Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Isaac Reed

Second Advisor

Janet Jacobs

Third Advisor

Peter Simonson

Fourth Advisor

Amy Wilkins

Fifth Advisor

Jennifer Bair


Although emotion is increasingly central in theories of social change, the sociology of social movements and emotion continues to have a mix-and-stir quality. Through a microanalysis of abolitionist discourse, this dissertation observes how the two are systematically intertwined by status claimsmaking processes. To better explore the affective dynamics of protest rhetoric through which `social movements move,' I construct a new synthetic theory of status as a moral-emotional resource, dependent upon cultural imaginaries and negotiated through rhetorical implicatures. Status-oriented moral emotions--including the egocentric and altruistic types of anger examined in this case study--can be aroused, altered, and rechanneled toward reform causes via dramaturgical claimsmaking. Moving beyond the predominance of logocentric accounts of immediatist abolitionism, I incorporate ethos and pathos to refer to the status implicatures of protest rhetoric (corresponding to ethos) and the provocative effects of these status implicatures (corresponding to pathos). As performed by prominent movement leaders, both means of status claimsmaking conditioned abolitionist charisma and reconditioned audience attitudes toward slavery. The ethos-pathos orientation of speakers though varied by race and gender, suggesting that `charisma' itself is a privilege structured by status hierarchies and relative risks of sanctioning. In spite of racialization and subordination within abolitionism, black activists persisted in protest through creative rhetorics, such as implicit symbolic surgery upon status-beliefs and summoning emotional energy from heterodoxic status imaginaries. The proposed framework accounts better for abolitionism's internal and external emotional dynamics, which were not always anteceded by discernible discursive shifts. Social movement theory therefore should be more mindful of the status-oriented moral emotions as well as how protest rhetoric mines them for social change.