Deconstructing Rhetorics of the Human: Towards Decolonizing Non/Human Relationality

Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication and Rhetorical Studies


Charles E. Morris III


coloniality of human, decolonial environmentalism, embodiment, environmental rhetoric, nonhuman relationality

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


This thesis is a study of the rhetorics of the coloniality of the human; deconstructing the ways forces of settler colonialism continue to limit our relationships with nonhuman bodies to ones of imperialism, exploitation, and ownership. I argue that rhetorical studies and environmental studies at large must grapple with the coloniality of the human if there is ever to be a hope of constructing reparative and sustainable relationships with ecological entities. The ecocidal forces of modernity, while manifesting through multiple systems of oppression, intersect in their service of Western imperialism. Moreover, the nonhuman limit against which the human is defined in coloniality has resulted in several cultural binaries and paradigms that disallow reparative relationality with environmental entities: land/body, knower/object, bounded individual, human exceptionalism, and many more. While these frameworks have been powerfully naturalized in modernity, rhetorical criticism allows for the deconstruction and theorization of alternative ways of being through turning towards practices that reveal nonhuman entanglements. Practices, rituals and aesthetics that allow for the awareness and feeling of intimacy, vulnerability, and agency between the non/human are a few ontological avenues this project explores. Though these decolonial moments of relationality are sometimes fleeting due to their frequently embodied nature, they are nevertheless transformative in shifting the trajectory and healing the violence of coloniality in terms of environmental destruction.


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