The conference on Rhetoric and the New Fascism seeks to bring together scholars of rhetoric, communication, political science, philosophy, sociology, and related fields to investigate the character of contemporary fascism. Specifically, it asks how we can understand fascism as a rhetorical phenomenon that draws its power from the use of public discourse, media, and spectacle to create powerful constituencies driven by violent passions against internal and external enemies that often override traditional institutional boundaries to seek some “rebirth” of ethnic and racial superiority. Robert Paxton has written that fascism is “the major political innovation of the 20th century, and the source of much of his pain.” We hope in this conference to understand how fascism has adapted to the 21st century in both familiar and frighteningly new ways.
Few things are more striking about the contemporary political environment in the frequency with which the term “fascism” is used to describe its character. This marks a qualitative shift in our political discourse. For decades, term “fascist” was a frequent epithet with which to brand one’s political opponents, regardless of political ideology or governing philosophy, but it almost always was used to attack a specific individual—in rhetorical terms, as an ad hominem. With the rise of extremist parties and candidates in Europe, the U.S., and around the globe, however, even mainstream political commentators have begun using terms like “the new fascism” to describe what they see as a dangerous movement that has revived and repackaged many of the strategies long thought to have been permanently relegated to the margins of political rhetoric.
However, what is equally remarkable about the increase in warnings about the rise of a new fascism is a corresponding increase in public inquiries about the nature of fascism itself. What exactly is fascism, either old or new? Are we actually seeing a rise of fascism or is it nationalism, authoritarianism, populism or some other “ism” not yet defined? If what we are experiencing is fascism, by what theoretical perspective can we understand it, what are its historical precedents and contemporary manifestations, and what do we do to resist it?
Kurt Ritter Lecturer
Dr. Stephen Hartnett, Professor in the Department of the Communication at the University of Colorado, Denver, and 2017 National Communication Association President, will deliver our featured 2018 Kurt Ritter Lecture in Political Rhetoric on Monday, February 12, 2018. For the past 28 years, Dr. Hartnett has been teaching in, writing about, and protesting at America’s prisons. He has taught college classes and poetry workshops in prisons and jails in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, California and Colorado, and has led protests and workshops, participated on panels, and given lectures against the death penalty in 21 states, and he is the editor of Captured Words / Free Thoughts, an annual magazine of poems and stories crafted by imprisoned writers. In recognition of this work, he has received numerous awards, including the Northwest Communication Association’s 2008 Human Rights Award and the University of Colorado’s 2010 Thomas Jefferson Award. We are thrilled to have Dr. Hartnett bring his passion and insights to the question of how we understand and resist fascism in its many forms.
Rhetoric and the New Fascism will be a two-day conference held at the Memorial Student Center on the campus of Texas A&M University during two full day sessions on Sunday and Monday, February 11-12, 2018, as part of its regular Texas A&M Team Rhetoric Conference series. There will be space for many diverse panels happening simultaneously, so submissions from graduate students, social activists, and advanced undergraduates are encouraged. We invite papers that focuses on one of three topics:
- THEORY: How do we define fascism? What are its generic characteristics? How do we distinguish it from other political movements or ideologies?
- HISTORY: What can we learn from previous fascist movements or regimes? What are some unacknowledged roots of fascism? What parallels can we see with contemporary movements and discourses?
- RESISTANCE: What are strategies that can be used to resist fascism? What productive relationships can be formed between academics and activists? What movements have been successful, past or present, with resisting fascism?
Those interested in submitting a paper should submit a 250 word rationale that includes a) a title of the presentation b) your position and contact information c) a description of your argument, written for an interdisciplinary audience. NOTE: Any two or more papers that wish to be included on the same “panel” may submit as one document to indicate this preference, but should still follow the same instructions describing each paper. No extra panel rationale is needed. A panel title is optional.
All attendees and presenters will be invited to REGISTER for the conference online in the fall. Registration fees are necessary to support the cost of facilities and services that make this conference possible as an independent event. Fees are: $85 for professors, $45 for graduate students, and $25 for undergraduates. INCLUDED in the cost of registration is a T-shirt with the conference logo. Include size preference when registering online. Register HERE at TAMU Marketplace.