Blake Scott

Scott_BlakeTitle: Professor of Writing & Rhetoric

University: University of Central Florida

Email: bscott@ucf.edu

Description of Work:

“Rhetorical Prescriptions:
Managing Moving Risk Conflicts around Global Pharmaceuticals”
This project is a book-length rhetorical study of global pharmaceutical controversies. Through a set of interrelated case analyses of public debates about pharmaceutical access and regulation, this study will offer a deeper understanding of the arguments in such debates and will offer revisions of rhetorical concepts and analytic approaches informed by the global dynamics under study.

Drawing on both rhetorical and transnational/globalization theory, I examine pharmaceutical debates as “risk conflicts,” or conflicts defined by attempts to identity, create, and manage risks and their impacts. Following the work of sociologist Ulrich Beck, in particular, I define risks as rhetorically constructed threats that are systemic, unbounded, and uninsurable. Similarly, extended efforts to manage these risks—played out across regulatory/legal discourse, corporate citizenship and other public relations efforts, activist campaigns, political lobbying, and other rhetorical practices—have been unpredictable in their transformations and indeterminate in their effects. This observation leads to one of the book’s main contributions—a notion of rhetorical agency that foregrounds indeterminacy.

Each middle chapter takes up a specific (and in some cases ongoing) regulatory conflict involving a range of actors (e.g., big pharma, nation-states, intergovernmental orgs, NGOs, counterpublics), using a key rhetorical concept (e.g., kairos, topos, statis, metis) to better understand the circulation, functions, and effects of the rhetorical tactics shaping the conflict. In addition to offering a better understanding of the debates’ argumentative dynamics, the book reimagines rhetorical theory in light of these dynamics, including their countervailing deterritorializing and reterritorializing thrusts. In this way, the project offers a revised conception of rhetorical movement and a revised approach to tracking it.

Symposium Submission:

Rhetorical Prescriptions: Managing Risk Conflicts around Global Pharmaceuticals

This project is a book-length rhetorical study of global pharmaceutical controversies. Through a set of interrelated case analyses of public debates about pharmaceutical access and regulation, this study will offer a deeper understanding of the arguments in such debates and will offer revisions of rhetorical concepts and analytic approaches informed by the global dynamics under study.

Drawing on both rhetorical and globalization theory, I examine pharmaceutical debates as “risk conflicts,” or conflicts defined by attempts to identity, create, and manage risks and their impacts. Following the work of sociologist Ulrich Beck, in particular, I define risks as rhetorically constructed threats that are systemic, unbounded, and uninsurable. Similarly, extended efforts to manage these risks—played out across regulatory/legal discourse, corporate citizenship and other public relations efforts, activist campaigns, political lobbying, and other rhetorical practices—have been unpredictable in their transformations and indeterminate in their effects. This observation leads to one of the book’s main contributions—a notion of rhetorical agency that foregrounds indeterminacy.

Each middle chapter takes up a specific (and in some cases ongoing) regulatory conflict involving a range of actors (e.g., big pharma, nation-states, intergovernmental orgs, NGOs, counterpublics), using a key rhetorical concept (e.g., kairos, topos, statis, metis) to better understand the circulation, functions, and effects of the rhetorical tactics shaping the conflict. In addition to offering a better understanding of the debates’ argumentative dynamics, the book reimagines rhetorical theory in light of these dynamics, including their countervailing deterritorializing and reterritorializing thrusts. In this way, the project offers a revised conception of rhetorical movement and a revised approach to tracking it.

My analytic approach builds on the rhetorical-cultural analysis developed in my previous book Risky Rhetoric (re-published in paper this year). Rather than primarily focusing on the local production of arguments, this approach tracks them along the trajectory of their production, distribution, transformation, and effects, accounting for their broader histories and material-discursive networks and assuming a more distributed model of productivity. Rather than starting with and primarily focusing on key texts and treating context as a backdrop, this approach takes the shifting, interlinked, and multilayered contexts through which rhetoric circulates as its primary object of study, reading texts and their specific arguments as illustrative snapshots of this movement.

