Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Degree Program

English Rhetoric and Composition, PhD

Committee Chair

Kopelson, Karen

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Sheridan, Mary P.

Committee Member

Sheridan, Mary P.

Committee Member

Petrosino, Kiki

Committee Member

DeVoss, Danielle

Author's Keywords

cultural rhetorics; social justice; queer studies; feminism; intersectionality; race


In this threatening political climate, many are asking how to advocate for social justice across axes of difference, such as in coalitional movements working for queer, feminist, and racially just futures. Rhetoric and composition scholarship, especially cultural rhetorics, has long studied the activist practices of specific communities, but cross-community allyship remains undertheorized. This dissertation responds to these public and scholarly exigencies by more deeply exploring the complexities of positionality, privilege, and oppression that accompany advocacy across differences. The project explores the rhetorical dimensions of allyship in complexly networked, contemporary digital social justice messaging, focusing on centering racial justice in queer and feminist activism in order to advance an antiracist approach to studying intersectional activist rhetorics. This dissertation forwards scholarship on allyship in social justice through advancing a rhetorical methodology grounded in accountability. I argue that allyship is a rhetorical process that requires awareness of context and positionality, and the work of developing allies’ activist rhetorical awareness must foreground accountability to vulnerable communities. The analytical strategies I advance derive from Black Feminist and queer of color activist community practices: asking to whom and for what a particular rhetorical action is accountable; centering those most vulnerable in a particular context while making critical connections to intersecting, systemic oppressions; and foregrounding impact over intention as a way to trace rhetorical circulation with a focus on understanding the potential consequences of specific actions for communities most vulnerable in a given context. These strategies are inherently rhetorical, requiring awareness of context, position, and audience, in addition to emerging aspects of rhetoric such as circulation. By unpacking the rhetorical dimensions of activist strategies, this project advances a methodological frame for antiracist social justice allyship.