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The Public Work of Rhetoric
Citizen-Scholars and Civic Engagement
Edited by John M. Ackerman and David J. Coogan
Foreword by Gerard A. Hauser
The Public Work of Rhetoric offers a timely and dynamic endorsement of rhetoric as a
potent communications tool for civic engagement and social change, efforts necessarily inclusive of people inside and outside the academy. In this provocative call to
action, editors John M. Ackerman and David J. Coogan, along with seventeen other
accomplished contributors, offer case studies and criticism on the rhetorical practices
of citizen-scholars pursuing democratic ideals in diverse civic communities—with partnerships across a range of media, institutions, exigencies, and discourses.
Challenging conventional research methodologies and the traditional insularity of
higher education, these essays argue that civic engagement as a rhetorical act requires
critical attention to our notoriously veiled identity in public life, to our uneasy affiliation with democracy as a public virtue, and to the transcendent powers of discourse
and ideology. The case studies highlight efforts in inner-urban and postindustrial
communities where poverty is the overriding concern, in afterschool and extracurricular alternatives that offer new routes to literate achievement, in new media and
digital representations of ethnic cultures designed to promote chosen identities, in
neighborhoods and scientific laboratories where race is the dominant value, and in the
policy borderlands between universities and the communities they serve. Contributors
champion the notion that the public work of rhetoric is the tough labor of gaining
access and trust, learning the codes and histories of communities, locating the situations in which rhetorical expertise is most effective, and in many cases jointly defining
the terms for gauging social change.
The book includes a foreword by Gerard A. Hauser, College Professor of Distinction in
the Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Boulder.
John M. Ackerman is an associate
professor of communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where
he directs the Program for Writing and
Rhetoric and holds the Ineva Baldwin
Chair of Arts and Sciences.
David J. Coogan is an associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Studies in Rhetoric/Communication • Thomas W. Benson, series editor
March 2013, 304 pages, 16 illus.
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