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Announcing the RSA 2023 Awards

Dear RSA Members,

The Rhetoric Society of America recognizes the achievements of its members through nine awards, five named annually and four additional awards named biennially. The 2023 Award cycle includes the Book Award, the Dissertation Award, the Early Career Fellow Award, the Charles Kneupper Award, and the Outstanding Student Chapter Award.

2023 Book Award

The Book Award recognizes the best work in rhetorical studies published by an RSA member in a given year. Out of a wide-ranging group of over thirty nominees, this year’s Book Award committee is proud to name as co-awardees:

E Cram, University of Iowa, for Violent Inheritance: Sexuality, Land, Energy and the Making of the North American West (California UP 2022).

The selection committee writes:

Dr. Cram’s Violent Inheritance: Sexuality, Land, and Energy in Making the North American West is a truly remarkable work of interdisciplinary scholarship. Bringing together work in environmental cultural and rhetorical studies, environmental and energy humanities, Indigenous studies, queer ecologies, cultural geography, and affect studies, the book connects the invention of 'sexual modernity' to energy regimes, based on how racialized sexualities informed people's relationships to energy and the land and how these, in turn, created biopolitical hierarchies. Cram wonders how we may respond to the inherited violences of such regimes and whether it is possible in a white settler world to transform our ethics into a more regenerative one. Their response lies in their articulation of 'queer collaborative stewardship' which rejects extraction and scarcity models pushed by settler colonialism in favor of abundance, alliance, and regeneration. Violent Inheritances has been described by reviewers as 'a must-read for those immersed in rhetorical, environmental, queer, and critical race projects' and 'a bracing, powerful, and essential achievement.' And, the book has the potential to speak to audiences beyond academia, including those affected by the policies described. Written to be theoretical and personal, analytical and poetic, the book weaves stories about the author's intimate relationships with places with the stories about their energy ecologies, showing how people's experiences are imbricated within systems of power. 

Christa Olson, University of Wisconsin-Madison, for American Magnitude: Hemispheric Vision and Public Feeling in the United States (Ohio State UP 2021).

The selection committee writes:

Dr. Olson’s American Magnitude: Hemispheric Vision and Public Feeling in the United States is a breathtaking work of scholarship. Here, Olson illustrates how the exceptionalism of the United States is dependent on a rhetorical performance that assumes those beyond American borders are paying attention. The book explains that the U.S. as "all of America" existed in the colonial imaginary even before it existed territorially, and was constantly recreated through publicly circulated visions based in appeals to “grandeur, import, and consequence.” Olson shows that Americanness is itself a privileging process that hinges on delimiting racialized Others and engaging neighbors in ambivalent ways, establishing what is important and sublime and manifesting through the body. Yet these performances of U.S. American identity are challenged by the resistance or unwillingness of those beyond its borders, and thus, how America wishes to present itself globally is ever tied to violent interventionism. Drawing on a range of scholarly traditions, American Magnitude is truly exemplary in its weaving of the current rhetorical theories and classic traditions used to engage pressing global challenges. It is at once deeply considered and yet wholly lucid in its prose stylings, inviting readers from diverse academic communities.

And, for their “deeply moving and compelling monographs” and valuable interventions, the Book Award committee recognizes with Honorable Mentions:

Catherine Knight Steele, University of Maryland, for Digital Black Feminism (NYU Press 2021) and Stephanie Larson, Carnegie Mellon University, for What It Feels Like: Visceral Rhetoric and the Politics of Rape Culture (Penn State UP 2021).

2023 Dissertation Award

The Dissertation Award recognizes the best work in rhetorical studies defended by an RSA member within a given year. Out of a group of twenty-two nominations distinguished by their wide-ranging topics, theoretical sophistication, innovative methodological work, nuanced argumentation, and commitment to principles of social justice, the Dissertation committee names as this year’s awardee:

Stephanie Jones, Syracuse University, for “Afrofuturist Feminism as Theory and Praxis: Rhetorical Root Working in the Black Speculative Arts Movement.” (Completed under the direction of Gwendolyn Pough).

The selection committee writes:

Dr. Jones’ well-written and creatively argued dissertation impressed us with its ambitious scope and rigor across a number of mediums and artifacts. Dr. Jones offered innovative concepts such as ‘rhetorical root working’ that we believe will have generative traction for scholars not only in rhetorical studies, but also in the speculative arts movement, game studies, Afrofuturism, Black digital rhetoric, and more. Rooted in praxis and emergent strategy, this project’s contributions are at once scholarly and activist. We want to live in the future that Dr. Jones’ ‘vernacular insurrections’ imagine.

 The selection committee also recognizes with Honorable Mentions:

Noor Ghazal Aswad, University of Memphis, for “Radical Rhetoric and the Syrian Revolution: Toward a Telos of Solidarity.” The committee noted that Dr. Aswad’s project “demonstrates the promise of rhetoric as an evolving, adaptive critical tradition open to new vistas” by mobilizing an important transnational archive of primary documents in Arabic."  The committee believes Dr. Aswad’s project ought to be required reading for rhetorical theory courses.

