Video: Rhetoric in RHM


Hello, I’m Blake Scott, co-founder and current co-editor of Rhetoric of Health and Medicine.

In this short video I want to talk a bit about how RHM is a rhetoric journal, and what this means for submissions that would be appropriate for review and publication here.

Although RHM seeks and publishes multi- and inter-disciplinary research, this research should be rhetorically inflected, that is, it should use rhetorical theory as an analytic tool and focus at least partly on the persuasive dimensions of health and medical practices, especially communicative ones.

We view rhetoric broadly, in the Burkean sense, to encompass the creation, functions, and effects of symbolic communication, in all of its forms. We also understand rhetoric as entangled with materiality, not only because rhetoric can be constitutive action but because it works to shape meaning with and through material entities and practices. Texts and people can persuade, but so can objects, bodies, institutions, etc.; indeed, such entities persuade together as material-discursive assemblages. 

Beyond examining meaning-making or persuasion through language, symbolic communication, or even material-discursive practices, manuscripts published in RHM use rhetorical theory to guide inquiry and arrive at nuanced observations about the persuasive dimensions of their subjects of study. Like rhetoric, we view rhetorical theory broadly, to include theories of persuasion that come from various scholarly traditions. Indeed, because we want to encourage rhetorical theory building, we welcome studies that merge more recognizable rhetorical theory with other types, and we are less excited about traditional criticism utilizing the usual suspects of the three rhetorical appeals, pentad, etc. 


In addition, manuscripts published by RHM use rhetorical theory to do more than a close reading of texts in relation to narrowly defined contexts and/or intertexts, in the manner of some more traditional rhetorical criticism. Instead, we welcome studies and manuscripts that look more expansively at the conditions, relations, circulation, and effects of persuasion. Such studies can take the form of, say rhetorical-historical or rhetorical-cultural analysis. Or they can carefully combine rhetorical analysis (in any of its variations) with other methods—including but not limited to critical/cultural analysis, ethnography, “grounded” qualitative analysis, and quantitative analysis.

Ideally, studies we publish will draw on multiple scholarly traditions to develop new interdisciplinary theories, methodologies, and insights that can impact our understanding of health, illness, healing, and wellness. In addition, we seek manuscripts that foreground theoretical and methodological questions, challenges, and risks, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the implementation of theory and methodology, which is often messy and opportunistic.

For example, “critical-interpretive” health communication research sometimes merges qualitative analysis with rhetorical-critical theory to, in Zoller and Kline’s words, “better understand interpretation and the process of meaning making…[and] to provide in-depth understanding of lived experience or a unique, well-argued and defended interpretation of a discourse to impart some insight into the multiple ways in which communication fosters particular meanings.”

Although manuscripts should recognizably draw on and provide insights about rhetoric or persuasion, they need not be written exclusively for an audience of only rhetoricians or even academics. Indeed, we welcome analyses with clear and accessible explanations of rhetorical theory and methodology, along with the health and medical practices under study. 

To summarize in more practical terms, then, if you’re considering whether to submit a manuscript to RHM, ask the following questions of it:

  1. Does it use rhetorical theory, at least in combination with other frameworks, to guide the inquiry and analysis?
  2. Does it make nuanced observations about the persuasive, meaning-making functions of health and medical communicative or broader material-discursive practices?
  3. Does it perform more than a close rhetorical reading of texts and advance rhetorical theory while contributing new understandings of the practices under study?
  4. Does it carefully combine rhetorical theory and methodology with those from other scholarly traditions, thereby offering new and extended ways of doing rhetoric?

If you can’t answer yes to each of these questions, then it is unlikely that your manuscript will be a good fit for RHM.

As the journal evolves, we trust that the body of work published here will add to these demarcations of our area in rhetorical studies. For now, this sums up our take on the R of RHM. If you have questions about fit, Lisa and I are always willing to answer your questions and, if possible, suggest ways to shape your study and manuscript into one that our community of scholars would readily recognize as rhetorical. You can contact us at rhm dot journal dot editors at gmail dot com. We look forward to seeing your submissions!