Faculty Research Talk with Katrina Powell
Tent Cities, Resettlement Housing, and Rhetorical Constructions of Home in Narratives of Displacement
The metaphor of "warehousing" has been broadly discussed in a variety of fields as a way to understand the implications of placing persons seeking refuge in long-term yet impermanent camps or resettlements. Warehousing keeps people "in protracted situations of restricted mobility, enforced idleness, and dependency, their lives on indefinite hold, in violation of their basic rights under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention" (Merrill Smith). In this paper, I examine rhetorical constructions of home, specifically within the recent surge of semi-permanent "housing" structures constructed by large corporations and marketed to donors. I suggest that these literal and figurative constructions, while claiming to be "durable solutions," are actually a continuance of warehousing and are ways to control, manage, and efficiently deal with the millions of people displaced due to natural disaster, civil unrest, government sponsored development, and immigration policy. Using a transnational feminist rhetorical approach, I analyze visual and linguistic representations of home to reveal that the so-called "security" of these in between spaces serve to further marginalize vulnerable populations and mask their precarity.
Dr. Katrina M. Powell is Professor of English and Director of the Center for Rhetoric in Society at Virginia Tech. She teaches courses in rhetorics of social justice, autobiography, and research methodologies and her research focuses on displacement narratives and human rights rhetorics across transnational contexts. She is the author of The Anguish of Displacement (UVA Press 2007, funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship) and Identity and Power in Narratives of Displacement (Routledge 2015), editor of 'Answer at Once' Letters from Mountain Families in Shenandoah National Park (UVA Press 2009) and Practicing Research in Writing Studies: Reflexive and Ethically Responsible Research (with Pam Takayoshi, Hampton 2012). She has also published in JAC Journal of Rhetoric, Culture, and Politics, College English, College Composition and Communication, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, and Prose Studies. Her current work focuses on the dissemination of displacement and refugee narratives and the ethical dimensions of archiving those narratives in alternative spaces.
Lunch is provided