Notes: James Rushing Daniel, “The Event that We Are: Ontology, Rhetorical Agency, and Alain Badiou”

Daniel, James Rushing. (2016). The event that we are: Ontology, rhetorical agency, and Alain Badiou. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 49(3), 254–276.


Daniel offers Badiou’s concept of the event to rethink the discipline’s considerations of relativism and flat ontologies.

Keywords: agency, materiality, ontology, rhetoric, rhetorical theory


“While these approaches suggest that agency is not a linear means of enacting change but rather a distributed, emergent process, they nevertheless retain the notion of responsibility and with it the value of human choice. Many following object-oriented, materialist, or ecological models are accordingly caught in such a bind, espousing a model of agency that minimizes the role of the human subject and yet attributes to the human subject a unique significance” (p. 256-57).

“Badiou is not concerned with the consequentiality of things but rather with sets, discrete groupings of mathematical objects that concern spheres of human existence Badiou terms ‘situations’ or ‘worlds.’ Unlike the materialist approaches of contemporary rhetoric that seek to understand the role of objects within a flat ontological system, Badiou’s perspective allows for the consideration of the composition of discrete spheres of ontological being and the ways in which such spheres are disrupted and transformed by events” (p. 259).

Notes: Nathan Stormer & Bridie McGeavy, “Thinking Ecologically About Rhetoric’s Ontology: Capacity, Vulnerability, and Resilience”

Stormer, Nathan, & Bridie McGreavy. (2017). Thinking ecologically about rhetoric’s ontology: Capacity, vulnerability, and resilience. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 50(1), 1-25.


Stormer and McGeavy address three commonplaces in rhetoric (agency, violence, and recalcitrance) and argue for more ecologically enmeshed perspectives of these commonplaces (capacity, vulnerability, and resilience).

Keywords: materiality, ontology, rhetoric, rhetorical theory, writing studies


“Rhetoric’s ontology, approached ecologically, considers qualities of relations between entities, not just among humans, that enable different modes of rhetoric to emerge, flourish, and dissipate” (p. 3).

“Discourse as the performance of addressivity rather than as signification better acknowledges diverse, nonhuman qualities of relation within rhetoric…. As capacity, arrangements of addressivity establish ranges of action, meaning the limits of what or who may be affected by the discourses in question” (p. 8).

“Violence as forceful relation tells us little of how rhetorical capacities emerge because it obscures the environment that conditions violence by focusing on an eruptive moment” (p. 11).

“Vulnerability is not a state of being at risk but of being entangled, which requires being at risk in varying passive-active relations…. Action can ever and only be acting with the world, not simply acting on it” (p. 13).

“Different materialities set the field of potential and condition diverse rhetorics’ emergence from the broader environment. If that environment changes, so too does rhetorical capacity” (p. 19).

Notes: Danielle Endres and Samantha Senda-Cook, “Location Matters: The Rhetoric of Place in Protest”

Endres, Danielle, and Samantha Senda-Cook. (2011). Location matters: The rhetoric of place in protest. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 97(3), 257–82.


Endres and Senda-Cook analyze the ways that place participates in social protest as an argument or as a rhetoric of (re)constructed meaning. Place is thus performed in social protests.

Keywords: activism, affect, communication, embodiment, materiality, place, rhetoric


“(Re)constructing the meaning of place, even in temporary ways, can be a tactical act of resistance along with the tactics we traditionally associate with protest, such as speeches, marches, and signs… place (re)constructions can function rhetorically to challenge dominant meanings and practices in a place. Place is a performer along with activists in making and unmaking the possibilities of protest” (p. 258).

“Place in protest allows us to understand how social movements use both place-based arguments and place-as-rhetoric” (p. 258).

“[M]aterial rhetoric is always temporary. Place in protest acts as a reminder that places are always being reconstructed or deconstructed. We are interested in material aspects of place that are best revealed when we consider materiality as fluid, temporary, and embodied” (p. 262).


Notes: Catherine Chaput, “Rhetorical Circulation in Late Capitalism: Neoliberalism and the Overdetermination of Affective Energy”

Chaput, Catherine. (2010). Rhetorical circulation in late capitalism: Neoliberalism and the overdetermination of affective energy.” Philosophy and Rhetoric, 43(1), 1–25.


Chaput critiques the situated/situation premise within rhetoric as enabling neoliberalist ideologies to operate uninterrogated within them and poses rhetorical circulation, in its insistence on moving between spaces, as an alternative.

