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Distant Publics

Development Rhetoric and the Subject of Crisis

Jenny Rice

Publication Year: 2012

Urban sprawl is omnipresent in America and has left many citizens questioning their ability to stop it. In Distant Publics, Jenny Rice examines patterns of public discourse that have evolved in response to development in urban and suburban environments. Centering her study on Austin, Texas, Rice finds a city that has simultaneously celebrated and despised development. Rice outlines three distinct ways that the rhetoric of publics counteracts development: through injury claims, memory claims, and equivalence claims. In injury claims, rhetors frame themselves as victims in a dispute. Memory claims allow rhetors to anchor themselves to an older, deliberative space, rather than to a newly evolving one. Equivalence claims see the benefits on both sides of an issue, and here rhetors effectively become nonactors. Rice provides case studies of development disputes that place the reader in the middle of real-life controversies and evidence her theories of claims-based public rhetorics. She finds that these methods comprise the most common (though not exclusive) vernacular surrounding development and shows how each is often counterproductive to its own goals. Rice further demonstrates that these claims create a particular role or public subjectivity grounded in one’s own feelings, which serves to distance publics from each other and the issues at hand. Rice argues that rhetoricians have a duty to transform current patterns of public development discourse so that all individuals may engage in matters of crisis. She articulates its sustainability as both a goal and future disciplinary challenge of rhetorical studies and offers tools and methodologies toward that end.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture

Front Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-x

Nobody writes alone, thank goodness. Over the years, many people have shared with me their insights, questions, comments, and encouragement. I especially want to thank Collin Brooke, Ralph Cintron, Sharon Crowley, . . .

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Introduction: Rhetorical Vistas

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pp. 1-22

If you meander through the University of Texas campus, you will eventually stumble upon the remnants of an old creek hiding among the concrete streets and massive buildings. The campus was built alongside Waller Creek, . . .

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1. Rhetoric's Development Crisis

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pp. 1-43

It’s ten o’clock in the morning and the humidity is already making it feel like a summer afternoon. I reluctantly pull into the strip mall that I have driven by almost every day for three years. The huge parking lot is always empty, . . .

2. The Public Subject of Feeling (with exceptions)

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pp. 44-69

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3. Vultures and Kooks: The Rhetoric of Injury Claims

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pp. 70-98

On June 7, 1990, an unusual thing happened in Austin. Hundreds of people crammed into a small place in order to listen to an all-night string of musicians, poets, and regular citizens talk about the beauty and sacredness of . . .

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4. Lost Places and Memory Claims

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pp. 99-128

On New Year’s Eve 1980, Austin experienced one hell of a farewell party. On stage in a loud and rowdy music hall were some of the greatest musicians of the time. Everyone had gathered together to say good-bye to the Armadillo . . .

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5. The Good and the Bad: Gentrification and Equivalence Claims

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pp. 129-162

The story of east Austin has been a remarkable example of development rhetoric in action. At one point, east Austin was considered a dangerous place. Many years ago, I found myself sitting in an apartment hunter’s office in . . .

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6. Inquiry as Social Action

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pp. 163-196

I mentioned in chapter 1 that we needed to cultivate public subjects who are capable of imagining themselves as situated within many complex networks. Not only are we all located within a specific home-work nexus, but we are also . . .

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pp. 197-200

I struggled with what to call this short, concluding section. I could always call it a conclusion, but that designation may give the wrong impression that I will now tie up all the loose ends that have been unraveled in the last six . . .


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pp. 201-205

Works Cited

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pp. 207-227


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pp. 229-230

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780822978015
E-ISBN-10: 0822978016
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822962045
Print-ISBN-10: 0822962047

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 9 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture
Series Editor Byline: David Bartholomae and Jean Ferguson Carr, Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 821725631
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Distant Publics

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Rhetoric -- Political aspects -- United States.
  • Rhetoric -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Persuasion (Rhetoric) -- Political aspects -- United States.
  • Persuasion (Rhetoric) -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Discourse analysis -- Political aspects -- United States.
  • Discourse analysis -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • Community development -- United States.
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