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Title:Calls to be counted: Rhetorics of aggregation and numerical representation in 20th century American democracy
Author(s):Weickum, Nikki
Director of Research:O'Gorman, Ned
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):O'Gorman, Ned
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Finnegan, Cara; Cisneros, J. David; Hamilton, Kevin
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:In this dissertation, I examine the role various forms of counting citizens have played in mass campaigns in twentieth-century American political culture. Scholarship in political science, history and rhetorical studies tells us that the census and public opinion polling have long been used to tell Americans who they are or to justify political actions in democracy. Scholarship on citizenship suggests that civic rituals and collective civic actions are a substantial way citizens learn or lay claim to citizenship and understand their obligations or relationship to the collective. My research project fills this gap by examining mass movements in 20th century civic culture that make many of these same claims to public identity or beliefs, and negotiate many of the same tensions of homogeneity and difference. In each case, I analyze how calls to be counted articulate what it means to be counted as one among many in a mass campaign or as part of a collective citizenry more broadly, and why being counted matters at all. My dissertation consists of four case studies, beginning with women’s suffrage petitions in the early 1910s, continuing with President Franklin Roosevelt’s calls for citizens to send letters en masse from 1934-1937, proceeding to the Million Man March in 1995, and culminating in’s groundbreaking 1998 online petition campaign. In my analysis, I find that arguments about what it means to be counted are shaped by the specifics of the contexts, issues, and technologies of counting. Central to these distinct arguments about counting is the concern for what is being counted by the campaign, from public opinion, demands, a nation, or public interest; all represented through distinct types of counting, from degree to quantity, aggregation, or oneness. These are bolstered by common rhetorical figures of counting, including magnitude, accumulation, repetition, and elaboration; as well as an emphasis on time and space.
Issue Date:2019-07-09
Rights Information:Copyright 2019 Nikki Weickum
Date Available in IDEALS:2019-11-26
Date Deposited:2019-08

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