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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of English Language and Literature

Faculty and Staff Directory

Erik Doxtader

Faculty, Program in Rhetoric and Speech Communication
Director, USC Initiative on Social Advocacy and Ethical Life
Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Cape Town
Associate Editor and Editor-Elect (2018), Philosophy & Rhetoric
Department of English Language and Literature

Office: HUO 417
Website:Visit Site
Curriculum vitae: Download PDF


PhD, Northwestern University, 1996
BA, University of Kansas, 1988

Areas of Specialization 

   Contemporary Rhetorical Theory
   Critical Theory
   Philosophy of Rhetoric
   Transitional Politics and Reconciliation
   South African Political History
   Human Rights

Recently Taught Courses 

   Social Advocacy and Ethical Life
   Contemporary Rhetorical Theory
   Modern Rhetorical Theory
   Violence and the Ethics of Recognition
   Rhetorical History of Reconciliation in South Africa
   Introduction to Rhetorical Theory and Criticism
   Philosophy of Rhetoric

Professional Accolades 

   Partner Investigator, Discovery Project, Australian Research Council, 2012-2017.
          Project Title: Resistance, Recognition, and Reconciliation in Australia – Lessons from South Africa and Northern Ireland. A collaborative project running between 2012-14.
   Carolina Core Course Development Grant, USC College of Arts & Sciences, 2012.
   Co-Investigator, Blue Skies Research Grant, South African National Research Foundation, 2011.
          Project title: Surveillance, Intelligence, and Forms of Rhetorical Control in Democratic Discourse.  A collaborative project with Philippe-Joseph Salazar (Cape Town) and Dominique de Corcelles (CNRS, Paris); 2011 grant renewed for 2013-14.
   2010 Rhetoric Society of America Annual Book Award.
          Awarded for With Faith in the Works of Words: The beginnings of Reconciliation in South Africa, 1985-1995.
   International Research Fellowship, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Cape Town, South Africa, 2001.
   NCA Golden Monograph Award, 2002, 2004.
   Research Fellowship, Program on Peace and Security in a Changing World, Social Science Research Council - MacArthur Foundation, 1999-2000.

Current Research Projects 

The questions that sustain my research emerge from my longstanding interest in the connections and disconnections between rhetorical theory, critical theory, and the possibilities of ethical-political life. In the last years, much of this inquiry has focused on how deeply divided societies grapple with legacies of violence and the ways in which they fashion passages from authoritarian politics and protracted historical conflict. My ongoing work in South Africa, for instance, is addressed to the theoretical and practical dynamics of reconciliation. As an academic and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, I am concerned with the ways in which reconciliation offers less the hope of a timeless peace than the opening of spaces in which to undertake critique that both discloses the roots of what Hannah Arendt called legal violence and disrupts the traditional relationship between constitution-building, political identity, and sovereign power.

In conjunction with my recent study of the rhetorical-theoretical grounds of contemporary human rights discourse, not least as they appear in the thought of Richard McKeon, this work has opened two new and related lines of inquiry. First, I am currently writing a book that asks after the neglected and altogether rhetorical underpinnings of transitional justice. Before the rule of law (and one can indeed think of Kafka here) that now defines its terms, aims, and professed value, transitional justice depends on an art of discovery, a rhetorical art of inquiry addressed initially to the question of how to "come to terms", how to find those words that turn historical justifications for violence towards opportunities for productive disagreement over the potential for ethical life. Thus, second, I am at work on an extended theoretical reflection to do with the ways in which words call out the question of the human and, following the paths set out by the likes of Benjamin, Heidegger, Derrida, Merleau-Ponty, and Agamben, what it might mean to consider rhetoric's potential as an experience of language as such, a mode of "recognizing experience" that renders the word ontologically and ethically otherwise.

