An analysis of rhetorical situation in the context of community mediation
AuthorKuperman, Renee Louise
KeywordsLanguage, Rhetoric and Composition.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation is a rhetorical study of mediation that theorizes ways in which people can use language to consistently achieve peaceful resolutions of conflicts. In this study, I analyze community mediation at the Our Town Community Mediation Program, which provides free or low cost dispute resolution services. Disputants engage in a conflict defined by a particular rhetorical situation with its own exigence and constraints. The major finding of this study is that once the disputants have entered into a mediation, they become engaged in a second rhetorical situation that is in a dynamic relationship with the first. Thus the mediation experience involves a "rhetorical system" of situations. The primary exigence is defined as the urgency that obliged the unresolved conflict. The primary constraints are those factors that determined the rhetorical discourse. Through interviews with four mediators and a case study of a mock mediation, I identify eleven new constraints in the secondary situation that give presence to a secondary exigence, namely, miscommunication. The secondary situation values conciliatory rhetoric, making a mutually satisfactory resolution possible. In this way, rhetorical situation is itself used as a rhetorical device to elicit a resolution. I begin by arguing that mediation is a rhetorical activity that resembles ideal public discourse as described by Chaim Perelman and Kenneth Burke. Qualities such as on going dialog and situationally specific justice make mediation a useful model for critiquing deliberative democratic discourse. In Chapter Two, I explain that my research methodology serves to acknowledge mediation as a living process. In Chapter Three I explore the rhetorics of mediation taking into account, for example, its unusual use of argument and its transformative goals. In Chapter Four, I analyze the data from my research, redefining concepts such as neutrality, agency, good communication and conflict. And in Chapter Five, I explore the possibility of a wider application for the concept of rhetorical system, concluding that while the discourse of mediation may be too situationally specific to apply whole cloth to other forms of public discourse, the concept of rhetorical system has wide ranging applications.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Rhetoric, Composition, and the Teaching of English