Notes: Heather Horst and Daniel Miller, “Normativity and Materiality: A View From Digital Anthropology”

Horst, Heather & Daniel Miller. (2012). Normativity and materiality: A view from digital anthropology. Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, (145), 103-111.


Horst and Miller discuss how digital anthropology requires a reconsideration of how materiality and normativity operate in experiences of digital environments.

Keywords: anthropology, culture, digital rhetoric, materiality, methodology, new materialisms, research methods, technology


“Rather than rendering us less human, less authentic, or more mediated, we argue that attention should turn to the human capacity to create or impose normativity in the face of constant change” (p. 103).

“We therefore suggest that one of the central tenets of digital anthropology is the study of how rapidly things become mundane. What we experience is not a technology, per se, but an immediate culturally inflected genre of usage or practice” (p. 108).

Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Brick Walls” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Brick walls. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 135-160.


Ahmed describes how diversity work is the labor of coming up against institutional walls, sedimented through material histories of which bodies get access to institutional spaces.

Keywords: feminism, feminist theory, theory, diversity, access, materiality


“[S]o much of what we have to do, because of what or who we are not, is not recognized. When we are diversity workers in both senses this both tends to be obscured as if doing diversity is just about being diversity, or as if being is all we have to do” (p. 135).

“Materiality: if we are hit by something, we become conscious of something” (p. 138).

“You encounter the materiality of resistance to transformation when you try to transform what has become material” (p. 140).

“To think about materiality through institutional brick walls is to offer a different way of thinking the connections between bodies and worlds. Materiality is about what is real; it is something real that blocks movement, which stops a progression” (p. 142).

Walls are how some bodies are not encountered in the first place
Walls are how some bodies are stopped by an encounter
” (p. 145, original emphasis).

A wall comes up to defend something from someone; walls as defense mechanisms.
A wall becomes necessary because the wrong bodies could pass through” (p. 145, original emphasis).

“When citational practices become habits, bricks form walls. I think as feminists we can hope to create a crisis around citation, even just a hesitation, a wondering, that might help us not to follow the well-trodden citational paths. If you aim to create a crisis in citation, you tend to become the cause of a crisis” (p. 148).

“When these words are dismissed, we are witnessing a defense of the status quo: it is a way of saying there is nothing wrong with this; what is wrong is the judgment that there is something wrong with this. There very systematic nature of sexism and racism is obscured because of the systematic nature of sexism and racism” (p. 157).

Notes: Pamela VanHaitsma, “Gossip as Rhetorical Methodology for Queer and Feminist Historiography”

Pamela VanHaitsma. (2016). Gossip as rhetorical methodology for queer and feminist historiography. Rhetoric Review. 35(2), 135-147.


VanHaitsma, drawing on her previously published work, outlines the queer, feminist rhetorical possibilities of gossip as a methodology for rhetorical historiography. She argues that gossip-as-methodology offers the ability for methodological speculation, access to gossip’s illicit knowing-and-meaning-making, and an insistence on openness with special regard for who is allowed to speak for whom.

Keywords: feminist rhetorics, queer rhetorics, rhetoric, writing studies, methodology, research methods, archives, historiography


Kirsch, Gesa E., and Jacqueline Jones Royster. “Feminist Rhetorical Practices: In Search of Excellence.” College Composition and Communication 61.4 (2010): 640–72.

Friedman, Andrea. “The Smearing of Joe McCarthy: The Lavender Scare, Gossip, and Cold War Politics.” American Quarterly 57.4 (2005): 1105–29.


“[G]ossip is a speculative methodology indispensible to feminist and queer ways of relating to the past, but instead of seeking to fix history or queerness, gossip ideally remains open to indefinite suggestion” (136).

“Following feminist scholars, gossip may thus be understood, on the one hand, as a positive rhetorical methodology: as another form of speculation or imagination that is practiced in ways consistent with traditional standards for scholarly rigor, reason and order, and truth claims” (138).

“Working with this understanding of gossip as illicit evidence, scholars of queer rhetoric may treat speculation about the past, much like more traditional archival materials, as grounds on which to develop narratives about non-normative sexual, romantic, and/or erotic practices—while simultaneously underscoring the impossibilities and uncertainties inherent in attempts to know the “truth” of sexuality, identity, and history” (139).


Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Being in Question” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Being in question. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 115-134.


Ahmed discusses how bodies that are not accommodated by institutional norms are made to give account of their arrival, to their being, and to their doing.

Keywords: feminism, feminist theory, theory, intersectionality, diversity, access


“To be questioned, to be questionable, sometimes can feel like a residence: a question becomes something you reside in. To reside in a question can feel like not being where you are at” (p. 116).

“These questions only appear to be questions; they often work as assertions. When you are stopped, a right to stop you is asserted. In being assertive, such speech acts render you questionable, as someone who can be questioned, as someone who should be willing to receive a question. A body can become a question mark” (p. 117).

“For some to be is to become an imposition or restriction on the freedom of others” (p. 122).

“Diversity work: when you have to try to make others comfortable with the fact of your own existence” (p. 131).

“When we do not recede into the background, when we stand out or stand apart, we can bring the background into the front: before we can confront something we have to front up to how much depends on the background” (p. 132).

