Rhetoric & Politics
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New Web Site

The Rhetoric and Politics site is moving! We can now be found at the PSA’s own general site at the following address: https://www.psa.ac.uk/specialist-groups/rhetoric-and-politics

The new site allows us to be located among all the other PSA specialist groups. It will take some time to build but that will be the locus for all forthcoming news and events. But the mailing list still operates and the Twitter address is still running, so you can still keep in contact by those methods too.

Rhetoric Panels at the PSA2019

The Rhetoric and Politics group will hold a number of panels at the Political Studies Association conference in Nottingham (15-17 April 2019). You can find us in the following sessions, all on Tuesday 16 April in Lecture Theatre 8 of the Nottingham Conference Centre on Goldsmith Street. Please do come along!

  • Epideictic Rhetoric in Post-War British Politics, 0930-1100
  • Specialist Group meeting, 1230-1330
  • Rhetorical Analysis as a Method of Political Research, 1330-1500
  • Studying Political Ideologies and Practices Rhetorically, 1515-1645


RSA 2018

This year some of our members attended the Rhetoric Society of America’s 50th anniversary conference in Minneapolis. Here’s a short video (about a minute long) about what we got up to.


Rhetoric Panels at PSA: Schedule

Here’s the schedule for the three Rhetoric & Politics panels at the 2018 PSA Conference in Cardiff. If you are around, please come along!

Monday 26th March 16:15 – 17:45: 

Political Rhetoric and Performance: from the Silver Screen to Squared Circle, Room I, City Hall

Tuesday 27th March 13:30 – 15:00:

Hermeneutics and Politics, Room J, City Hall

Tuesday 27th March 15:30 – 17:00:

Rhetoric and the Constitution of Difficult Questions, Room 2.30, Law & Politics Building


PSA Conference 2018: Our panels

I’m pleased to announce that our group will have three panels running at the PSA 2018 Conference in Cardiff. Below are the details of the panels. In time they will be given dates and rooms in the conference schedule. But for now, here’s what we hope to present. Do come along if you are attending the conference (click for details).

1. Rhetoric and the constitution of difficult questions

 Panel Chair: James Martin (Goldsmiths, Univ London)

Discussant: Judi Atkins (Coventry)

Panel Abstract

This Panel brings together both theoretical and empirical insights from the rhetorical study of politics and demonstrates how both as a way of constituting difficult questions and enquiring into them, rhetoric is well equipped to enhance our understanding of complex political issues. One of the virtues of this approach is that it enables us to attend both at specific instances of political life and to the very reasons that make such rhetorical interventions constitutive of a vibrant public sphere. Therefore, the contributors to this Panel argue that the importance of ‘asking the difficult questions’ is of equal worth as that of ‘resolving difficult questions’. Ultimately, they argue, the rhetorical analysis of political concepts, as well as the practices, institutions, and events that sustain and reproduce them, can help us grasp the interplay of political ideology, administration, and action.   


Studying Politics ‘Critically’: Insights from Rhetoric

Sophia Hatzisavvidou

University of Bath



Constituting the People: How a rhetorical approach radicalizes the study of politics and democracy

Emilia Palonen

University of Helsinki


A Point of Principle or Tit-for-tat? The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government and the Conflict over House of Lords Reform

Judi Atkins

Coventry University



The Origins of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: A Political Interpretation

Taru Haapala and Hanna-Mari Kivistö

University of Jyväskylä


2. Hermeneutics and Politics

Panel Chair: Emilia Palonen (Helsinki)

Discussant: Sophia Hatzisavvidou (Bath)

Panel Abstract

Drawing from disparate sources within the hermeneutic tradition from Dilthey, Heidegger and Gadamer to Marxist hermeneutics to Caputo’s radical hermeneutics and Ricoeur’s hermeneutics of naïveté, the panel seeks to investigate the powers and the limits of hermeneutics in the practice of interpretation, and explore possible ways to overcome its limitations. Central in this respect is the relation between language and reality as well as the extension of hermeneutics beyond the level of individual consciousness set by the phenomenological tradition to the intersubjective plain.

Often equated with Gadamer’s ‘conservative’ version or what has been popularized as the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’, hermeneutics has been often criticized as a foundationalist – albeit postpositivist – theory of politics and international relations. The research aim of this panel is to suggest that the difficult hermeneutic detour is never complete unless emphasis is redirected from the disclosure of a hidden deeper truth, from answers to already given questions, to the very questioning of those questions. This panel aims to stress the urgency of asking new and difficult questions most relevant to the contemporary predicament and to highlight the significance of a post-critical hermeneutics in this venture.