Wilfredo Flores, Michigan State University, for “Toward a Virulent Community Literacy: Constellating the Science, Technology, and Medicine of Queer Sexual Health.” The committee noted that Dr. Flores’ important intervention into the rhetoric of health and medicine balances critique and critical action. Rooted in activism/praxis with an eye toward sustainability, this project offers an indigenous/decolonial approach to health that resists biomedicalization in favor of community-based expertise.

Sierra Mendez, University of Texas at Austin, for “With Love From San Antonio: Souvenir Postal Cards and Colonized/ing (Re)productions of Mexicans.” The committee credits Dr. Mendez with compellingly situating herself reflexively within her own family history with San Antonio and for offering a rigorous engagement with an archive of postal cards. The project rethinks San Antonio’s regional colonial history and reckons with settler colonial histories. This dissertation extends scholarship on visual reproductions of the other.

2023 Fellows’ Early Career Award

The Fellows’ Early Career Award recognizes the cumulative successes of an RSA member within eight years of completing their doctorate. This selection committee names as its 2023 awardee:

Jo V. Hsu, University of Texas at Austin

The selection committee writes:

While reviewing the application materials for Dr. Hsu, the committee was impressed beyond measure at the complexity, breadth, and quality of their teaching-informed scholarship. The nominee’s focus on the intersections among gender, race, and disability speak to and further the Society’s IDEA values. The committee sees Dr. Hsu’s work as compelling, approachable, and well-written; furthermore, the publication outlets where they have placed their work confirm the respect that they have already garnered from members of the profession. Finally, the committee notes that the nominee’s work has already effected positive change in multiple subareas of the field. In fact, their forthcoming work similarly demonstrates a deep and personal commitment to areas of study that have significant potential to advance rhetorical studies.

With an Honorable Mention, the selection committee also recognizes:

Romeo Garcia, University of Utah. The selection committee found Dr. Garcia’s work “impressive in scope and reach,” and commends it for “addressing ongoing work in rhetoric and composition studies, cultural rhetorics, and decoloniality.” Furthermore, they note that the “abundance of this work has had a profound impact on critical frameworks that are deeply aligned with the Society’s IDEA values, prompting members of the Society to reimagine what our work can do in the classroom and in the field.”

2023 Charles Kneupper Award

The Charles Kneupper Award recognizes the best article published in RSQ in a given year and is selected annually by a subcommittee of the RSQ editorial board. This year’s Kneupper awardee is:

Suban Nur Cooley, New Mexico State University, for “On Being and Becoming Black in a Globally Dispersed Diaspora.”

The selection committee writes:

Dr. Nur Cooley’s article offers a significant contribution to rhetorical study as it intersects with black life, migration, and transnational identity. The committee commends the article’s contributions to furthering transnational analyses through a novel methodological approach of multi-participant interviews woven with personal experience all in conversation with rhetorical and adjacent literatures. We found the article’s needed gathering of these components delivers a necessary nuance for representing Black life as an area of significant concern for the discipline. As a work of scholarship, the article not only ethically represents its subjects but also, and just as importantly, represents what the subject of rhetorical study can and should push further to become.

Additionally, the committee awards an Honorable Mention to the entire “Global Black Rhetorics: A New Framework for Engaging African and African-Diasporic Rhetorical Traditions” special RSQ issue edited by Ronisha Browdy and Esther Milu. Among this year’s competitive group of RSQ essays, the committee considers Dr. Browdy and Dr. Milu’s special issue as an “urgent reminder” to expand “the field’s purview towards more inclusive areas for our scholarship and teaching.”

2023 Outstanding Student Chapter Award

The RSA Outstanding Graduate Student Chapter Award recognizes the previous year’s most creative and engaged student chapter. The 2023 awardee is: 

CMU Three Rivers RSA of Carnegie Mellon University.

The selection committee writes:

This chapter offers a robust range of events and activities that promote awareness of rhetoric (e.g. Professor Jay Dolmage’s “Against Ableism: From Apologia to Access” lecture), provide ample opportunities to learn about and get involved with RSA (e.g. “Lunch and Learn” series and RSQ journal club), and support the academic and professional development of students (e.g. “Teaching Table” series).

Congratulations to our 2023 awardees.

A Note of Gratitude

These awards are only possible because of the tremendous dedication and service of the Awards Steering Committee. I thank my fellow Steering Committee members, Rasha Diab (Vice Chair), Christina Cedillo, Jennifer LeMesurier, Allison Rowland, Sergio Figueiredo, and Celnisha Dangerfield. Also, for their labor and insight, RSA thanks Joshua Gunn, John Lynch, Ekaterina Haskins, Timothy Oleksiak, Alexis McGee, Florianne Jimenez, Scott Varda, E Cram, Regina Duthely, Guy McHendry, Caddie Alford, and Rachael McIntosh.


Tamika L. Carey

Chair of the RSA Awards Committee


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