Notes: Jean Bessette, “Queer Rhetoric in Situ”

Bessette, Jean. (2016). Queer rhetoric in situ. Rhetoric Review, 35(2), 148-164.


Bessette argues for a deeply contextual, weaker theory for queer theory within rhetorical studies.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Rhetoric, Rhetorical Theory, Rhetoric


VanHaitsma, Pamela. (2014). Queering the language of the heart: Romantic letters, genre instruction, and rhetorical practice. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 44.1, 6–24.

Villarejo, A. (2005). Tarrying with the normative: Queer theory and black history. Social Text, 23.3–4, 69–84.


“[S]ome approaches to importing queer theory into rhetoric may render it arhetorical and by consequence, less productively queer. Instead I argue for a queer rhetorical methodology with increased attention to (1) the historical specificity of a potentially queer rhetorical act, (2) the nuanced complexity of power relations within broad categories of queerness and normativity, and (3) the diversity and range of audiences for any given rhetorical act, which might render it both queer and normative at the same time” (p. 149).

“Sedgwick raises a question that should give rhetorical critics in particular pause. ‘Suppose we were ever so sure,’ she inquires, of the facts of circumstances where nonstraight, nonwhite, and/or nonmale lives are made exploited and expendable in the processes of normalization, “what would we know then that we don’t already know?” (p. 150).

“Perhaps, in reading paranoidly, we see less of the precise, historically and contextually specific manifestations of normativity, queerness, and their agonistic interface. Paranoid analysis is one way but not the only way; it productively reveals some things (large systems of oppression) but may blind us to others (the intricate, unexpected ways normativity actually hypostasizes in a given time and place, for a given set of bodies)” (p. 150).

“I want our understanding of normativity to be more nuanced, flexible, and contextual” (p. 151).

“[W]hile texts are situated in the context of their deployment and reception, the meaning of queerness doesn’t seem to shift with time, nor does the meaning of the normativity it opposes” (p. 152).

“[I]mporting early queer theorists’ affect and connotations of queerness and normativity into other rhetorical moments requires some more reflection” (p. 153).

“[A]nything taken as universal has been established through a rhetorical process of making claims and supporting them with the invention and delivery of implicit and explicit regulations…. This regulation, of course, is precisely what queer theory sets out to expose: that the norms governing accepted forms of gender and sexuality are constructions that privilege some and profoundly harm others” (p. 154).

“I am advocating a queer rhetorical methodology in situ, one that asks: Queer to whom? When? Where, and how? Normative to whom? When? Where, and how?” (p. 157).

Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Trying to Transform” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Trying to transform. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 93-114.


Drawing on her own experiences and with interviews with diversity workers, Ahmed writes how diversity work is willful work, is feminist work, articulating how spaces are shaped by the bodies that can access them and how diversity work is the sustained labor of changing that access.

Keywords: feminism, feminist theory, theory, killjoy, diversity, access


‘[I]t is through the effort to transform institutions that we generate knowledge about them” (p. 93).

“When we have to think strategically, we also have to accept our complicity: we forgo any illusions of purity; we give up the safety of exteriority” (p. 94).

“Diversity work becomes about diversifying the pathways for information so it is more likely to get to the right destination” (p. 95).

“The mechanical aspect of diversity work is revealed most explicitly when the system is working. In other words, a system is working when an attempt to transform that system is blocked” (p. 96-97).

“Universal = white men. In making this equation, we are showing how a universal not only universalizes from particular bodies, but is an invitation to those very bodies, providing a space in which they can be accommodated” (111).

“[A] fantasy of inclusion is a technique of exclusion” (p. 112).

“In order for some things that have appeared not to disappear, we have to keep up the pressure; we have to become pressure points” (p. 112).

Notes: Ragan Fox, “‘Homo’-work: Queering Academic Communication and Communicating Queer in Academia”

Fox, Ragan. (2013). “Homo”-work: Queering academic communication and communicating queer in academia. Text and Performance Quarterly, 33(1), 58-76.


Fox uses narrative inquiry into many of his experiences of communication in pedagogy and in other academic spaces to develop a queer pedagogy that examines the peri-performative aspects of queer communication.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Rhetorics, Queer Theory, Rhetoric, Communication


Yep, Gust A. (2002). From homophobia and heterosexism to heteronormativity: Toward the development of a model of queer interventions in the university classroom. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 6(3-4), 163-76.


“Some may not understand what it means to ‘‘queer’’ a statement of teaching philosophy because queer epistemologies continue to be marginalized in academia, and some queer instructors *myself included*sometimes feel personally attacked or insulted when colleagues and students do not understand queer theory’s relevance and intricacies” (p. 60).

“Like queer people, peri-performative discourse exists in the margins, speaks the master language (the explicit performative), and potentially disrupts performativity’s habituated reiteration” (p. 62).

“Queering pedagogy involves revealing the wizard behind academia’s curtain. Periperformative communication draws attention to implicative performance, noting who is implicated in performative speech and what discourse is cited in a particular speech act. By investigating speech about queer speech, we come to understand a primary way that epistemology and identity are co-constituted and maintained” (p. 71).