Scholarly Context
Most humanities-oriented studies of globalization and transnationalism (e.g., Appadurai, Tomlinson, Grewal) have focused on the cultural but not the rhetorical dimensions of globalization. This project will complement this work through its systematic examination of arguments (including their frames, lines, appeals, and ideological underpinnings) and foregrounding of rhetoric’s relative roles in global cultural dynamics. More recently, work by Dingo, Wingard, and DeChaine has featured rhetorical analyses of global neoliberal and activist discourses, but this work has not focused on issues of health and medicine, and it has not explicitly taken up questions of rhetorical movement. The few rhetoricians studying pharmaceutical discourse (e.g., Bell, Walch, and Katz; Bernhardt) have focused on the rhetorical production of internal writing and review practices in companies’ research and development efforts. Although they have looked more expansively at public health policy debates, other rhetorical studies of medical technology (e.g., Scott, Keränen, Johnson, Seigel) have focused on U.S. practices and not drawn on theories of globalization and transnationalism. My study extends the scope of and analytic moves of such work and, at the same time, draws on Beck to more specifically read the industry’s public arguments as indeterminate attempts to manage risks and the distribution of their impacts.

Globalization’s various impulses—such as the intensified and interpenetrating movement of capital, discourses, and people, the stretching and transformation of social relations, and a heightened awareness of global interconnectedness—require us to further account for global flows, macro-structures (e.g., communication networks), and processes in the study of rhetorical risk conflicts, and this study offers a model for doing so. For example, in the debates I analyze, the more rapid and accessible flow of information (enabled, in part, by the Internet and social media) has enabled participants to more quickly and unpredictably respond to, transform, and skew the intended impacts of one another’s rhetorical tactics. “Rhetorical Prescriptions” pays particular attention to how rhetoric is transformed by its circulation across interconnected and mutually conditioning global and translocal practices. Often, the intercontextual movement of risk management rhetoric is unpredictably turbulent, as suggested by my re-interpretations of topos, kairos, and persuasive agency. Although most of my theorizing moves away from traditional assumptions about the intended efficacy of risk management rhetoric, I also develop the notion of “meticulation” (unpacked in the last chapter), which salvages a sense of agency that is present-centered but mindful of future rearticulations, indeterminate but charged with affectivity, distributed and polycentric but potentially piercing in its focus.

Works Cited
Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: U
of Minnesota P, 1996.
Beck, Ulrich. World Risk Society. Cambridge, UK: Polity P, 1999.
Bell, Heather D., Kathleen A. Walch, and Steven B. Katz. “‘Aristotle’s Pharmacy’: The Medical
Rhetoric of a Clinical Protocol in the Drug Development Process.” Technical
Communication Quarterly, 9.3 (March 2009): 249-269.
Bernhardt, Stephen A. “Improving Document Review Practices in Pharmaceutical Companies.” Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 17.4 (October
2003): 439-473.
DeChaine, D. Robert. Global Humanism: NGOs and the Crafting of Community. Lanham, MD:
Lexington Books, 2005.
Dingo, Rebecca. Networking Arguments: Rhetoric, Transnational Feminism, and Public
Policy Writing. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2012.
Grewal, Inderpal. Transnational America: Feminisms, Diasporas, Neoliberalisms. Durham,
NC: Duke UP, 2005.
Keränen, Lisa. Scientific Characters: Rhetoric, Politics, and Trust in Breast Cancer Research.
Tuscaloosa, AL: U of Alabama P, 2010.
Johnson, Jenell. American Lobotomy: A Rhetorical History. Ann Arbor, MI: U of Michgan P,
2014.
Scott, J. Blake. Risky Rhetoric: AIDS and the Cultural Practices of HIV Testing. Carbondale, IL:
Southern Illinois UP, 2033.
Seigel, Marika. The Rhetoric of Pregnancy. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2014.
Tomlinson, John. Globalization and Culture. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999.
Wingard, Jennifer. Branded Bodies, Rhetoric, and the Neoliberal Nation-State. Lanham, MD:
Lexington Books, 2012.