Heather Ashley Hayes

Heather Ashley Hayes is a scholar and global citizen critic researching, writing, organizing, and teaching. Influenced by training in both rhetorical criticism and anthropological field work methods, her work focuses on the social implications of racialized violence and discourses of terrorism, both domestically and as part of the global, decades long US-led war on terror. 

Dr. Hayes is Chair and Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Race and Ethnic Studies at Whitman College and author of Violent Subjects and Rhetorical Cartography in the Age of the Terror Wars (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). Committed to public and global deliberation, she has presented her work across the US, Middle East, and Europe to diverse audiences, teaches undergraduate courses at both a small liberal arts college and inside penitentiaries, and serves as Terrorism and Middle East desk editor for Citizen Critics (www.citizencritics.org), where she also is a regular contributor.

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Rethinking Spectacle and the Neoliberal Imaginary: A Discussion of Ned O'Gorman's New Work

  • National Communication Association Conference Marriott Courtyard - Logan, First Floor Philadephia, PA USA (map)

Join us for this National Communication Association conference panel, chaired by Heather Ashley Hayes and sponsored by the American Society for the History of Rhetoric, about a fascinating new work in the field of communication and rhetorical studies.

Bloody, fiery spectacles - the Challenger disaster, 9/11, JFK's assassination - have given us moments of catastrophe that make it easy to answer the "where were you when" question and shape our ways of seeing what came before and after. Why are these spectacles so packed with meaning?

In his new book The Iconoclastic Imagination: Image, Catastrophe, and Economy in America from the Kennedy Assassination to September 11, Ned O'Gorman approaches each of these moments as an image of icon destruction that give us distinct ways to imagine social existence in American life. He argues that the Cold War gave rise to crises in political, aesthetic, and political aesthetic representations. Locating all of these crises within a "neoliberal imaginary," O'Gorman explains that since the Kennedy assassination, the most powerful way to see "America" has been in the destruction of representative American symbols or icons. This, in turn, has profound implications for a neoliberal economy, social philosophy, and public policy.

Richly interwoven with philosophical, theological, and rhetorical traditions, the book offers a new foundation for a complex and innovative approach to studying Cold War America, political theory, and visual culture. Already hailed as "a powerful argument about American public culture, and one that contributes directly to current reconsiderations of visual representation, political aesthetics, media coverage of disasters, and cultural change," this work promises to be vital in understanding visual culture, spectacle, and the concept of the event. This panel will bring together scholars in the field of communication and rhetorical theory and criticism to discuss the merits of O'Gorman's work and then will offer Professor O'Gorman the opportunity to respond on behalf of the work and its central themes. Designed to highlight a new book in the field of rhetoric and communication studies, this panel will also provide NCA members an opportunity to explore new frontiers in the field as it pushes its limits.