Heather Adams, 2021–22 Candace Bernard and Robert Glickman Dean’s Professor in the UNC Greensboro College of Arts and Sciences, will present the 2023 Center for Democratic Deliberation Kenneth Burke lecture on “Hopeful Advocacy: Reimagining Rhetorics for Reproducive Justice.”
A reproducing person’s right to make decisions about their own body is one of the most divisive political issues today. The U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade with the 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision has ushered in renewed forms of intolerance, judgment, secrecy, risk, danger, anger, and despair. Given this context, inclusive and just reproductive politics–politics that assure the agency, dignity, and safety of all–can seem beyond our reach. But rather than giving up, the overturn of Roe can spark our hope; it can prompt us to identify rhetorical tactics for reimagining the possible and support purposeful work toward a truly equitable reproductive politics. The first step in such reimagining is listening carefully to the stories of others. As we listen, we can press ourselves to explore what stories can do: they can call on us to grapple with the unfamiliar, recognize our own implicit biases, and deliberate beyond polarizing talking points.
As Kenneth Burke reminds us, the stories we encounter can be recognized as "strategies for dealing with situations," can function as "equipment for living." Activists, advocates, and academics alike have the opportunity to use the current toxic state of reproductive politics as motivation for rethinking broader strategies as we move forward, together. Stories can propel and critically inform this coalitional movement, serving as rhetorical resources for advocacy work as we deliberate toward reproductive justice for all and deepen our reserves of hopefulness.