Keywords: affect, capital, materiality, neoliberalism, rhetoric, rhetorical theory, theory


“Conceptualizing discursive practices as a form of labor rather than a form of political signifi cation sidesteps anxiety about well-chosen language and emphasizes the life-affi rming activity involved in deciphering issues, inventing paths through those issues, and communicating new ideas to others” (p. 2).

“Put differently, security converts human beings into self-entrepreneurs whose freely chosen education, work, and leisure decisions operate instinctually according to the economics of risk and reward. Such a schema no longer enforces appropriate subjectivities (normalization) but regulates the point at which individual actions impinge on the statistically favored rates of population success (normation)” (p. 5).

“From this perspective, rhetoric is not an isolated instance or even a series of instances but a circulation of exchanges, the whole of which govern our individual and collective decisions. Understanding rhetoric as circulating within an overdetermined ecological space helps illuminate the biopolitical reaches of contemporary capital, while the social connectivity of aff ective energy produced through communicative labor helps explain the persuasive capacity of these reaches” (p. 8).

“The rhetorical  situation, that is, makes rhetoricians comfortable within the disciplinary status quo of rhetorical production understood as transpiring within  discrete sociohistorical, political, and cultural situations. Th e negative  aff ectivity of the rhetorical situation— its organization and  interpretation of life structures in terms of fi xed origins—stems, in part, from its reproduction of philosophical divisions: materiality and consciousness; reason and emotion; objects and subjects; past and future; the situated place and the open space” (p. 18).

“In the rhetorical circulation model, success derives from a better understanding of diff erently situated positions and an enhanced ability to engage diff erently situated people, processes that open dialogue rather than win debates” (p. 19).

Notes: Catherine Moir, “The Education of Hope: On the Dialectical Potential of Speculative Materialism” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Moir, Catherine. (2013). The education of hope: On the dialectical potential of speculative materialism. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 121-143.


Moir develops Bloch’s speculative materialism within contemporary philosophical contexts, exploring its relationships and departures from other material thought.

Keywords: materiality, new materialisms, philosophy, speculative materialism, theory,


“Bloch’s speculative materialism is dialectical and, as such, approaches the thought-being question in dialectical materialist terms, where being determines thought” (p. 122).

“We can therefore say that speculative philosophy responds to an injunction to think being in a non-correlative, non-identical way, without denying any relation between thought and being” (p. 126).

“[W]e might say that Bloch’s materialism can be called immanently speculative in that it locates the condition for the possibility of speculation in the material itself” (p. 131).

“The absolute is, therefore, what Bloch calls not-yet. Absolution is materially possible, but not certain. The injunction of speculative materialism to know the absolute thus consists not only in thinking what is whether we are or not, but also what is possible now that we are” (p. 137).


Notes: Peter Thompson, “Religion, Utopia, and the Metaphysics of Contingency” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Thompson, Peter. (2013). Religion, utopia, and the metaphysics of contingency. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 82-105.


Thompson articulates Bloch’s philosophy, particularly around Bloch’s principle of hope’s connections to materiality, with its relationship to process and becoming, the contingency of existence.

Keywords: materiality, philosophy, speculative materialism, utopia


“Bloch was engaging in a form of speculative or transcendental materialism that attempted to create a materialist understanding of an as yet nonexistent future, an ‘ontology of the not yet,’ which could be used as a means of understanding and decoding the opaque nature of human existence and the way to move toward a self-created utopia” (p. 83).

“Thus what sets Bloch apart from Lacan and Žižek, but brings him closer to Badiou, is the sense that in the process of implementing utopia we will not simply find our way toward something but will actually construct that something in the process of attaining it” (p. 89).

“Bloch’s solution to this problem is, with Aristotle and Hegel of course, werden—process, becoming—in which the tendency and latency within matter changes matter itself and with it the contingency of existence. The event in Bloch then is merely a contingent stage in a process which cannot be appreciated at the moment of its eventuation, in the ‘darkness of the lived moment'” (p. 89).

Notes: Johan Siebers, “Ernst Bloch’s Dialectical Anthropology” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Siebers, Johan. (2013). Ernst Bloch’s dialectical anthropology. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 61-81.


Siebers outlines the structures of thought operating in Bloch’s principle of hope, showing it as rooted in an anthropological thought that yet does not elevate the human.

Keywords: anthropology, materiality, philosophy, theory, utopianism


“History is the new as the mode of realization of the not-yet” (p. 63).