The hermeneutics of suspicion and naïveté in the critique of humanitarian intervention

Dimitris Akrivoulis

University of Thesaloniki


Performativity, parody and post-Marxist hermeneutics: Reading Capital all over again

Terrell Carver

University of Bristol



Bodies of Speech

James Martin

Goldsmiths, University of London



3. Political Rhetoric and Performance: from the Silver Screen to Squared Circle

Panel Chair: Dimitris Akrivoulis (Thessaloniki)

Discussant: Sophia Hatzisavvidou (University of Bath)

Panel Abstract:

Rhetoric has always been associated as much with performance as it has with speech and argument. Visual and aural display is central not simply to the presentation of speaking figures but also to the embodiment of attitude and character in argument itself. But whereas the performance of ancient rhetoric drew inspiration from myths and from soldiering, contemporary popular culture offers up a wide variety of models through which agonistic contest and heroic archetypes can be conjured. This panel investigates the linkage between rhetoric and political performance, drawing upon the insights offered by academic literatures on cinema, acting and performance art.


Seeing Voices: Towards a Cinematic Rhetoric

James Martin

Goldsmiths, University of London


The Haunted Politician: Embodiment and Political Performance

Julia Peetz

University of Surrey



Donald Trump: A Wrestler in the White House?

David S. Moon

University of Bath


Book launch event: Michel Meyer, Oxford 17 Oct 2017

We’d like to draw your attention to a launch event for Michel Meyer’s new book, What is Rhetoric? (Oxford, 2017). The event takes place at the Maison francaise in Oxford on October 17, 2017, 2-4pm. All are welcome.

Here are the details:


In everyday life, issues are debated and questions discussed. Rhetoric refers to the way we answer questions in an interpersonal context, when we want to have an effect on those with whom we are communicating. Our interlocutors can be convinced or charmed, persuaded or influenced, and the language used can range from reasoning to the sharing of narratives, literary or otherwise. Michel Meyer’s new book, What Is Rhetoric? (OUP, 2017), offers a breakthrough approach to the principles and functioning of rhetoric by providing a systematic and unified view of rhetorical language. The book combines the social aspects of rhetoric, such as the negotiation of distance between speakers, with the theory of emotions. All the principal authors from Plato and Aristotle to contemporary theorists are integrated into the book’s ‘problematological’ conception of rhetoric, based on the primacy of questioning and answering in language and thought.This seminar will explore some of the rich questions raised by Michel Meyer’s What Is Rhetoric? Following an initial presentation of the book’s argument by its author, contributions from specialists in a range of fields will seek to develop and test its conclusions from an interdisciplinary perspective. The session will conclude with a question/answer and discussion session. The event is open to anyone with an interest in rhetoric, in all and any of its diverse forms.


14:00 – 14:05: Welcome (Chair, tbc)

14:05 – 14:35: “What Is Rhetoric?”; Michel Meyer (Philosophy, Brussels)

14:35 – 14:50: “Visual and Literary Rhetoric”; Jas’ Elsner (Classics, Oxford)

14:50 – 15:05: “Problematology, Rhetoric and Social Science”; Nick Turnbull (Politics, Manchester)

15:05 – 15:20: “Psychoanalysis and Rhetoric”; Paul Earlie (French, Bristol)

15:20 – 16:00: Questions and discussion.

Rhetoric Society of Europe 2017

The final dinner at the RSE 2017 conference in UEA’s Sainsbury Centre

Last week the Rhetoric Society of Europe 2017 conference was held at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. This was a very successful event with c. 180 attendees presenting around the theme ‘rhetorics of unity and division’. The plenary speakers were the very excellent Quentin Skinner, Ruth Wodak, and Gerard Hauser. The Rhetoric & Politics group was one of the co-sponsors and the conference was organised with skill by our members, Alan Finlayson and Sophia Hatzisavvidou. The sun shone and Norwich offered a delightful, welcoming backdrop to a very pleasant and friendly event. One of the dominant themes was the emergence of populism in contemporary political discourse – papers explored the rhetoric of populism from a variety of different perspectives. The range and diversity of speakers – from across Europe, Russia, the US, Turkey and Israel – helped make this an especially interesting gathering. The next RSE conference will be held in Pavia, Italy in 2019 and I thoroughly recommend all to attend.

Participants at the RSE wine reception in Norwich Cathedral

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