RSA Bi-Annual Conference

19th Biennial Conference of the 
Rhetoric Society of America
Portland, OR
May 21 - May 24, 2020

Conference Co-Chairs:  Michelle Ballif, Diane Davis, Karma Chávez, Byron Hawk

The theme of the RSA 2020 biennial conference, “Rhetoric / Hospitality,” asks us to contemplate hospitality as a gesture of generous reception of the other, one that invites inclusive rhetorical practices and relations, but also as a gesture of sovereign power that asserts the right to welcome or to refuse the other. The theme of hospitality asks us to deliberate about how rhetorical practices can open doors, invite new solidarities, make new understandings possible; it also asks us to consider how they can be used to foreclose such possibilities, as evidenced daily in today’s political and social climate. We need not look far to see multiple instances of inhospitable rhetorical practices that fuel discriminatory stereotypes and prejudices.

Hospitality, then, as a theory and a practice is not as simple as opening a door, literally or rhetorically. The notion that I can (and should) welcome the other into my home, my department, my country itself rests on a presumption of sovereignty and signals the extent to which traditional notions of hospitality—as the ethical, generous welcome of the other—are complicit with power: every welcome I extend or deny confirms my sovereign power as host and reiterates normative limits and conditions of hospitality.

But is hospitality limitable? The very idea of hospitality seems to require that it be limitless, unconditional, extended to every other, beyond any subject’s power to do so. Yet, any attempt to operationalize a hospitality without conditions would self-destruct, obliterating the putative boundaries of the “home” that make it offerable. Each attempt to respond to the ethics of an unconditional hospitality would necessarily—and paradoxically—call for the institution of certain limits and conditions, without which no hospitality could concretely arrive.

What are those limits and conditions? How are they to be decided? When and by whom? Can or should these limits and conditions be normed? What are the risks of norming them? What are the risks of not norming them? Hospitality is risky business, either way. The goal, as Jacques Derrida puts it, is to “[c]alculate the risks,” but without slamming “the door on what cannot be calculated, meaning the future and the foreigner” (Paper Machine 67).

We invite you to calculate the risks of hospitable rhetorical practices by reflecting on contemporary concerns about, for example: the movement of peoples across borders (including immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers); access to spaces and technologies; the environment; health care; social services; non-human animals; state violence; capitalism; sovereignty; civility; the nation; publics; the classroom; the archive; oppression based on gender, race, sexual orientation, ability, language, and education. . . .

The 2020 conference organizers invite submissions of rhetorical scholarship, broadly defined: individual paper abstracts, panel proposals that contain three to four presenters, and special format sessions of non-traditional design.

Individual paper proposals should be a maximum of 3,000 characters (approximately 500 words). Panel proposals for 3-4 presenters should be a maximum of 7,500 characters (approximately 1,250 words). Proposals for a special format session should be a maximum of 3,000 characters (approximately 500 words). Please note that a single individual may not submit more than two proposals, either individually or as part of a panel or session.

The website to submit proposals is now live and will remain open until July 15, 2019 at 11:59 PM EST. The site can be accessed here:

Please note that to submit proposals you will need to follow the directions for “New Submitters” and create a profile before you can login
.  This submission site is administered by Attendee Interactive, and it is not linked to the RSA membership website (, so your existing RSA user ID and password are not recognized by this submission site.  

We look forward to receiving your submissions and meeting with you in our host city, Portland, Oregon.

The Co-Chairs
All inquiries can be sent to

Proposals Due: July 15, 2019, 11:59 PM EST