SAEL Lecture Series

The Social Advocacy & Ethical Life Lectures

How are values created, challenged, and revised through social, political, and institutional forms of advocacy? What is the ethical power of advocacy in contemporary society?

These questions are as timely as they are old. Just as the ancients devoted great energy to understanding the connections between public debate and moral judgment, contemporary society is often defined by controversies that demonstrate the fundamental and uneasy relationship between advocacy and ethical life.

Civic discourse is not always civil. Yet, the demand for civility may presuppose and promote a sense of belonging that overlooks historical inequality and silences criticism. In politics, the line between reason and faith-based appeals is blurry, an ambiguity that provokes not only anguish but “culture wars” which pit historical norms and traditions against the creative expression of new forms of individual and collective life. The local, national, and international question of how to define and articulate ethical norms of political, legal, and social argumentation is often complicated by an inability to agree on what counts as a productive disagreement. The difficulty is compounded by the speed of technological innovation and its power to alter the form and content of human engagement. Whether close to home or across the globe, the possibilities of interaction do not come with an assurance of access, audience, or understanding.

The Social Advocacy & Ethical Life Lectures bring leading scholars, critics, activists, and public intellectuals to the University of South Carolina. Through public lectures, seminars, and discussions, the program offers a space for faculty, students, and citizens to reflect on the continuing importance of the liberal arts tradition and how its inquiry and teaching informs and energizes contemporary debates over the changing and contested connections between human expression, interaction, and values.



The announcement of the 2016 lecture series will be posted shortly.




Professor Debra Hawhee

Penn State University 

1 October 2014

Debra Hawhee is Professor of English at Penn State University. An historian of rhetoric whose work focuses on rhetoric’s less rational elements, she has written about bodily and material theories of rhetoric, ancient and modern. She is author of Moving Bodies: Kenneth Burke at the Edges of Language, which received the 2010 Diamond Anniversary Book Award from the National Communication Association, as well as Bodily Arts: Rhetoric and Athletics in Ancient Greece. She is co-author, with Sharon Crowley, of Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students, now in its fifth edition. Her research has received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Spencer Foundation, and Penn State’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities. She has published articles in Rhetorica, Philosophy and Rhetoric, Quarterly Journal of Speech, College English, Rhetoric Society Quarterly,Advances in the History of Rhetoric, and College Composition and Communication. She has been named a 2011-2012 Resident Scholar of Penn State’s Institute for the Arts and Humanities, during which time she will continue to work on her in-progress book about animals in the history of rhetoric.



From difference to multiplicity:

politics, pedagogy and philosophy

Professor Lawrence Grossberg

Cultural Studies Program and Department of Communication Studies

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

4 April 2013


Lawrence Grossberg is the Morris Davis Distinguished Professor of Communication Studies and Cultural Studies, Adjunct Distinguished Professor of American Studies, Anthropology, and Geography, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He received his BA in Philosophy and Intellectual History from the University of Rochester, did his MA work at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham, England, and received his Ph.D. in Communication Research from the University of Illinois.

He has edited or co-edited 12 books (including Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, Cultural Studies and most recently, New Keywords:  A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society (with Tony Bennett and Meaghan Morris). He has authored or co-authored 8 books, including We Gotta Get Out Of this Place: Popular Conservatism and Postmodern Culture, MediaMaking:  Mass Media in a Popular Culture, Caught in the Crossfire: Kids, politics and America’s future and his most recent book, Cultural Studies In the Future Tense, which offers a contextual and theoretical interrogation of the concepts of modernities, economies, politics, cultures and affects. He has published over 150 essays, and his work has been translated into over a dozen languages. He has edited the international journal Cultural Studies for twenty years.

His current project addresses matters of political, pedagogical and theoretical relationalities, through concept of multiplicities, and the problematics of commensuration and organization.


The Imperative of Law:  How Legal Speech Acts


Professor Marianne Constable

Department of Rhetoric

University of California, Berkeley

17 January 2013, 4.00 p.m.

Gambrell 431

Marianne Constable has published broadly on a range of topics in legal rhetoric and philosophy.  She is working on two projects:  a history of the “new unwritten law,” which ostensibly exonerated women who killed their husbands in Chicago a century ago; and a book on legal speech acts.  She is the author of Just Silences: The Limits and Possibilities of Modern Law (2005). Her earlier book, The Law of the Other: The Mixed Jury and Changes in Conceptions of Citizenship, Law and Knowledge, won the Law and Society Association’s J. Willard Hurst Prize in Legal History. She is the author of articles on, among other topics, Foucault and immigration law, Nietzsche and jurisprudence, the rhetoric of “community,” the role of law in the liberal arts, Frederick Schauer on rules, Robert Cover on violence, Montesquieu on systems and Vico on legal education. She has co-edited two books on law and society and has served on numerous editorial boards relating to law and humanities and law and society.   She was a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton during 2005-06; her awards include the NEH, a prize for undergraduate research mentoring at UCB, and the Sarlo Distinguished Graduate Mentoring Award.



Misinterpellation and Revolution: The Case of Haiti


Professor James Martel

Department of Political Science

San Francisco State University 

25 October 2012

James Martel is a professor in and the chair of the Department of Political Science. He teaches courses in political theory, continental philosophy and theories of gender and sexuality. He is the author of four book: Divine Violence: Walter Benjamin and the Eschatology of Sovereignty(Routledge/GlassHouse 2011); Textual Conspiracies: Walter Benjamin, Idolatry and Political Theory (Michigan, 2011); Subverting the Leviathan: Reading Thomas Hobbes as a Radical Democrat (Columbia, 2007); and Love is a Sweet Chain: Desire, Autonomy and Friendship in Liberal Political Theory (Routledge, 2001). He is also co-editor, along with Jimmy Casas Klausen (University of Wisconsin, Madison) of How not to be Governed: Readings and Interpretations from a Critical Anarchist Left (Lexington, 2011).