Heather Ashley Hayes

I am a scholar, author, and global citizen critic researching, writing, organizing, and teaching. I am interested in social implications of racialized violence and discourses of terrorism, both domestically and sometimes as part of the global, decades long US-led war on terror both within the United States and abroad. I engage work about circulations of violence and race in public discourse, film, and militarized & carceral spaces throughout the world.

I am currently appointed as an Assistant Professor of the Department of Rhetoric and teach in the Program in Race and Ethnic 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 UK) dropped in 2016. I have presented work across the US, Middle East, and Europe to various audiences both in academic spaces and outside of the university. I have also been lucky enough in my career so far to teach at institutions ranging from a small liberal arts college to a large public high school and many spaces in between. I serve as an Associate Editor in Chief for Citizen Critics (www.citizencritics.org), where I also publish work from time to time.

I love poetic aesthetics. I’m a cinephile who pens the occasional film/television review. I’m a vocal fighter for all things that I hope can make participatory democracy more just for everyone. I am a spaghetti enthusiast.

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 B.A.s in Speech Communication and Political Science from Trinity University where I was an intercollegiate debater for two years. I received an M.A. in Communication Studies from Texas State University under the direction of Roseann Mandziuk and a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from the University of Minnesota under the direction of 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. 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 and 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, and oral communication. I additionally teach courses in race and ethnic studies, the rhetoric of racial justice movements, intercultural communication, Middle East studies, violence, 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 state 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, 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, traveling, spending quality time with my adorable and energetic pup and family across the US, enjoying live music and/or film, and trying to contribute work to more radically just and inclusive communities.

To contact:

Downtown Walla Walla, WA

Downtown Walla Walla, WA

Dr. Heather Ashley Hayes

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