Radical dismissal : Stokely Carmichael and the problem of inclusion in public deliberation

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2020-08-13

Authors

Hatch, Justin Dean

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Abstract

“Radical Dismissal: Stokely Carmichael and the Problem of Inclusion in Public Deliberation” has two interrelated goals—first, to lay bare the rhetorical mechanisms by which those in power silence dissent, and, second, to view with greater clarity Stokely Carmichael’s rhetorical strategies and legacies. Toward those goals, I examine Carmichael’s words in the year following SNCC’s release of the slogan “Black Power,” and I look closely at the almost universally negative responses to them during the same period. While the terms—angry, hateful, demagogue, racist, etc.—that Carmichael’s critics use to dismiss him vary, they all direct attention away from his institutional critique toward his relationship to subjective norms of discourse. I open the dissertation by introducing Carmichael and relevant context and by developing the dissertation’s overarching theoretical framework. I borrow from scholars writing on “civility” to develop “civility policing” as rhetorical action that preserves unjust harmonies (Roberts-Miller, Deliberate Conflict 154), displaces blame from oppressor to oppressed (Welch 110), and silences dissent (Lozano-Reich and Cloud 223). Chapter One finds that Carmichael’s critics shaped his image and longer legacy by amplifying a distorted version of his message. An exploration of Carmichael’s words especially within a set of letters to Lorna Smith offers a corrective. Chapter Two explores the utility of two definitions of the term “demagogue” for distinguishing anti-racist rhetoric. While critics accuse Carmichael of being a “demagogue,” his words in Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America not only contradict the claim, but also return the charge. Chapter Three builds on Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca’s “dissociation of concepts” and Janice Fernheimer’s “dissociative disruption” to better understand the adaptive rhetorical strategies Carmichael used in his most famous speech given at Berkeley. I offer the term “subversive dissociation” as a charge to discover the dissociative foundations of dominant racial narratives.

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