Southern Colloquium on Rhetoric
Thursday and Friday, October 5-6, 2017
University of Arkansas

Rhetoric and Trauma: 1968 to 2018

The Department of Communication at the University of Arkansas hosted the Fall, 2017 meeting of the Southern Colloquium on Rhetoric (SCoR) on October 5th and 6th in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Arkansas event was more like a mini-conference than a typical SCoR seminar, featuring Karma Chavez as the keynote speaker and a series of panels.

The SCoR seminar focused on the relationship between rhetoric and trauma to explore how political and rhetorical fields manage, produce, and ameliorate pain. With an eye towards 2018, which will see the fiftieth anniversaries of the My Lai Massacre, the Tet Offensive, Johnson’s decision not to seek reelection, the assassinations of both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy, the riots at the DNC, the Kerner Commission Report, the Fair Housing Act, the election of Richard Nixon, and the launch of Apollo VII, this colloquium sought to think through the contemporary rhetorical moment through the lens of 1968 to understand rhetorical and political similarities and differences as we understand trauma and memory. The seminar began with a broadly by consideration of Julian Zelizer’s piece from the Atlantic,
“Is America Repeating the Mistakes of 1968,” to contemplate how these twin political moments compare and to assess lessons from 1968 that are worth remembering in the contemporary period.

Our capstone text will be a selection from Martin Luther King’s Where Do We Do From Here: Chaos or Community? (1967). Here, in his final book, King assessed the civil rights movement’s successes and failures after a decade of organizing. He considered the rise of Black Power and its rhetorical and political utility. He provided contemporary analysis of white supremacy and the continuing effects of segregation. And he sketched out some possibilities for a new America, one where racism didn’t shape housing, education, jobs, or war. Additionally, our discussion will be shaped by selections from Monica Casper and Eric Wertheimer’s Critical Trauma Studies: Understanding Violence, Conflict and Memory in Everyday Life (NYU Press, 2016), and Jeffrey C. Alexander’s Trauma: A Social Theory (Polity Press, 2012).


Thursday, October 5

3-4 pm – Registration

5:15-6:45 pm – Plenary Speaker, Dr. Karma Chavez (in the JB Hunt Building, Rm 144)

7:15-9:30 pm – Dinner and After Party

Friday, October 6

9-9:15 am – Introductions and Welcome (events held in Arkansas Union 512-514)

9:15-11:15 am – Discussion of Theme and Key Texts

11:30-1:30 pm – Lunch

1:45-3:15 pm – Panel #1, featuring:
  • Kristen Hoerl, University of Nebraska
  • Andre Johnson, University of Memphis
  • Suzanne Enck, University of North Texas
3:15-3:30 pm – Break

3:30-5:00 pm – Panel #2, featuring:
  • Casey Kelly, University of Nebraska
  • Amanda Nell Edgar, University of Memphis
  • Jay Childers, University of Kansas
  • Anjali Vats, Boston College
5:00-5:15 pm – Closing

5:15-6:30 pm – Closing Reception

Touchstone Text

King, M. L. (1967). “Chapter 3: Racism and the white backlash,” and “Chapter 5: Where we are going.” In Where do we go from here: Chaos or community? (pp. 67-101, 135-166). New York: Harper & Row.

Primary Theoretical Texts

Alexander, J. C. (2012). “Within trauma: An introduction.” In Trauma: A social theory (pp. 1-18). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Casper, M. J., & Wertheimer, E. (Eds.). (2016). “Introduction and Chapter 1.” In Critical trauma studies: Understanding violence, conflict and memory in everyday life (pp. 1-30). New York: New York University Press.

Other Recommended (Optional) Readings

Eyerman, R. (2002). Cultural trauma: Slavery and the formation of African American identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Herman, J. L. (2015). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror. New York: Basic Books.

Sheldon, G. (2016). Trauma and race: A Lacanian study of African American racial identity. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press.

Tal, K. (1995). Worlds of hurt: Reading the literatures of trauma. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.