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Paris, November 2007

Peaceful Persuasion: The Geopolitics of Nonviolent Rhetoric

According to the author, Peaceful Persuasion: The Geopolitics of Nonviolent Rhetoric intends to “tip the scales of scholarship, which have weighed so heavily on violence, back in the direction of peace and nonviolence ” and to consider the link between rhetoric and nonviolence.

Keywords: Theory of non-violence | | | | | | |

Ref.: Ellen W.Gorsevski, Albany,NY:State University of New York Press,2006.

Languages: English

Document type:  Book

Chapter 1.

Chapter 1 defines the problem the book intends to remedy, i.e., the absence of nonviolence as a theoretical paradigm from the field of speech communication, specifically cultural studies and rhetorical theory. It provides a rationale for understanding nonviolence and explains why it is ignored in rhetorical theory. These themes reappear in Chapters 2 and 3 from the respective perspectives of the media and public relations and of the discipline of speech communication.

Chapter 2.

Chapter 2 discusses the potential impact of media coverage on the peace movement and strategies peace scholars and activists can use for improving their public relations with the media.

Chapter 3.

Chapter 3 argues for incorporating non-violence and peace into the communication curriculum providing a rationale and examples of how this can be done.

Chapters 4 to 7.

Chapters 4 to 7 present case studies to illustrate the practicality and effectiveness of nonviolent rhetoric. Chapter 4 focuses on the interpretation of films viewed as a form of rhetoric. Gorsevski argues that perspective is central to the interpretation and evaluation of a film. In other words, the worldview or ideological stance of film critics shapes their analysis, eading them to ignore or downplay certain aspects of a film. When a film critic ’s worldview accepts violence as normal, the author explains, its portrayal in a .lm is considered “natural ” and its effects (of violence)are trivialized.

The geopolitical context of the second case study (Chapter 5) is Macedonia and the challenge, faced by Macedonian president Gligorov, of keeping the country out of the Balkan civil war that followed the breakdown of the Communist system. Gorsevski analyzes the official UN translation of Gligorov ’s address to the United Nations General Assembly September 30,1993,to illustrate how the Macedonian president ’s policy of pragmatic nonviolent resistance is enacted through rhetoric, specifically through its themes, images, and rhetorical moves. She cites military, financial and advisory aid from the UN and the United States as well as the termination of the Greek economic blockade as evidence of the success of his nonviolent rhetoric.

Chapter 6 examines the nonviolent visual rhetoric of Aung San Suu Kyi,Burma ’s Nobel Peace Laureate, to determine how visually expressed nonviolent rhetoric essentializes women and, in the case of Aung San Suu Kyi, how this affected her audiences and therefore, to a certain extent helped but also hindered the achievement of her political goals.

Chapter 7 presents a rationale to establish the validity of expanding rhetorical analysis beyond the text of an individual speaker/writer to include rhetorical climate in terms of feelings, experiences, and events and designated as rhetorical because of its power to motivate action. This is followed with a case study of how a community responded to hate crimes to illustrate how the notion of rhetorical climate allows for a more comprehensive and community-oriented rhetorical analysis. The concluding chapter elaborates further on themes included in the earlier essays and uses the case studies as illustrations to lay the ground for a theory of nonviolent rhetoric.


Indeed the essays should be well received by both scholars of non-violence and activists who practice it. They argue passionately and convincingly for the inclusion of nonviolence as a theoretical paradigm in communication theory and research and in classroom curricula. Of special importance among the recurring themes is the fact that nonviolence as a theoretical paradigm and a mode of action is often not understood or appreciated because the worldview and consequent ideology that underlies contemporary cultures and societies condones violence as a way of action, assuming it to be inevitable.On the other hand, the role and importance of primary rhetoric, described as “argumentative discourse within which people can take action in language …accomplishing social and civic purposes by way or reasoning and speech”, is not adequately clarified nor emphasized.

This counters the expectations that are raised by the title of the book and reiterated by the author ’s explicit statement that primary rhetoric is its concern. Perhaps this is because rhetoric is viewed in very broad terms. Of course it is true that rhetoric is a form of social action, but not all social action is rhetoric. Still this is the impression that is sometimes given by the manner in which nonviolence, nonviolent action, and nonviolent rhetoric appear to be used interchangeably or not clearly distinguished. For example, on the concluding chapter reference is made to the people of East Timor, whose courage “to take part in a vote for independence is yet one more example of the power of nonviolent rhetoric ”. Does the author mean that taking part in the vote is nonviolent rhetoric? Or that the nonviolent rhetoric is what

moved them to do so? If the latter, then examples of the rhetoric need to be included.(The prescribed length of this review prevents the inclusion of other examples.)This failure to clearly highlight the role of primary rhetoric is unfortunate as there is a dearth of literature that gives clear priority and primary focus to the use of language, i.e., discourse, as a variable to be taken into account in the analysis of and prescription for the social and ecological violence that pervades our planetary community.