Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Communication Studies

First Advisor

Darrin K. Hicks, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christina Foust

Third Advisor

Kate Willink

Fourth Advisor

Luís León


Affect, Citizenship, Emotion, Public conduct, Risk, Social controversy


Social controversy is a sustained, mediated debate between at least two oppositional parties which is more than just a difference of opinion; rather it is a persistent conflict over the political and cultural implications that dominant forms of communicative reasoning, practices, and norms have for a public. Simply put, during social controversies the norms guiding public life can be negotiated, reaffirmed, negated, and/or transformed. This can lead to progressive political, cultural, and/or social change in some instances, while establishing or reifying conservative and even oppressive norms, practices, and laws in others.

Building upon Olson and Goodnight's (1994) theoretical and methodological framework of social controversy, this dissertation argues that scholars should analyze the role affect plays in this type of conflict as a means to address the regulation of public conduct as well as public discourse. The rhetorical and argumentative significance of the affective dimensions of social controversy have been conceptualized and analyzed via an examination of emotion-based claims and affective states that have become salient, discernible and/or apprehendable during specific public disagreements. Such a conceptualization demonstrates that critical insights regarding the norms that guide public conduct, the role risk and vulnerability play in the regulation of individuals' public behavior, and the relationship between affect and citizenship can be gained by focusing on a controversy's affective dimensions.

To highlight the importance of the study of affect in social controversy as well as better understand the larger critical significance affect theory has for rhetorical and argumentation studies, this dissertation has analyzed the affective dimensions of three conflicts. They are: the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse social controversy, the International Freedom Center social controversy, and the controversy over the 2004 French ban on conspicuous religious attire in public schools. The findings from this dissertation that have specific and general implications for future work in the field of controversy as well as rhetoric and argumentation, respectively.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Susan Ann Sci


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

239 p.



Included in

Communication Commons