Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2018

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/03/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Wanzer-Serrano, Darrel

First Committee Member

Fixmer-Oraiz, Natalie

Second Committee Member

Kang, Jiyeon

Third Committee Member

Hingstman, David

Fourth Committee Member

Havens, Timothy


This dissertation examines how gender operates as agencies for women’s environmental justice activism. I contend that women’s activism, often taking place through collaborative and collective means, presents new opportunities to theorize rhetorical agency that include women-centric and leaderless forms of grassroots organizing. To this end, I explore various agencies for women’s collaborative environmental communication—motherhood, eco-spirituality, and political calls for recognition—that work to test the boundary conditions of rhetorical studies in ways that find empowerment and resistance in a collective rather than in any one particular person. In developing these accounts, I construct a framework that emphasizes the agentic capabilities possible through collaborative rhetorics of resistance—the communicative performances of defiance and empowerment put forth by groups of people that often result in the articulation of collective identities, the challenging of dominant structures and institutions of power, and work to inspire mutual critique and reflection in others. Theories of rhetorical agency assist in documenting and illuminating the ways speakers navigate discursive and material constraints as they bring their audience to action, but often do so by privileging the rhetoric of individual (male) speakers. By exploring collaborative rhetorics of resistance, this dissertation project tests the boundary conditions of rhetorical agency and generates a more comprehensive understanding of how loose networks of people enter into, take part in, and possibly redirect the course of environmental deliberations. This dissertation project is focused on the ways in which women rhetorically collaborate to craft collective subjectivities, protest environmental threats to their families and communities, and inspire mutual critique and reflection in others.


Activism, Environmental Communication, Environmental Justice, Gender, Rhetorical Agency, Women


viii, 232 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 203-232).


Copyright © 2018 Christopher Scott Thomas

Available for download on Friday, July 03, 2020

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