Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Karen Lee Ashcraft

Second Advisor

Lisa A. Flores

Third Advisor

Deepti Misri

Fourth Advisor

Peter Simonson

Fifth Advisor

Bryan C. Taylor

Abstract

Adopting both critical and poststructural stances, this dissertation thematizes and resonates with what I dub feminist dilemmatic theorizing. Amidst a spate of attention to sexual violence on college campuses since 2010, I evaluate the discourse around mandated reporting of that violence at one U.S. university. As I proceed, the analytic posture I enact, one endemic to pragmatic feminist political projects, is characterized by seemingly incommensurate epistemological and ontological positions regarding identity and discourse, subjectivity and agency, and their links to what can be real, known, and said about violence. I argue for two concepts: First, I draw upon feminist standpoint theory to develop organizational standpoint. This intervention in theories of organizational knowledge demonstrates, through a troubled form of empiricism, how organizations--not only individuals--produce partial knowledge. In the case I study, the university becomes complicit with violence when intersectional interpersonal and institutional dynamics are obscured or denied. That denial is secured through assumptions about whether communication has material effects, and consequently, the extent to which that communication enables or precludes a connection to violence. Second, I argue for a communicative ontology of violence, one that draws upon feminist new materialism and issues cautions about a material turn in communication studies. Namely, I suggest that alternating stances on the extent to which communication is constitutive both create and intervene in organizational epistemic violence. In this case, the deployment of a material-discourse split associates the university with nonviolence via recourse to textual agency. The discourse effectively preserves privileges attached to whiteness, masculinity, and heteronormativity. Based on the theoretical vocabulary I develop, I recommend revisions to the reporting practices around Title IX and the Clery Act. Ongoing assessment of communication--which includes but also exceeds reports--could lead institutions of higher education to develop more robust institutional knowledge of sexual violence. Universities should provide greater support for privilege and violence prevention programs in order to increase the likelihood that individuals recognize violence as such. Further, training about reporting obligations should incorporate insights from standpoint theory in order to decrease underrepresented university members' disproportionate burden for responding to violence.

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