Feedback on the Rhetoric of the Activist Handbook

My infographic can be found here.

My work analyzes the rhetoric of materials that educate nonviolent activists. A large portion of my research proposal is a literature review that traces how existing texts in the field respond to one another. Many scholars of nonviolence have documented that nonviolent campaigns are far more effective than their violent counterparts, even in cases where the campaigns advocate for regime change/revolution. In my work going forward, I hope to clarify that I am not just writing a paper that builds a case for nonviolent campaigns–this has already been done by a number of scholars. Instead, I am looking at how their research is made accessible to activists who are actually doing the organizing work. Many people asked me if I’d be providing examples of successful nonviolent movements to support the assertion that nonviolence is effective. However, this is not exactly my goal, as outlining the value of strategic nonviolence is only the foundation of my project, not the project itself. That said, I could look at how these handbooks present various anecdotes and examples, which would adhere to my topic while also answering some of my audience’s questions.

Because my project is largely a rhetorical analysis, Shannon suggested that I discuss the authors’ choices to emphasize the strategic value of nonviolence as an “appeal to logic.” This helped me organize my infographic around three main goals of an activist handbook. Because I found the appeal to logic to be the most impactful in motivating people to use nonviolent strategies, I added an additional infographic section about how the appeal to logic was constructed. My tentative thesis is that these activist handbooks are effective in convincing people to use nonviolent tactics because they construct a logical appeal that emphasizes the strategic value of nonviolence. Going forward, I hope to contextualize this within the other objectives of the texts, such as correcting misconceptions or providing a toolkit to activists, which will likely give me a more nuanced understanding of the authors’ rhetorical choices.


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