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Placemaking: Rhetorical Studies and Critical Geography

Workshop Leaders:

Jenny Rice, University of Kentucky
Doug Reichert Powell, Columbia College

In recent years, disciplines like geography and urban studies have turned their attention to placemaking, or the physical transformation of stagnated spaces into something healthier, more dynamic, and more inspirational. Strangely, however, rhetorical studies has been largely absent from these interdisciplinary projects and conversations. Perhaps one reason for this relative invisibility is that rhetoricians have not yet articulated the differences between analyzing place-astext and producing interventions in place through rhetoric. In short, we need to create a praxis of place.

This workshop does not offer a “how to,” but more of a productive conversation about the possibilities for rhetorical scholars to contribute solutions to the problems of place(s). Our few days of intense work will focus on carving out a methodology for rhetorical studies in terms of place and placemaking, as well as clarifying definitions for ourselves, and collaborating on what contributions we can make outside of rhetorical studies, perhaps even outside the academy.

We will ask:

-What is in our toolbox, as rhetoricians, that can contribute to intervention in the problems of place?

-What resources does critical regionalism offer as a rhetorical approach to place?

-What role do digital media play in placemaking and rhetorical praxis of place?

-What are the disciplinary overlaps and complements of rhetoric with critical geography and urban studies?

We will use several models of placemaking projects to shine a light on where rhetorical scholars can contribute our particular strengths. Examples of projects include the Soul of Athens digital projects, the Cleveland Historical Mobile app, the Mountain Workshop multimedia essays, the Hypercities project, and Appalshop’s multimedia projects.

These conversations will be helpful in addressing the specific questions, problems, and complications of participants’ projects (dissertations, articles, chapters, notes, digital projects, or proposals) in whatever stage they currently exist. Each participant will submit a short piece of writing (about 3-5 pages) that describes a work-in-progress. The workshop sessions will be aimed at helping participants clearly articulate their own projects on place, and our conversations will help to push participants beyond place-as-text into place as a practice.

Readings include selections from:

  • Critical Regionalism: Connecting Politics and Culture in the American Landscape, Douglas Reichert Powell
  • “Participatory Design at the Grass Roots,” Roberta Feldman
  • “Building Community through Participation,” Buzz Yudel
  • “The Interventionist’s Toolkit,” Mimi Zeiger
  • The Temporary City, Peter Bishop and Lesley Williams
  • “Culturally Sensible Digital Place-Making: Design of the Mediated XicanIndio Resolana,” Cristóbal Martínez, et al.
  • Examples of projects from the Soul of Athens digital projects, the Cleveland Historical Mobile app, the Mountain Workshop multimedia essays, UCLA’s Hypercities project, and Appalshop’s multimedia projects.

Workshop leaders: Jenny Rice and Douglas Reichert Powell

Jenny Rice is an assistant professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Media (WRD) at the University of Kentucky. Her book, Distant Publics: Development Rhetoric and the Subject of Crisis, will be published by University of Pittsburgh Press in 2012. Jenny has published scholarship on topics such as public rhetoric, affect, rhetorical ecologies, and new media writing. She is the guest editor for the 2012 special issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly on "Regional Rhetorics."

Doug Reichert Powell is an associate professor of English at Columbia College Chicago, where he teaches writing, American literature, and cultural studies. Doug is the author of Critical Regionalism: Connecting Politics and Culture in the American Landscape (2007) and co-editor, with John Paul Tassoni, of Composing Other Spaces (2008).

Questions should be directed to Jenny Rice at

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