Encouraging Counterpublics in the Rhetoric Classroom

The Problem of Definition

“The public sphere is “a virtual or imaginary community which does not necessarily exist in any identifiable space.”Habermas
The public sphere is “a discursive space in which individuals and groups associate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgment about them.”Hauser
“a theater in modern societies in which political participation is enacted through the medium of talk.”Fraser
Counterpublics are “parallel discursive arenas where members of subordinates social groups invent and circulate counterdiscourses, which in turn permit them to create oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests, and needs.” (Fraser 67)Mr. WordPress

Are Counterpublics Autonomous?

Counterpublics are “autonomous publics formed because their members have found inaccessible – or have been denied outright – certain rights, responsibilities, and resources offered or secured through state power.”Asen and Brouwer
“On the one hand, they function as spaces of withdrawal and regroupment; on the other hand, they also function as bases and training grounds for agitational activities directed toward wider publics. It is precisely in the dialectic between these two functions that their emancipatory potential resides.”Fraser

Teaching from Critical Theory

Can Counterpublics be Taught?

“…the academic discourses we teach in first-year composition—
both in their similarities and differences to discourses of the public sphere—are left
unexamined, the tacit assumption being that academic discourses are essentially
neutral and can serve as generic preparation for students’ participation in public

Works Cited

Asen, Robert. “Seeking the ‘Counter’ in Counterpublics.” Communication Theory. Vol. 10, Issue 4 (Nov 2000), 424-446.

Donnelli, Emily. “Mapping a Post-Process Dialogics for the Writing Classroom as Public.” PhD Diss. University of Kansas, Lawrence, 2008.

Farmer, Frank. After the Public Turn. University Press of Colorado, 2013.

Fraser, Nancy. “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy.” Social Text, No. 25/26 (1990), pp. 56-80

Habermas, Jurgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. MIT Press, 1962.

Hansen, Miriam. In Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Public Sphere, by Oskar Negt and Alexander Kluge, ix-xii. University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Hauser, Gerard A. Counterpublics and the State. SUNY Press, 2001.

Negt, Oscar and Kluge, Alexander. In Public Sphere and Experience: Toward an Analysis of the Bourgeois and Proletarian Sphere. University of Minnesota Press, 1993.

Warner, Michael. Publics and Counterpublics. Zone Books, 2002.