Technologies of representation: Fields of rhetorical action in transnational feminist encounters

Mary Teresa Queen, Syracuse University


In this dissertation, I examine how websites function as global fields of rhetorical action for feminist activism across geopolitical, cultural, and economic borders. I begin by defining the term global fields of rhetorical action and explicating its usefulness for rhetorical scholars through an analysis of the digital circulation of a debate between two feminist organizations. From this analysis, I then demonstrate the exigence for feminist rhetoricians to develop alternative conceptual and methodological frameworks that place our work in a global sphere and account for the transformation of rhetorical action through digital technology. I propose a new methodology--- rhetorical genealogy ---that examines digital texts as both historical and ephemeral, one that specifically focuses on the circulation and consumption of digital texts. I demonstrate the efficacy of this new methodology through an extended analysis of the circulation and consumption of the digital representations of Palestinian women produced by the Women's Affairs Technical Committee , an organization of Palestinian women working within a geopolitical site of conflict. A rhetorical genealogy of this website reveals the ways in which digital representations are acted upon by mainstream and feminist audiences in the U.S. as they travel through multiple fields of rhetorical action. This analysis extends and complicates Kenneth Burke's rhetorical concepts of identification and difference by employing transnational feminist Sara Ahmed's stranger theory and technology theorist Paul Virilio's theory of real-time to reveal the transformation of identification and difference in transnational digital rhetorics and contexts. I argue that rhetorical scholars must broaden our understanding of rhetorical action to account for both the global and digital transformation of local, regional, and global relations of power.