The graduate conference titled “Camp Rhetoric,” AEIR’s flagship event, occurs over a Friday and Saturday during spring semester, typically attracting between fifty and seventy participants. AEIR has been hosting Camp Rhetoric annually since 2010 (see “History of Camp Rhetoric”).
The program usually features two plenary talks by guest speakers (the first one co-hosted by CAS’s weekly colloquium series), several informal social events, and concurrent sessions of two kinds: thematic discussions and works-in-progress presentations. The multiple formats of events that AEIR prepares for Camp Rhetoric afford participants the chance to build their network in our field and encounter a diverse array of current scholarship loosely centered around a theme exigent in rhetorical scholarship. Camp Rhetoric 2017’s theme was mobility: “Mobile Rhetorics, Moving Identities”; for Camp Rhetoric 2018, we explored precarity, with the theme “Precarious Times, Contested Identities.”
For the plenary talks, we select representatives of different disciplines and diverse issues. We invite one speaker from an English department and one from a Communication department. In addition, we try to find scholars researching topics that are underrepresented in the rhetoric programs at Penn State. For example, in 2017, we invited guest speakers researching migrant and transnational feminist rhetorics, J. David Cisneros and Rebecca Dingo; in 2018, we chose guest speakers specializing in queer rhetoric and Chicana rhetoric (Erin J. Rand and Cristina D. Ramírez, respectively). In previous years we have likewise featured speakers who study traditionally marginalized rhetorics, including Adam J. Banks, Matthew May, and Roxanne Mountford. Other speakers have included Shawn Parry-Giles, Kyle Jensen, Joshua Gunn, Carole Blair, and Pat J. Gehrke.
For works-in-progress sessions, we match graduate students who submit proposals to faculty members with similar interests. Graduate students send abstracts to AEIR and, based on their topics, we match them with professors from Penn State and guest speakers. We intentionally match students with professors in different disciplines; for example, we match English students with Communication professors, and vice-versa. The students send their faculty respondents their projects beforehand; during Camp Rhetoric, they present a brief overview and receive feedback from the respondent, with some time for audience questions. The works-in-progress sessions provide a unique opportunity for graduate students to work with professors outside their discipline whom they might not typically encounter.
Every year, we try to improve Camp Rhetoric. As we prepared Camp Rhetoric 2018, we added a grant-writing workshop and a plenary panel on democratic deliberation, thereby increasing the diversity of our offerings. We also recruited participants from a wider array of programs, reaching out to twenty-two English and sixteen Communication rhetoric programs. Our recruitment efforts led to an increased diversity of institutions represented. At Camp Rhetoric 2017, student presenters came from four institutions besides Penn State: the University of Maryland, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Pittsburgh, and Syracuse University. Camp Rhetoric 2018 doubled that number, attracting students from eight institutions besides Penn State: Carnegie-Mellon, Indiana University, Georgia State University, Northwestern University, the University of Pittsburgh, Ohio State University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Syracuse University. We had around seventy attendees. Participants commented that they appreciated the opportunity to broaden their network and to have stimulating conversations.
Please keep an eye out for the CFP for the upcoming Camp Rhetoric. In the meantime, you can peruse the programs from past Camp Rhetorics.