Heather Ashley Hayes

I am a scholar, writer, and educator of over seventeen years. I’m interested in social implications of rhetorical practice and how humans use symbols to make meaning and address problems of common concern. My research centers on violence and discourses of terror. I write about those discourses both domestically within the US and as part of the global terror wars. I am particularly interested in the intersection of domestic sociopolitical landscapes with dynamics of global violence and war, both of which are remade through discourses of terrorism. I additionally engage work about histories and circulations of violence as they relate to race, rhetorical practice, and national security in public discourse, film, and militarized & carceral spaces throughout the world.

I am currently appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Rhetoric and teach in both the Programs in Race and Ethnic Studies and Film and Media Studies at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, USA. My 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 I’ve published. I present work across the US, Middle East, and Europe to audiences in both academic spaces and outside of the university. I also serve as an Associate Editor in Chief for the public analysis space Citizen Critics, where I publish work from time to time.

I have been privileged in my career to teach at institutions ranging from a small liberal arts college in the Pacific Northwest of the US to a large public high school in Texas and many spaces in between. I have worked with lots of students at various stages of their educational journey and I’m honored to have received a number of distinctions for that work. Most recently in May of 2018, I 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.

I’m moved by poetic aesthetics, especially in the form of the spoken word, sometimes set to beats. I’m a cinephile. I pen the occasional film or television review and read many. I am a pasta enthusiast. I hold an unyielding bias in favor of unfettered access to education for all in a society, simply on the basis that we’re human.

Photo credit Lisa Quinlan Photography/Gray Duck Studios

About Heather Ashley Hayes


In short, I’m interested in how humans use symbols to make meaning and then wield that meaning to address matters of common concern to their community.

Currently, I hold an appointment as an Assistant Professor of the Department of Rhetoric Studies at Whitman College. I also teach in the Program in Film and Media Studies as well as the Program in Race and Ethnic Studies there. I received BAs in Speech Communication and Political Science from Trinity University where I was an intercollegiate debater for two years. I received an MA in Communication Studies from Texas State University working with Roseann Mandziuk and a PhD in Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota working with Ronald Walter Greene with additional consultation from William O. Beeman in the Department of Anthropology.

My PhD is in communication studies and rhetorical studies, incorporating fieldwork methods from anthropology and historical perspectives. My work explores the intersections between racialized violence of the US-led global war on terror and racial violence occurring within the US. As part of that effort, my work interrogates militarized policing and state organized counterterrorism programs like the targeted killing campaign of personless drone attacks as well as the expansion of the US carceral state. I also analyze these expressions of racialized violence and discourse in film.

My first book, Violent Subjects and Rhetorical Cartography in the Age of the Terror Wars, centers around the intersection of violence and transnational rhetoric in the era of the terror wars. It explores the technology of weaponized drones as part of the global war on terror, specifically dealing with the implications drone use in the Middle East and North Africa by the United States has for understanding the way violence functions communicatively and culturally.

Violent Subjects performs a rhetorical cartography of drone culture, exploring the possibilities for drone discourses to function in the aftermath of the terror wars, often refiguring technologies of governance and surveillance, with great implications for Arab and Muslim citizens both within the United States and globally. It is currently available from Palgrave MacMillan and at Amazon. The book has been reviewed widely, labeled “insightful and provocative” (Rhetoric and Public Affairs) and has been said to “offer useful frameworks for future work” (Rhetoric Review). It has also been called “incredibly important” as a "contribution that transcends rhetoric” (Rhetoric Society Quarterly).

My second book, Decarceral Imaginaries: Rupturing the Walls and Bars of the US Carceral State, grapples with the current crisis and violence of mass incarceration in the United States, reframing the carceral state as a crisis of necrocontainment with deadly consequences. The book additionally explores avenues for social decarceration projects available in the current moment. It is tentatively expected in 2020. More information on its release will be forthcoming.

Throughout my seventeen year teaching career, I have taught courses around rhetoric and civic engagement, introduction to communication, public culture, race, gender, political communication, terrorism, and violence. I teach introductory courses in rhetoric and public culture as well as introduction to public address, public speaking, history, and oral communication. I additionally teach courses in race and ethnic studies, the rhetoric of racial justice movements, intercultural communication, Middle East studies, and argumentation all with an eye toward public discourse. I have taught in learning spaces from prisons to large public high schools and small liberal arts colleges to refugee centers and large public universities.


Public Presentations and Conference Travel 

Each year, I attend the National Communication Association conference, to be held in Baltimore, MD in November of 2019. Every other year I frequent the NCA-AFA ALTA biennial summer conference on argumentation or the Rhetoric Society of America biennial conference as well as various academic and professional meetings. Since 2013, I have presented work across the US as well as in the UK, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Jordan, Palestine, and Turkey. In the summer of 2016, I was in Jordan and Palestine to begin fieldwork for my third book, a work in progress about the intersections of racialized policing, incarceration, and discourses of violence against black and brown bodies across the globe. 

Everything Else

In breaks from work - few and far between - I can often be found running, cooking, reading, traveling, spending quality time with my adorable and energetic pup, enjoying live music and/or film, and trying to contribute work to more just and inclusive communities.

Downtown Walla Walla, WA

Downtown Walla Walla, WA

To contact Dr. Heather Ashley Hayes:

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