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Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis and Dissertation-ISU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of English

First Advisor

Angela M. Haas

Second Advisor

Elise V. Hurley


This dissertation focuses on the tactics of community activists residing in marginalized communities who enact an interventionary rhetoric in response to local environmental problems. An interventionary rhetoric involves a complex, multimodal effort to communicate to other affected community members through a variety of rhetorical forms (speech, writing, bodies, images), highlighting community members’ intersectional identities and their cultural, embodied, and scientific knowledges. This dissertation begins by surveying key concepts foundational to an interventionary rhetoric as they are discussed in technical communication, rhetoric and composition, environmental risk communication, and environmental justice scholarship.

Then, building on this scholarship, this dissertation discusses how community activists enact an interventionary rhetoric in specific at-risk communities. In laying out the key features of an interventionary rhetoric, this dissertation analyzes the cases of community activists Suzie Canales and Katsi Cook using a methodology that combines Haas and Frost’s (2017) apparent decolonial feminist rhetoric of risk with Grabill’s (2014) rhetoric in the common places. From these analyses emerge a more nuanced approach to Grabill’s devices of detection, rendering, and assembly that makes apparent the importance of valuing community members’ cultural, embodied, and scientific knowledges as community activists seek to assemble a local counterpublic to intervene. These more nuanced devices are then employed in analyzing two extended case studies. The first presents a case of successful environmental intervention, in which community activists in the Little Village neighborhood near Chicago were able to assemble a local counterpublic and shut down two heavily polluting coal-fired power plants in their community. The second studies community activist efforts in Flint, Michigan, to assemble a local counterpublic to make concerns about water contamination heard despite ongoing denials by city and state officials that a problem existed. This dissertation also discusses the affordances and limitations of enacting an interventionary rhetoric in a semester-long introductory technical and professional writing course.

Finally, this dissertation concludes by discussing the possibilities for where an interventionary rhetoric might move next, both within technical communication studies and beyond academia into the communities where environmental intervention is occurring.


Imported from ProQuest Bates_ilstu_0092E_11081.pdf


Page Count


Available for download on Wednesday, February 01, 2023

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