the seminar. PDFs will be circulated. All questions about the seminar and submissions should be directed to Jennifer Keohane at jkeohane@ubalt.edu.

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