Dissertation Sur Les Apologies

Why do some state apologies that address past atrocities succeed at bringing about reconciliation while others fail? Under what conditions would the recipients of apologies find them satisfactory and acceptable? In order to close the gaps between theory and practice regarding the efficacy of state apology, I identify and test four causal factors that can affect victims’ reception of state apologies. These factors are: the manner in which expressions of apology are made (who speaks what, when, where, and how), behavioral consistency of the apologizer, conspicuous opportunism of the apologizer, and prior communicative interactions. I conduct mixed-methods research that incorporates Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and in-depth case studies, using primary sources such as media reports, government statements, organizational reports, and in-depth interviews. By assessing whether and how certain features of an apology affect its reception, this research aims to introduce cross-case empirical analyses and a new dataset on state apologies that could be shared and used for future research on apology and reconciliation.

My dissertation utilizes methodologies of digital discourse analysis in order to situate the WPA Listserv (WPA-L) as a dynamic but under-theorized site of disciplinary knowledge-making for the field of Composition and Rhetoric. Drawing on theories of counterpublics, online communication, and affect, I showcase how the WPA-L functions as a discursive space in which individuals build community, debate pressing issues, and strategize how best to advocate for their individual and collective interests. At the same time that the listserv functions as counterpublic space for the discipline at large, I argue that sub-disciplinary counterpublics made up of individuals marginalized within the field (graduate students, part-time and contingent faculty, two-year college specialists) can make use of the democratic nature of this digital platform to speak back to more powerful segments—and, at times, even individuals—of the field. Thus, I argue that the WPA-L, gives voice to individuals not often afforded access to speak in more traditionally-authorized platforms of knowledge-making like peer-reviewed journals and monographs. In crafting this argument, I investigate the rhetorical moves employed by listserv participants in the three most active WPA-L threads of 2015 (examining a total of 180 listserv email messages). My analysis of these three conversations demonstrates how listserv conversations intervene in larger disciplinary discussions about the theory/practice divide in the field; about issues of contingency and labor activism; and about the emotional tolls and rewards of Writing Program Administration. At a historical moment when the number of tenure-track research positions in the field is declining and the number of part-time, contingent, and two-year specialists is rapidly increasing, I argue it is especially important to consider spaces like the WPA-L in which these non-research-focused members of the discipline participate in the work of disciplinary commentary, knowledge-making, and theory-building. I see my dissertation as contributing to such work.

CHAPTER 1Dear Colleagues/Dear Hivemind: Disciplinary Knowledge-Making on the WPA-L

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