New in Paper! “Rhetoric, Through Everyday Things”

A fascinating addition to rhetoric scholarship, Rhetoric, Through Everyday Things expands the scope of rhetorical situations beyond the familiar humanist triad of speaker-audience-purpose to an inclusive study of inanimate objects

The fifteen essays in Rhetoric, Through Everyday Things persuasively overturn the stubborn assumption that objects are passive tools in the hands of objective human agents. Rhetoric has proved that forms of communication such as digital images, advertising, and political satires do much more than simply lie dormant, and Rhetoric, Through Everyday Things shows that objects themselves also move, circulate, and produce opportunities for new rhetorical publics and new rhetorical actions. Objects are not simply inert tools but are themselves vibrant agents of measurable power.

Organizing the work of leading and emerging rhetoric scholars into four broad categories, the collection explores the role of objects in rhetorical theory, histories of rhetoric, visual rhetoric, literacy studies, rhetoric of science and technology, computers and writing, and composition theory and pedagogy. A rich variety of case studies about objects such as women’s bicycles in the nineteenth century, the QWERTY keyboard, and little free libraries ground this study in fascinating, real-life examples and build on human-centered approaches to rhetoric to consider how material elements—human and nonhuman alike—interact persuasively in rhetorical situations.

Taken together, Rhetoric, Through Everyday Things argues that the field of rhetoric’s recent attention to material objects should go further than simply open a new line of inquiry. To maximize the interdisciplinary turn to things, rhetoricians must seize the opportunity to reimagine and perhaps resolve rhetoric’s historically problematic relationship to physical reality and ontology. By tapping the rich resource of inanimate agents such as “fish, political posters, plants, and dragonflies,” rhetoricians can more fully grasp the rhetorical implications at stake in such issues.

Scot Barnett
is an assistant professor of English at Indiana University.

Casey Boyle is an assistant professor of rhetoric and writing at the University of Texas at Austin.

“With this volume, Barnett and Boyle go beyond the reach of the speaker-audience-purpose model of human communication to include material objects. The book comprises four parts: ‘The New Ontology of Persuasion,’ ‘Writing Things,’ ‘Seeing Things,’ and ‘Assembling Things.’ The contributors—an impressive group of scholars ranging from experts to doctoral candidates—offer essays that explore objects as vibrant agents of persuasion and not just passive nonverbal tools. In a particularly intriguing chapter titled ‘The Things They Left Behind: Toward an Object-Oriented History of Composition,’ Kevin Rutherford and Jason Palmeri encourage the reader to engage in an empathetic dialogue with nonhuman historical objects: for example, history might be read differently if one examined the writing desks of important figures. This book has deep implications for the present materialist turn in the humanities. Unique for its ontological synthesis of rhetorical theory and nonverbal communication, this volume would be useful as a companion reader to a range of courses in rhetoric—from the basic course to advanced seminars—and it would be excellent complementary reading for courses in nonverbal communication. Summing Up: Highly recommended.”

288 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8173-9010-2 Paper
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8994-9 Ebook


New! “Borders of Visibility” by Jennifer L. Shoaff

An anthropological study of Haitian migrant women’s mobility in the Dominican Republic

Borders of Visibility offers extremely timely insight into the Dominican Republic’s racist treatment of Haitian descendants within its borders. Jennifer L. Shoaff employs multisited feminist research to focus on the geographies of power that intersect to inform the opportunities and constraints that migrant women must navigate to labor and live within a context that largely denies their human rights, access to citizenship, and a sense of security and belonging.

Paradoxically, these women are both hypervisible because of the blackness that they embody and invisible because they are marginalized by intersecting power inequalities. Haitian women must contend with diffuse legal, bureaucratic and discursive state-local practices across “border” sites that situate them as a specific kind of threat that must be contained. Shoaff examines this dialectic of mobility and containment across various sites in the northwest Dominican Republic, including the official border crossing, transborder and regional used-clothing markets, migrant settlements (bateyes), and other rural-urban contexts.

