2017 Charles Kneupper Award announced

The Charles Kneupper Award is given annually to recognize the essay published in the previous year's volume of Rhetoric Society Quarterly that made the most significant contribution to scholarship in rhetoric. The award is named in honor of Charles Kneupper (1949–1989) to honor his many contributions to RSA’s scholarly mission. The members of the 2016 Kneupper Award committee were: John Ackerman, Ekaterina Haskins (chair), and Judy Segal. They reported that there were a number of RSQ essays published in 2016 that made significant contributions to the study of rhetoric. Given the strength of the material, they decided to award a winner and to recognize another essay with an honorable mention. Rhetoric Society Quarterly is pleased to present the Kneupper Awards to:


Heather Lee Branstetter, “‘A Mining Town Needs Brothels’: Gossip and the Rhetoric of Sex Work in a Wild West Mining Community.” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 46 (2016): 381-409.

This essay stood out for a number of reasons.  Its focus on gossip advances our theoretical and critical understanding of vernacular rhetoric. The author offers an impressive archive—and new oral histories—in a place (Wallace, Idaho) to which she had unusual access because of her roots in the community.  The author’s exploration points us “toward a heuristic for small talk as an interdependent cultural rhetoric, blurring boundaries and dichotomies, where vernacular and official, respectable and illicit lines of argument are related” (384).   The essay is not only theoretically transformative and thoroughly researched but also self-reflective about its research methodologies. Last but not least, it weaves a riveting historical narrative of how residents of Wallace negotiated their relationship to sex work, thereby demonstrating that theoretical sophistication and vivid storytelling can go hand in hand.

Honorable Mention:

Shui-yin Sharon Yam, “Affective Economies and Alienizing Discourse: Citizenship and Maternity Tourism in Hong Kong” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 46 (2016): 410-33.

Yam argues that “while rhetorical studies has linked citizenship with reason and examined it in terms of deliberation, civic engagement, and participatory democracy . . . , it has not sufficiently interrogated its affective and emotional dimensions” (411). Yam looks at internet postings that reveal the animus of Hong Kong citizens toward Mainland Chinese immigrants, and she teases out, in particular, two kinds of alienizing discourse that function as an “emotional pedagogy” of citizenship. The essay is well-grounded in its archive, and in rhetorical theory, and makes a strong contribution to rhetorical studies: a contribution especially important at this moment in U.S. history, when “political emotion” is called upon to distinguish (in Yam’s terms) the “threatened” from the “threatening.”