“The upright gait is, in Bloch’s philosophy, the principle of practical reason and functions as the criterion for action. The basic form of the proposition ‘S is not yet P’ expresses both the structure of the process of knowledge as well as the process of being and in a general way indicates what can be known. Identity, the unum necessarium in human and natural striving, builds the horizon of hop” (p. 64).

“Bloch’s philosophical anthropology and anthropological philosophy outlines the place of human existence in reality anew—in  a realist and materialist manner which sees idealism as a distortion of realism, materialism, not their truth. Philosophy is no longer contemplative. It is performative or, as it has been called here, dramatic. It is the praxis of hope, with yet uncharted possibilities” (p. 78).

Notes: Peter Thompson, “Introduction: The Privatization of Hope and the Crisis of Negation” in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek The Privatization of Hope: Ernst Bloch and the Future of Utopia

Thompson, Peter. (2013). Introduction: The privatization of hope and the crisis of negation. in Peter Thompson and Slavoj Žižek (eds.) The privatization of hope: Ernst Bloch and the future of utopia. Durham: Duke University Press, 1-20.


Thompson defines the exigency for this book as recovering Bloch from anonymity, defining his principle of hope and spirit of utopia within the context of contemporary events.

Keywords: materiality, philosophy, speculative materiality, theory, utopianism


“Hope, for Bloch, was they way in which our desire to fill in the gaps and to find something that is missing took shape” (p. 3).

“The process that would take us from a static concept of being to one of becoming and of coming to possess ourselves was at base a material one, but it was also one in which our desires, ideas, hopes, and dreams fulfilled a fundamentally important material function in overcoming the ‘ontology of the not yet'” (p. 4).

“Hope therefore learns, but it also teaches as well as constitutes its own conditions” (p. 7).

“The vast majority of utopian thinking could be said to rest in abstract utopias, in abstractions from the process in which the utopia becomes something really existing, whereas the concrete utopia is one which exists and does not exist at the same time because it is in the process of its own creation” (p. 13).

Notes: Heather Horst and Daniel Miller, “Normativity and Materiality: A View From Digital Anthropology”

Horst, Heather & Daniel Miller. (2012). Normativity and materiality: A view from digital anthropology. Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, (145), 103-111.


Horst and Miller discuss how digital anthropology requires a reconsideration of how materiality and normativity operate in experiences of digital environments.

Keywords: anthropology, culture, digital rhetoric, materiality, methodology, new materialisms, research methods, technology


“Rather than rendering us less human, less authentic, or more mediated, we argue that attention should turn to the human capacity to create or impose normativity in the face of constant change” (p. 103).

“We therefore suggest that one of the central tenets of digital anthropology is the study of how rapidly things become mundane. What we experience is not a technology, per se, but an immediate culturally inflected genre of usage or practice” (p. 108).

Notes: Sara Ahmed, “Brick Walls” in Living a Feminist Life

Ahmed, Sara. (2017). Brick walls. Living a feminist life. Durham: Duke University Press, 135-160.


Ahmed describes how diversity work is the labor of coming up against institutional walls, sedimented through material histories of which bodies get access to institutional spaces.

Keywords: feminism, feminist theory, theory, diversity, access, materiality


“[S]o much of what we have to do, because of what or who we are not, is not recognized. When we are diversity workers in both senses this both tends to be obscured as if doing diversity is just about being diversity, or as if being is all we have to do” (p. 135).

“Materiality: if we are hit by something, we become conscious of something” (p. 138).

“You encounter the materiality of resistance to transformation when you try to transform what has become material” (p. 140).

“To think about materiality through institutional brick walls is to offer a different way of thinking the connections between bodies and worlds. Materiality is about what is real; it is something real that blocks movement, which stops a progression” (p. 142).

Walls are how some bodies are not encountered in the first place
Walls are how some bodies are stopped by an encounter
” (p. 145, original emphasis).

A wall comes up to defend something from someone; walls as defense mechanisms.
A wall becomes necessary because the wrong bodies could pass through” (p. 145, original emphasis).

“When citational practices become habits, bricks form walls. I think as feminists we can hope to create a crisis around citation, even just a hesitation, a wondering, that might help us not to follow the well-trodden citational paths. If you aim to create a crisis in citation, you tend to become the cause of a crisis” (p. 148).

“When these words are dismissed, we are witnessing a defense of the status quo: it is a way of saying there is nothing wrong with this; what is wrong is the judgment that there is something wrong with this. There very systematic nature of sexism and racism is obscured because of the systematic nature of sexism and racism” (p. 157).