Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An ALFA-Omega approach to rhetorical invention: Queer revolutionary pragmatism and political education
by Branstetter, Heather Lee, Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2012, 318; 3545499
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation enriches our understanding of collective rhetorical invention practices. I account for cultural forces that impacted the Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA) and outline strategies members used to advocate for greater social justice. Active throughout the greater southeast from 1972 to 1994, ALFA was one of the oldest and longest running lesbian feminist organizations in American history. The members created physical and virtual spaces for community building through various mediated communication technologies and regional outreach.

ALFA collectively invented an identity, culture, public image, and platform for change. This project illuminates the rhetorical-cultural historical conditions and persuasive strategies that enabled these pragmatic yet idealist women. ALFA women formed coalitions, built their own library and archives, and distributed self-published periodicals to connect with others who were similarly oriented but geographically distant. After disbanding, the group donated a massive collection of documents from its incorporated library and archives to Duke University's Sallie Bingham Center. This collection contains newsletters, administrative information, newspaper clippings, meeting minutes, correspondence and media literacy educational materials, and other feminist and human rights movement literature. I analyze these documents, track the emergence of inventive strategies, and read the national lesbian-feminist movement through the context of ALFA's activities, following the organization longitudinally and situating the women's persuasive innovations within socio-cultural shifts that impacted their activity.

ALFA emerged during a pivotal historic period: social movement organizations flourished, and the social justice paradigm had begun to shift from civil rights to revolutionary politics. The members adapted and developed subversive arguments and rhetorical strategies aimed at overturning unethical power hierarchies, embedding their ideas into the culture through the process of political education. I help develop the nascent yet politically relevant and conceptually productive area of queer rhetorics as I extend recent work on collective or networked explorations of rhetorical invention. This project responds to calls for alternative approaches to the history and theory of rhetoric and composition while enriching our understanding of social movement rhetoric. Ultimately, I illuminate the heterogeneity of rhetorical strategies innovated by an organized collective of women oriented toward the goal of socio-political pluralism and improved cooperation across differing perspectives.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Jack, Jordynn, Danielewicz, Jane
Commitee: Anderson, Dan, Lundberg, Christian, McGowan, John
School: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department: English
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 74/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: American history, GLBT Studies, Rhetoric
Keywords: Atlanta Lesbian Feminist Alliance (ALFA), Collective invention, Ethics, Political education, Radical feminism, Sexuality, Social justice
Publication Number: 3545499
ISBN: 978-1-267-77963-2
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