Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Lisa A. Flores

Second Advisor

Karen Ashcraft

Third Advisor

Emma Pérez

Fourth Advisor

Phaedra Pezzullo

Fifth Advisor

Peter Simonson

Abstract

This critical rhetorical analysis interrogates contemporary public discourse on race and racism in a post-2012 U.S. American context characterized by proliferating consciousness and the waning hegemony of a colorblind racial ideology. Focusing on three overarching formations of whiteness—white nationalism, alt-right, and anti-racist whiteness—I investigate how efforts to raise white racial consciousness are rhetorically constructed and mobilized to hail an audience of everyday white U.S. Americans. Positioning themselves in opposition to a colorblind racial ideology and alternative orientations to racial consciousness, these discursive formations of whiteness work strategically against one another as they negotiate dominant affective circulations and push against normative expectations for race evasive discourse in the mainstream public sphere.

My analysis demonstrates that as they work to move everyday white folks from a colorblind racial ideology toward racial consciousness, white nationalist, alt-right, and white anti-racist rhetorics each strategically negotiate colorblind common sense, mainstream discursive expectations for race evasion, and the normative affective circulation of white fragility by rearticulating more extreme formations of racial consciousness into rhetorical formations more palatable to mainstream audiences. In this way, I argue, the discursive formations of whiteness interrogated here are constructed as rhetorical bridges between colorblindness and racial consciousness.

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