Date of Award

January 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication and Rhetorical Studies


Dana L. Cloud


Campus Sexual Assault, Consciousness-Raising, Embodied Resistance, Intersectionality, Performance, Social Protest

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Seeking to understand the culture of rape in the U.S., this project centers the stories of women of color on college campuses. In particular, I analyze Emma Sulkowicz’s Mattress Performance and the past, present, and future activist projects of Wagatwe Wanjuki. Positioning Sulkowicz and Wanjuki in the center of the conversation on sexual violence reminds us of the historical reality of rape for women of color. Collectively, Emma Sulkowicz and Wagatwe Wanjuki create discursive spaces for what Lisa Flores calls a “rhetoric of difference” and via Cherríe Moraga’s “theory in the flesh.” Throughout, I argue that we must analyze the rhetorical power of protestors of color, like Emma Sulkowicz and Wagatwe Wanjuki, who fight for a radically inclusive understanding of sexual violence and social change. Sulkowicz and Wanjuki present us with captivating stories about survival, struggle, and resistance in the aftermath of campus sexual assault (CSA). Both protestors have resisted the bureaucratic calcification of their university’s silence to enact, perform, and craft spaces for storytelling and social change. Sulkowicz and Wanjuki serve as a powerful rhetorical message and model for resistance in the context of campus culture.


Open Access



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