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Civil Society, the Highlander Folk School, and the Cultivation of Rhetorical Invention

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This article offers a distinctively rhetorical perspective on civil society that critically evaluates the relevant communication networks and informal associations in terms of their ability to mediate citizen understandings of public issues and facilitate effective public advocacy and rhetorical action. Particularly important is the role of rhetorical invention. By providing the space in which citizens collaborate, deliberate on issues of public importance, and plan courses of action, civil society acts as a type of incubator for rhetorical invention. The Highlander Folk School serves as an exemplar of how associations of civil society facilitate political awareness and democratic action. The conclusion considers potential advantages of studying civil society from a rhetorical perspective, using the Highlander case and its contributions to the civil rights movement as a starting point from which to address the interrelationships among civil society, democratic action, and rhetorical invention.

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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Humanities University of Michigan-Dearborn

Publication date: 01 January 2003

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