Rhetoric Society of America Seventh Biennial Institute 2017 Keynote Address
“Racism, Race, and the Rhetorical Labors of (Bio)Diversity”
2017 Rhetoric Society of America Summer Institute keynote address by Eric King Watts, Associate Professor of Communication University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Abstract: This lecture will begin an intervention into the “problem” of diversity by attending to the actual rhetorical labors it performs. It is commonplace for institutions, groups, and individuals to perceive diversity work as a set of discursive practices put together by specialists recruited to address some sort of crisis or emergency; since such crises are repetitive, diversity work seems to fail, repeatedly; this ritual has given diversity a bad name; it has been slurred. This lecture, then, will attempt to provide a radical re-contextualization of diversity by doing what might, at first blush, seem crazy, or paradoxical. The lecture will reintegrate diversity into the discourses of biopolitical racism, racial formation, and contemporary enjoyment of the postracial. The lecture will contend that diversity has always had a hidden prefix, “bio,” and by re-attaching it, rhetorical studies has a vital “object” of study and can advance our understanding of the invention and manipulation of human difference.