Shoaff combines ethnographic interviews, participant observation, institutional analyses of state structures and nongovernmental agencies, and archival documentation to bring this human rights issue to the fore. Although primarily grounded in critical ethnographic practice, this work contributes to the larger fields of transnational feminism, black studies, migration and border studies, political economy, and cultural geography. Borders of Visibility brings much needed attention to Haitian migrant women’s economic ingenuity and entrepreneurial savvy, their ability to survive and thrive, their often impossible choices whether to move or to stay, returning them to a place of visibility, while exposing the very structures that continue to render them invisible and, thus, expendable over time.

Jennifer L. Shoaff
is a sociocultural anthropologist focusing on transnational feminist topics and studies of race in the Caribbean, particularly in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

“A valuable anthropological gem that will have impact for years to come. It gives women on the Dominican Republic border a human face. This is much-needed nuanced ethnography that takes the marginalized out of obscurity while exposing the extent to which their invisibility is a chimera.”
—Gina Athena Ulysse, author of Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle and Downtown Ladies: Informal Commercial Importers, a Haitian Anthropologist, and Self-Making in Jamaica

208 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1967-0 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-9158-4 Ebook

Alabama’s Road to Greatness

Anyone who has had the pleasure of living in the state of Alabama for any length of time knows that the terrain is vast and varied. It is difficult to imagine a time when the paved streets and highways that we know today once existed as mere mud roads. In Getting out of the Mud: The Alabama Good Roads Movement and Highway Administration, 1898-1928, Martin T. Olliff sheds light on state’s turn of the century impetus to rethink the way Alabamians moved from place to place.


Check out these 5 Nuggets of Wisdom to learn more about the spirit of Dixie pride:

  1. The rise of the Model T inspired construction projects. Following the end of the Civil War, Alabama suffered a number of blows economically as the heavily relied on slave labor force was converted to a labor force requiring payment. A number of buildings and even whole towns had been burned by Union soldiers, and the Reconstruction policies that followed exacerbated an already desolate situation. Colloquially known as the “Tin Lizzie,” Ford’s vehicles helped to stimulate the stagnate Alabama economy.
  2. Good roads were built by good country people. Many of the first planned roads in Alabama were built by Alabamian men themselves. While many of these men were not skilled at road-building (most listed their primary occupation as “farmer” on the census), they saw a need for better roads in their state, and they filled that need the best way that they knew how: by picking up tools and getting the work done themselves. Some engineers and skilled craftsmen were brought in to assist with certain projects, by and large, this was a homespun movement.
  3. “Jackson” was quite popular. Though long since deceased, President Andrew Jackson’s legacy lived on in the hearts and minds of early 20th century white Southerners. In his lifetime, Jackson acted as a key military figure in various bloody conflicts including the War of 1812, the Creek War, and the First Seminole War. This led to a squabble between Mississippi and Alabama regarding who would have the privilege of naming their part of an interstate highway after Jackson. Although Mississippi technically won the battle, Alabama-Jackson Highway was born soon after.
  4. Alma Rittenberry is a name to remember. As women struggled to secure their right to the vote, Rittenberry played a key role in the campaign for what would become the Alabama-Jackson Highway. The daughter of a Confederate veteran and a member of the Daughters of 1812, Rittenberry was a voice that pushed the notion of highways acting as what Olliff calls “benefactors” of the cities they traversed.
  5. Seeing is believing. Olliff adds to the readers’ experience by adding a visual element. He presents a number of photographs of pivotal leaders in the movement that oversaw significant improvements to Alabama road construction. In addition, Olliffe provides a number of original sketches of highway plans dating back to the 1910s.

Olliff 2nd Pages 135

Olliff’s Getting out of the Mud: The Alabama Good Roads Movement and Highway Administration, 1898-1928 offers a much-needed examination of not just a state-wide construction project but also the ingenuity and heart of the average Alabamian. Published by Alabama Press in 2017, this book is now available for purchase.

Martin Olliff will be at Ernest & Hadley Booksellers this evening, Monday, October 23, beginning at 5:30 p.m. to discuss and sign copies of his new book.