Selected Publications 


   “Zōon Logon Ekhon—The Echo of an Unfaithful Rendition.” Forthcoming in Philosophy & Rhetoric, 2017.
   “The Recognizability of Recognition: Fragments in the Name of a Not Yet Rhetorical Question,” Philosophy & Rhetoric 48:4 (2015): 379-412.
   “Harmonizing Drones” Cosmopolis-A Review of Cosmopolitics 2015: 51-62.
   “The Quietude of Transitional Justice—Five Rhetorical Questions.” African Yearbook of Rhetoric 6:1 (2015): 23-38.
   “With Paradoxes to Spare: Human Rights Language as Such.” In The Routledge Companion on Human Rights and Literature. Ed. Alexandra Moore and Sophia McClennen (Routledge, 2015).
   “Contra la corriente: Recordando la Publicidad de la Amnistía Sudafricana.” In Lesa Humanidad,  ed. Claudia Hilb (Katz Editores, 2014).
   “Coming to terms with a declaration of barbarous acts.” In Re/Framing Identifications, ed. Michelle Baliff (Long Grove: Waveland Press, 2013), 116-130.
   “A Question of Forgiving Words.”In Public Forgiveness in Post-Conflict Contexts, eds. Bas van Stokkomom, Neekle Doorn, & Paul van Tongeren (Cambridge: Intersentia Press, 2012), 107-123.
   “Contending with Violent Words; or, The Afterthought of (In)civility,” Philosophy & Rhetoric 44:4 (2011): 403-423.
   “A Critique of Law’s Violence Yet (Never) to Come: United Nations’ Transitional Justice Policy and the (Fore)closure of Reconciliation.” In Theorising Post-Conflict Reconciliation: Agonism, Restitution & Repair, ed. Alexander Hirsch Routledge (New York: Routledge, 2011), 27-64.
   “A Question of Confession’s Discovery,” Rhetoric Society Quarterly 41:3 (2011): 267-281.
   “The Rhetorical Question of Human Rights—A Preface,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 96:4 (2010): 353-379.
   "A Question of Forgiving Words." In Public Forgiveness, ed. Bas van Stockom (Forthcoming 2011).
   "A Critique of Law's Violence Yet (Never) to Come: United Nations' Transitional Justice Policy and the (Fore)closure of Reconciliation." In Agonism and the Ethos of Reconciliation (Routledge, Forthcoming 2011).
   "The Rhetorical Question of Human Rights—A Preface," Quarterly Journal of Speech 96:4 (2010): 353-379.
   "In theory, a flirting question," Pre/Text 20:1-4 (2010), 145- 163.
   "Reading Otherwise Than Being: Asking After Patience," Co-authored with John Muckelbauer, JAC 29:3 (2010): 493-509.


   The African Renaissance and the Afro-Arab Spring: A Season of Rebirth? Co-edited with Charles Villa-Vicencio and Ebrahim Moosa. Georgetown University Press/University of Cape Town Press, 2015.
   • In the Balance: South Africans Debate Reconciliation. Co-edited with Fanie du Toit. Cape Town: Jacana Press, 2010
   • Inventing the Potential of Rhetorical Culture. College Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University, 2010
   • With Faith in the Works of Words, The Beginnings of Reconciliation in South Africa Cape Town/Lansing: David Philip/Michigan State UP, 2009
   • Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa, The Fundamental Documents. Co-edited with Philippe Salazar.  Cape Town: David Philip, September 2007
   • To Repair the Irreparable, Reparation and Reconstruction in South Africa. Erik Doxtader. Co-edited with Charles Villa-Vicencio
   • The Provocations of Amnesty, Memory, Justice and Impunity. Co-edited with Charles Villa-Vicencio. Cape Town: David Philip, 2003
   • Through Fire with Water, Violence, Transition, and the Potential for Reconciliation in Africa - Fifteen Case Studies. Co-edited with Charles Villa-Vicencio.  Cape Town: David Philip, 2003

Recent Presentations 

   “In the name of (re)turning to things—or not: A few words on phenomenological appeals to plausibly deniable tropologies.” Paper presented at the Conference of the National Communication Association, November 2016.
   “At the threshold of words beginning origins.” Paper presented at the Meeting of the Rhetoric Society of America, May 2016.
   “Experience, in a word amidst the violence. Invited Lecture. University of Georgia, February 2016.
   “Troubling Words of Reconciliation” Remarks presented at the conference on Resisting Reconciliation, University of Melbourne, March 2016.
   “Is it Soup Yet? Some ABC’s of Academic (Distr)activism.” Paper presented at the University of South Carolina Conference on Rhetorical Theory, October 2015.
   “Messianic Hopes at the Moral Carnival: The Question of the Humanities for Now.Invited Keynote Lecture at the 8th Annual Graduate and Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Humanities, University of Northern Iowa, 11 April 2014.
   “Resistance to Reconciliation: Moving between South Africa and Northern Ireland, Remarks delivered at the Workshop on Resistance to Reconciliation in Northern Ireland,” Queen’s University, Belfast, 26 November 2013.
   “Lines Building Words Taking Place,” Paper delivered at the USC Conference on Rhetorical Theory, Columbia, 11 October 2013
   “Secrets of Governmentality,” Paper at the Workshop of Discourses of Surveillance and Secrecy, University of Cape Town, 17 September 2013.
   “The Meaning of Reconciliation’s Opposition,” Remarks delivered at the Workshop on Resistance to Reconciliation in South Africa, University of Cape Town Law School, 19 April 2013.
   “Topos, Tropos, Taal(Stryd): In a Place Turning (on) the Question of Language as Such.” Invited lecture delivered to the Department of Communication Lecture Series, University of Kansas, 6 March 2013.