Attuned advocacy: Rhetorics of engagement in urban Appalachia

Kathryn Trauth Taylor, Purdue University


Attuned Advocacy examines the ways Appalachian identity is circulated and negotiated within the public rhetorics of a non-profit advocacy organization called the Urban Appalachian Council. Unforgiving educational stereotypes continue to haunt Appalachian peoples and their language practices. It is true that the region faces harsh problems of poverty, unemployment, high school drop-out rates, and literacy attainment. Yet in academic efforts to draw attention to these struggles, researchers often emphasize only the region's problems, ignoring the everyday rhetorical strategies of diverse Appalachians as they navigate lived realities—especially when those individuals migrate to urban cities beyond the mountains. This dissertation draws upon observations and interviews with organization leaders and community residents in one of Cincinnati's Urban Appalachian neighborhoods to argue that rhetoric can play a critical role in 1) generating more diverse conceptions of Appalachian identity, and 2) building networked collaborations of support for groups facing histories of oppression, stereotyping, and struggle. Findings trace an increase in inclusivity and diversity in Appalachian advocacy from the 1960s to the 2010s; the empowering relationship between an organization's public rhetorics and its individual community members' attitudes toward their cultural identities; and the role arts movements play in building community and challenging cultural stereotypes. Drawing on these findings, Attuned Advocacy forwards an ethical research methodology centered on the rhetorical art of attunement, which holds scholars and advocates responsible for attuning research interests to meet the needs of local communities.




Rickert, Purdue University.

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