Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Human Communications

First Advisor

Christina R. Foust, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Roy Wood

Third Advisor

Darrin Hicks

Fourth Advisor

Luís León


Comparative rhetoric, Ecofeminism, Non-violent rhetoric, Non-western rhetoric, Social movements


In the study of social movement rhetoric, scholars often focus on movements based in Western nations, foregoing study of social change in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and other parts of the world. Similarly, the focus on non-violent rhetoric has also been lacking, despite its use by great leaders such as Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King. This dissertation contributes to the study of social change in a globalized world, by taking a comparative approach to non-violent rhetoric in three diverse case studies. As sub-areas, both comparative rhetoric and non-violent rhetoric require further deliberation due to the numerous debates concerning their meanings and approaches. Comparative and non-violent rhetoric are significant areas of study because they encourage mutual understanding by striving for common ground among people of different cultures, faith traditions, and political opinion.

In this dissertation, I will demonstrate how Western and non-Western forms of social movement rhetoric complement each other to enhance our understanding of comparative rhetoric. I turn to both Western and non-Western ecofeminists to examine how the women optimize non-violent rhetoric, and the ways in which their cultural status help advance and/or hinder their activism. I specifically turn to the Chipko movement in India, Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, and Julia Butterfly Hill in the United States, for an in-depth understanding of non-violent rhetoric in direct action. I use rhetorical criticism and Bitzer's (1968) rhetorical situation, to analyze the exigency, audience, and constraints in the three case studies. I argue that Bitzer as a theoretical framework is broad enough to study a variety of cultures/situations; yet, it is sufficiently well-defined to allow for useful analysis. I also contend, non-violent rhetoric is a tactic and manifestation of a philosophy that aims to address exigencies, and amend the relationship of the adversary to an ally. Non-violent rhetoric does not only address the material conditions of a situation, but also incorporates the spiritual and/or religious as a mode of address. Including a spiritual/religious dimension in the study of social movements enhances our understanding of social movements beyond the instrumental. The case studies in this dissertation reveal that non-violent tactics are selected and practiced as they align with spiritual/moral/religious values. My analysis also demonstrates how non-violence is used in some cultures to counter irresponsible environmental practice in the name of "development." Finally, I provide extended definitions for both comparative and non-violent rhetoric and suggestions for future research.

Publication Statement

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Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Shahreen Mat Nayan

File size

167 p.

File format





Communication, Rhetoric