Rhetoric and Public Culture

Program Type: Cluster and Certificate

The Rhetoric and Public Culture cluster and certificate address foundational problems in both the practice of democracy and the conduct of inquiry.

“Rhetoric” refers to systematic study of how texts, images, and other media operate as a mode of action, with particular attention to democratic politics. It comprises a civic art, a hermeneutical method, and a continuing challenge to all systems of classification. Due to the scope of the modern linguistic turn, rhetoric provides a pertinent basis for reflection on the discursive and organizational conventions of contemporary scholarship. Such reflection is becoming increasingly necessary as scholarship and democracy alike adapt to new communication technologies and related elements of globalization defining the 21st century.

“Public Culture” delineates a fundamental feature of modern civil society: the network of media and social practices organized around political participation. Because they are at once distinctively modern, inherently pluralistic, and inevitably contested, public cultures have become vital political forms in an increasingly interconnected world.

Thus, “rhetoric and public culture” denotes reflexive study of the communicative practices by which public culture is created, sustained, modified, and challenged. The program welcomes scholars who wish to be both attentive to rhetoric and engaged with important intellectual and political discourses that cross the disciplines and other institutional boundaries.

See Rhetoric and Public Culture Cluster and Certificate Requirements for specific courses and procedures needed to complete this program.

Core faculty of the Rhetoric and Public Culture Cluster:

  • Kate Baldwin, Associate Professor, Communication Studies, and American Studies
  • Dilip Gaonkar, Professor, Communication Studies, Culture and Communication; Director of the Center for Global Culture and Communication
  • Robert Hariman, Professor, Communication Studies
  • Jan Radway, Professor, Communication Studies, American Studies, and Gender Studies
  • Angela Ray, Associate Professor, Communication Studies
  • Irving Rein, Professor, Communication Studies

Affiliate faculty:

  • Tracy C. Davis, Ethel M. Barber Professor in Performing Arts
  • Penelope Deutscher, Professor, Philosophy
  • Brian Edwards, Crown Professor in Middle East Studies; Professor of English, Comparative Literary Studies, and American Studies
  • E. Patrick Johnson, Carlos Montezuma Professor of African American Studies and Performance Studies
  • D. Soyini Madison, Professor, Performance Studies, African American Studies, and Anthropology
  • Gary Saul Morson, Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities

Programs and Events

Cluster students are invited to attend all academic events associated with the Ph.D. program in Communication Studies/Rhetoric and Public Culture.  In addition, there are occasional dinners for cluster students.

Who Should Apply?

Doctoral candidates from any field are eligible to apply to join this intellectual “home” outside their department. Past participants have come from the following programs:

  • African-American Studies
  • Art History
  • Communication Studies
  • Comparative Literary Studies
  • English, French and Italian
  • German Literature and Critical Thought
  • History
  • Music
  • Performance Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Religion
  • Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • Sociology
  • Spanish and Portuguese
  • Theatre and Drama

How to Apply

Prospective PhD students interested in participating in this cluster should indicate their interest when they apply to their respective graduate programs.

Current students interested in participating in this cluster should contact Professor Robert Hariman at r-hariman2@northwestern.edu.

Who to Contact

Please contact the program director, listed below, with questions about this program.

Robert Hariman
Professor of Communication Studies
Email: r-hariman2@northwestern.edu