Heather Ashley Hayes

Heather Ashley Hayes is a scholar, writer, and educator of over seventeen years. Her scholarly work is interested in social implications of rhetorical practice and how humans use symbols to make meaning and address problems of common concern. Her research centers on violence, race, and discourses of terror. She writes about those discourses both domestically within the US and as part of the global terror wars. Her work is particularly interested in the intersection of domestic sociopolitical landscapes with dynamics of global violence, colonialism, and war. She additionally engages work about histories and circulations of violence as they relate to race, rhetorical practice, and securitization in public discourse, film, and militarized & carceral spaces throughout the world.

Hayes is currently appointed as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Media Studies at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, USA. Her first book, Violent Subjects and Rhetorical Cartography in the Age of the Terror Wars (Palgrave Macmillan) dropped in 2016, joining a number of other article, review, and chapter length academic pieces. She presents work across the US, Middle East, and Europe to audiences in both academic spaces and outside of the university. She also serves as an Associate Editor for the public analysis space Citizen Critics, where she publishes work from time to time.

As a teacher, Hayes feels privileged in her career to have taught at institutions ranging from small liberal arts colleges in the Pacific Northwest of the US to a large public high school in Texas and many spaces in between. She has worked with lots of students at various stages of their educational journeys and has been honored to receive a number of distinctions for that work. In May of 2018, she accepted Whitman College’s George Ball Excellence in Advising Award, a student nominated honor recognizing an educator for outstanding distinction in advising and mentoring students from all areas of the college.

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The Mark of Criminality: A Counter-Cultural History of the War on Crime

  • Whitman College Kimball Auditorium, Hunter Conservator Walla Walla, WA USA (map)

Whitman College welcomes the second guest educator in the Rhetoric Studies Visiting Educator Series, Dr. Bryan J. McCann of Louisiana State University. Public talk and discussion: 4:30-5:30pm. Meet and greet reception in Hunter Conservatory foyer: 5:30-6:00pm.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, America waged a “war on crime.” While elected officials of both major parties fought to prove their “tough-on-crime” credentials, news media and other cultural outlets inundated citizens with discourses that encouraged them to fear criminalized threats and support extremely punitive state measures to purportedly reduce crime. The resulting changes in federal and state policies led to an incarceration explosion that has made the United States the leading jailer of its adult population. Few scholars have accounted for the ways those most directly impacted by crime control resisted such spectacular regimes of surveillance, fear, and containment. This omission comes in spite of the fact that virtually every generation has included vernacular practices that troubled prevailing rhetorics of criminality. This public presentation, drawing from a larger book project, turns to the emergence of gangsta rap in the late 1980s and early 1990s to illuminate resistant cultural production during the war on crime. McCann argues that a reading of gangsta rap’s lyrics, music, and attendant cultural discourses within the socio-historical matrix of the war on crime reveals a wholly more complex era in American politics than previous investigations provide. Specifically, the intervention of gangsta rap into the politics of law and order during this period reconstituted the very parameters thereof, highlighting the deeply contingent character of the mark of criminality in the production of racialized and criminalized subjects. Second, because gangsta rap was itself deeply fraught with the conditioning influences of musical commerce, patriarchy, and homophobia, this project advances a more nuanced consideration of what it means to partake in political resistance in contemporary public culture. Lastly, it is McCann’s belief that more firmly understanding the complexities associated with rhetoric, culture, and crime can inform the kinds of community activism needed to end our nation’s unrivaled dependence on mass incarceration.