Courtney Rivard


Greenlaw 427

Fixed-term Faculty Lecturer

Research Interests

  • Composition and Rhetoric
  • Digital Humanities
  • Indigenous Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Memory Studies
  • Race and Gender Studies

I locate my scholarship at the intersection of two subfields within the interdisciplinary field of rhetorical studies: rhetorical historiography and digital rhetorics.  My research continues a small, but growing direction in the field that sees archives and material collections as rhetorical constructions.  I am concerned with how notions of citizenship and national belonging intersect with race, gender, and sexuality in the process of producing, organizing, and accessing archives.

My first book manuscript, Rhetorics of Race, Nation, and Gender: The Making of Disaster Archives, investigates new methods deployed by many historical institutions to collect and display materials relating to contemporary disasters. These new methods, which I call “disaster collecting,” consists of: (1) immediately collecting physical materials, rather than allowing for significant time and distance before initiating collection procedures, (2) preserving objects in perpetual destruction to maintain their authenticity, and (3) digitally collecting the general population’s thoughts and feelings relating to the event using digital tools that permitted object collection to a scale never before possible. Because “disaster collecting” involves the collection and display of the present, it reveals crucial insights into the narrative structures that “make sense” of these disasters and their relationship to notions of race, gender, class, and national belonging.

Using an innovative approach that analyzes the acquisition process itself, this project compares both physical and digital archives in the first two major disasters in which this method was deployed in the U.S. (September 11th and Hurricane Katrina). Through analysis of the role that context and situation (in situ) plays in object collection, I analyze the logic used to collect disaster objects for the both the September 11 and Hurricane Katrina Collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Using text mining and digital visualization, I pair this analysis of institutional rhetoric with the ways in which affect and emotion (pathos) were used to make sense of the shock of these disasters through the hundreds of thousands of submissions collected in the September 11 Digital Archive and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank.

I argue that even as the physical and digital objects were framed in the rhetoric of color blindness and national unity, they reveal the ways in which processes of racialization become embedded into the collection process, effectively positioning some victims worthy of mourning as national heroes, while positioning others as neglectful, responsible and even disposable, thereby distancing them from the body politic. Understanding the rhetorical power of the acquisition process in shaping these ‘disaster archives’ has profound significance as they will one day serve as the historical record of the past.

My second project also centers my passion for exploring the power of archives, and was born out of archival research I was conducting for the Pointe-au-Chien and the Isle de Charles Band of the Biloxi-Chitmacha Confederation of Muskogees in Louisiana during their case for federal recognition. The process of gaining federal recognition by requires them to prove their existence as a tribe from now until the 16th Century.  In order to do this, they must conduct extensive archival research, but they were prohibited from accessing key archives because they lacked doctoral degrees. Using my privileged Ph.D., I conducted necessary research for them while analyzing the complex power of the archives to regulate access, categorize according to colonial logic, and privatize and disperse key documents.  In “Materiality, Archives, and Rhetoric: De-linking the Colonial Logic of the Federal Acknowledgement Process,” I argue that legal rhetoric outlining evidentiary standards meld together with archival classification systems to create barriers that are nearly impossible for tribes to overcome.


One of my chief teaching goals is to impart upon my students the profound power that rhetoric has in shaping the ways they understand and interact in the world. I strive to as Paula Patch (2010) explains, “meet students where they are” (p. 279). This phrase demonstrates the impulse within multimodal composition to refuse to ignore students’ standard practices of writing and research, such as using Wikipedia, and instead use them to teach composition skills. However, I also use this phrase to emphasize my commitment to implementing grounded pedagogies that center the specific culture and history that students are immersed in through such digital genres. I believe that this approach is essential for students to both understand that learning and writing happens everywhere, not just in an academic classroom, and, as a consequence, they have the power to make change in the world that surrounds them.


“Archival Recognition: The Pointe-au-Chien’s and Isle de Jean Charles Band of the Biloxi-Chitmacha Confederation of Muskogees’ Fight for Federal Recognition.” Settler Colonial Studies. (5.2) 2015.

Co-written with Adams-Campbell and Ashley Glassburn Falzetti. “Introduction: Indigeneity and the work of settler archives.” Settler Colonial Studies. (5.2) 2015.

“Archiving Disaster and National Identity in the Digital Realm: The September 11 Digital Archive and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank” in Identity Technologies: Producing Online Selves.  Eds. Julie Rak and Anna Poletti.  University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.

"Collecting Disaster: National Identity and the Smithsonian’s September 11th Collection.” The Australasian Journal of American Studies (special issue on "The Material of American Studies).  April 2013.

“Critique Matters, Too: Review of Museum Matters: In Praise of the Encyclopedic Museum by James Cuno.”  E-misférica 9.1 (“On the Subject of Archives”).  Eds.  Marianne Hirsch and Diane Taylor. May 2012. 

“Virtual(ly) Remembering September 11, 2001: Memorial Websites and U.S. Nationalism.”  Collective Memory and Collective Knowledge in a Global Age.  Centre for the Study of Global Governance, London School of Economics.  Working Conference Paper. PDFs/MemoryWorkshop/VirtuallyRemembering911_Rivard.pdf



Hire Date: 2012

Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz, 2012.

B.A., Emory University, 2003.

Research Groups and Interests

Group IX - Critical Theory and Cultural Studies
Group X - Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy