Reading, Writing, and Speaking for Change

Conference on Activism, Rhetoric, and Research

Minnie Bruce Pratt Seth Kahn

Syracuse University: Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Register Today—Confirm Your Attendance!!!

Activism is a special kind of social and intellectual work that invites a range of participants to act for social justice—whether they are the community’s residents, workers, students, teachers, researchers, or neighboring allies. For this conference, we’re interested in learning about and sharing how our local communities study and engage in activist endeavors: how we read, write, and speak for change. We invite papers, posters, and other presentations that provide:

  • insight and debate over the changing political landscape;
  • perspectives on the ways power and resistance function in engaged community work and relations among community members, students, researchers, faculty, and activists;
  • understandings of the platforms and technologies that both open and restrict access to public venues;
  • visions of activist movements, strategies, tactics, rhetorics, and their literacies;
  • performances of nonfiction and other creative works that chronicle activist endeavors in inventive ways; and
  • cautionary tales, advice, and experiences from veterans, students, novices, scholars, activists, armchair critics, and constructive naysayers.

In short, if you have a story, a project, a paper, or a plan that helps point the way toward collective pursuits for social justice, we want you to share it!    


The conference seeks to highlight what SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor has called the “third spaces of public engagement,” where students, faculty, and community members work together toward fulfilling the university’s mission of Scholarship in Action (Cantor Speech 2010). To this end, this inaugural conference is conceived as an opportunity to invite community-based activists into the university community, extending their range of influence. At the same time, it offers an opportunity to extend scholarly understandings of the fraught issues and conditions under which activism is carried out, both within and beyond academic borders. As a result, this conference provides a chance to renew enthusiasm and energy for activist forms that can and do work. Research here becomes a call to "search again" for change.


We welcome individual or group proposals for either presentations or posters that address the following emergent questions:

  • What insights might we glean from the collective perspectives and work being done in our surrounding neighborhoods? Our jobs? Student-based projects? Service learning? Classroom pedagogy? Critical scholarship?
  • When we seek activist and activist-supporting roles in the community, how do we understand our goals, and how do we fall short of them?
  • What are the individual and collective struggles that we face while working for change? What rhetorical understandings and skills are needed to make our endeavors successful?
  • What innovations are or aren’t happening in social justice work, what successes fail to be imitated, and what projects are begun but never completed because we lack the resources, the cross-cultural knowledge, or the collaborative will to bring them to fruition?
  • What is and should be the relationship between the community and the university? How might we persuasively promote activist work and community outreach, especially in contexts where arguments are made against such endeavors?
  • How might activist practices increase inclusion while respecting difference? How do we acknowledge and engage our specific social locations, our raced, classed, dis/abled, sexed, and gendered identities, in the work that we do?



Featured speakers include Seth Kahn and Minnie Bruce Pratt. Seth Kahn, Associate Professor at West Chester University, is active in labor and counterculture movements and is the co-editor of the well-received Activism and Rhetoric: Theories and Contexts for Political Engagement. Syracuse University’s own Professor Minnie Bruce Pratt, a renowned creative nonfiction writer and poet who has just released her most recent book, Inside the Money Machine,has been a long-time activist in the Syracuse community on issues such as labor, gender, sexuality, education, and human rights.


Proposals are due on February 15, 2012. You will receive e-mail notification regarding proposal acceptance by March 1. Send your 250-word individual presentation/poster proposal (or a 750-word panel proposal) with all your contact information to Missy Watson at


Additional details for the conference will be added to the "Information" page as the conference approaches. Please check the "Resources" page for details about writing a proposal and preparing a presentation.


Questions regarding proposals and the conference should be sent to Missy Watson at or