Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Contemporary nativist rhetoric: Defining common characteristics
by Gariepy, Thomas C., M.A., Northern Arizona University, 2013, 160; 1543971
Abstract (Summary)

Nativist language, expressed as opposition to foreigners, has been a part of American history since the country's founding. At various times, often during periods of recession and economic pressure, nativist movements have arisen with remarkable fervor, at times affecting the course of the nation's history. Most recently, the twenty years from 1990-2010 saw a significant increase both in the number and power of anti-immigration organizations. During this period, the contemporary minutemen, organizations of nativists focused on border security, came to prominence. Anti-immigrant pressure groups, whose purpose was to focus on specific aspects of immigration, became powerful. Nativist politicians found that rhetoric could successfully elevated their cause to prominence on the national stage.

This study uses principles of generic criticism to analyze the rhetoric of two contemporary Minutemen organizations and their founders, as well as three prominent nativist leaders. It seeks to determine whether there are common characteristics in the chosen examples of nativist rhetoric. Under such circumstances, the rhetoric would be classified as belonging to a particular genre, or type. The analysis reports that there are five common characteristics shared by the five rhetors: Appeals to rationality and positioning within the mainstream; predictions of threats to economic security and political stability; paranoid language; patriotic and constitutional imagery and alignment with law enforcement; and appeals for sympathy for victims. It continues by comparing the five commonalities with common rhetorical forms and concludes that all five align with the rhetorical type known as the jeremiad. Named for the biblical prophet Jeremiah, this type of rhetoric is marked by a call for a return to traditional values, predictions of disasters to come if the audience does not heed the warnings, and reassurance that the audience and the nation will be rewarded for their righteous behavior. The study also finds that contemporary nativist rhetoric can be classified as exhibiting the paranoid style of rhetoric. The study concludes with an enumeration of issues relating to rhetorical studies of nativism that arose during the research. These issues would be useful avenues of inquiry for other researchers intrigued by the subject.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hardy-Short, Dayle C.
Commitee: Mahaffey, Jerome D., Short, Brant
School: Northern Arizona University
Department: Communication
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: MAI 52/02M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Communication, Rhetoric
Keywords: Anti-immigrationist, Hybrid genre, Jeremiad, Minutemen, Nativist, Paranoid
Publication Number: 1543971
ISBN: 978-1-303-32741-4
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