Distant Publics

Distant Publics: Development Rhetoric and the Subject of Crisis

Jenny Rice
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Distant Publics
    Book Description:

    Urban sprawl is omnipresent in America and has left many citizens questioning their ability to stop it. InDistant Publics,Jenny Rice examines patterns of public discourse that have evolved in response to development in urban and suburban environments. Centering her study on Austin, Texas, Rice finds a city that has simultaneously celebrated and despised development.Rice outlines three distinct ways that the rhetoric of publics counteracts development: through injury claims, memory claims, and equivalence claims. In injury claims, rhetors frame themselves as victims in a dispute. Memory claims allow rhetors to anchor themselves to an older, deliberative space, rather than to a newly evolving one. Equivalence claims see the benefits on both sides of an issue, and here rhetors effectively become nonactors.Rice provides case studies of development disputes that place the reader in the middle of real-life controversies and evidence her theories of claims-based public rhetorics. She finds that these methods comprise the most common (though not exclusive) vernacular surrounding development and shows how each is often counterproductive to its own goals. Rice further demonstrates that these claims create a particular role or public subjectivity grounded in one's own feelings, which serves to distance publics from each other and the issues at hand.Rice argues that rhetoricians have a duty to transform current patterns of public development discourse so that all individuals may engage in matters of crisis. She articulates its sustainability as both a goal and future disciplinary challenge of rhetorical studies and offers tools and methodologies toward that end.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7801-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. viii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: RHETORICAL VISTAS
    (pp. 1-22)

    If you meander through the University of Texas campus, you will eventually stumble upon the remnants of an old creek hiding among the concrete streets and massive buildings. The campus was built alongside Waller Creek, and it has long served as an urban oasis for nature-loving residents. Its water runs through beautiful limestone banks, which are surrounded by juniper and oak trees. In some places, large trees tower over the cool creek bed. It is easy to forget that you are actually standing in the middle of a busy downtown area and a campus swarming with thousands of students. One...

  6. 1 Rhetoric's Development Crisis
    (pp. 23-43)

    It’s ten o’clock in the morning and the humidity is already making it feel like a summer afternoon. I reluctantly pull into the strip mall that I have driven by almost every day for three years. The huge parking lot is always empty, maybe because half the storefronts are empty and abandoned. One big box electronics store anchors the mall, and only a few smaller chain stores dot the row on either side. A real estate sign advertising space for lease seems to be permanently affixed to the building. I park my car in front of the electronics store as...

  7. 2 The Public Subject of Feeling (with Exceptions)
    (pp. 44-69)

    Public subjectivity increasingly occupies what I call a space of exception. Because our key modes of public orientation are rooted in feeling, we are faced with certain limitations where rhetorical interventions are concerned. Paradoxically, distance does not always deter stronger public subjects, but can in fact serve as the condition of their existence. Subjectivity is one of those topics that has a long, complex history in critical theory. We generally recognize that subjectivity is not a state of self-presence or consciousness, nor is subjectivity something solidified over time. It is an articulation of multiple narratives, practices, and apparatuses that coalesce...

  8. 3 Vultures and Kooks: THE RHETORIC OF INJURY CLAIMS
    (pp. 70-98)

    On June 7, 1990, an unusual thing happened in Austin. Hundreds of people crammed into a small place in order to listen to an all-night string of musicians, poets, and regular citizens talk about the beauty and sacredness of Austin’s natural swimming hole, Barton Springs. Normally this kind of all-night jam session wouldn’t go down in the history books, except for the fact that this one took place in the Austin City Council chambers at a regularly scheduled city council hearing. During the marathon thirteen-hour meeting, hundreds of citizens spoke about the contentious vote council members were about to make....

  9. 4 Lost Places and Memory Claims
    (pp. 99-128)

    On New Year’s Eve 1980, Austin experienced one hell of a farewell party. On stage in a loud and rowdy music hall were some of the greatest musicians of the time. Everyone had gathered together to say good-bye to the Armadillo World Headquarters, where people like Janice Joplin, Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the Grateful Dead regularly played. In the early 1970s, the Chamber of Commerce promoted the music hall as a “colorful but somewhat crude converted armory [that] is frequented mostly by young, long-haired progressive county fans.” When its lease expired in 1979, property owners decided to tear...

    (pp. 129-162)

    The story of east Austin has been a remarkable example of development rhetoric in action. At one point, east Austin was considered a dangerous place. Many years ago, I found myself sitting in an apartment hunter’s office in Austin, Texas. The agent had spread open a large map in order to show me the neighborhoods in Austin where affordable housing could be found. “Of course,” he said, “you don’t want to live east of I-35.” He pointed to the highway on the map, and then to the neighborhoods running east of the thin line representing the freeway. “It’s just not...

  11. 6 Inquiry as Social Action
    (pp. 163-196)

    I mentioned in chapter 1 that we needed to cultivate public subjects who are capable of imagining themselves as situated within many complex networks. Not only are we all located within a specific home-work nexus, but we are also located within regional, national, and global networks. Furthermore, each of us is situated within transhistorical and transspatial networks of place. The choices we make for ourselves have effects on future times and places that do not only parallel our own lives. Thinking through these networks demands an ability to imagine the incongruent and asymmetrical networks within which our agency is lodged....

    (pp. 197-200)

    I struggled with what to call this short, concluding section. I could always call it a conclusion, but that designation may give the wrong impression that I will now tie up all the loose ends that have been unraveled in the last six chapters. Such a gesture would not only be artificial, it would be uninteresting. One of the claims driving this book is that we need to honor, cultivate, and revive a practice of inquiry. In exposing some of our common patterns of argumentation, as I have done here, I have not set myself up forconclusions. If anything,...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 201-206)
    (pp. 207-228)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 229-230)