Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gerard A. Hauser

Second Advisor

Peter Simonson

Third Advisor

John P. Jackson

Fourth Advisor

Leah Sprain

Fifth Advisor

Leysia Palen


This dissertation explores how the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and the Occupy Movement (OM) writ large generated new forms of rhetorical invention through its emergence in geographical places and virtual spaces across the world. The genesis and development of Occupy on these “radical” grounds provide an empirical grounding to theory on the chora, rhetorical invention, and the vernacular, where the word occupy and the tactic occupation designate vital sites (topoi) of rhetorical activity: seats/sources of local meaning(s) that occupiers used to bring new lines of thought to life. The radical uptake of “occupy” would create what Edward Schiappa calls a definitional rupture: a disruption of the “natural attitude” around the meaning or usage of a word. To suture this gap, I acknowledge the ethical and normative ramifications that accompany the act of definition as a political act and then conduct a philological analysis on ‘occupy’ and ‘occupation’ by tracing these words to their earliest or “radical” roots. I then attend to the emergence of OWS in the place of Zuccotti Park/Liberty Plaza, followed by its first call to action and popular uptake in virtual streams and media, where both places produced new vernacular modalities and media. In gesturing to the disaster sociology literature on emergent citizen groups (ECGS) and emergent phenomena, this assembly of Occupy in time, place, and space, radically reconceives ‘what it means’ to “occupy” common places and spaces towards the creation of new socio-economic realities in response to crisis.