Disability, Embodiment, and Resistance: The Rhetorical Strategies of Disability Activitm
Osorio, Ruth Danielle
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“Disability, Embodiment, and Resistance: The Rhetorical Strategies of Disability Activism” argues that disability activists channel their experiences of disability at each stage of organizing and delivering activist rhetoric. This dissertation deepens rhetorical studies’ understanding of activism and citizenship by identifying collective caregiving and embodied difference as sources of activist invention and delivery. For my first chapter, “Disabling Citizenship: The Embodied Rhetorics of the 504 Sit-Ins,” I investigate the 1977 504 sit-ins, when one hundred disability activists occupied a federal building in San Francisco for twenty-four days to demand federal protection from discrimination. Examining personal and news photographs, oral histories, and news articles, I argue that disability activists displayed the civic power of disabled bodies by displaying the disabled body as resistant, connected, and resilient. In Chapter 2, “Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera’s Rhetorical Survival: An Ecological Perspective of Disability Activism,” I examine the disability activism of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, two disabled transgender women of color and prominent activists in 1960’s and 70’s gay rights organizing. I assert that behind-the-scenes survival work and caregiving functioned as critical forces behind their enactment of disability activism within gay liberation. My third chapter, “I Am #ActuallyAutistic, Hear Me Tweet: The Topoi of Autistic Activists on Twitter,” explores the rhetorical implications of contemporary online activism in the autistic community. In my study of almost 2,000 #ActuallyAutistic tweets collected during Autism Awareness month in 2016, I argue that the #ActuallyAutistic activists on Twitter leverage the affordances and constraints of Twitter to challenge dominant, and often dehumanizing, perceptions of autism in popular discourse. For my fourth chapter, “Creating an Accessible Legacy: Professional Writing as Disability Activism within the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC),” conducted interviews with authors of the 2011-2016 CCCC Accessibility Guides, which notes the accessibility challenges and features of the selected conference city and venue. In my examination of these interviews, I argue that the guides’ authors craft and circulate a policy document that ultimately moves CCCC toward greater disability awareness.