Changing the Face of the Opioid Epidemic: A Generic Rhetorical Analysis of Addiction Obituaries

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Kristen L. Cole
Anna F. Carmon


Obituaries are becoming an increasingly popular medium that people who have lost friends and relatives to opioid overdose are using to speak out. Many sources refer to these as addiction obituaries. In this essay, we present a generic rhetorical analysis of 73 addiction-related
obituaries in order to question and explore this phenomenon as a potential emerging genre of rhetoric. In doing so, we argue that addiction obituaries constitute a hybrid rhetorical genre intertwining the conventions of an obituary with a public service announcement, which we call a public service death announcement, or PSDA. This symbolic form fulfills many social functions necessitated by the unique sociocultural circumstances brought forth by the opioid crisis. However, it also reveals limitations of conceiving of addiction at the level of individual faces.

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Kristen L. Cole, Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus

Assistant Professor of Communication Studies

Division of Liberal Arts

Anna F. Carmon, Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus

Associate Professor of Communication Studies

Division of Liberal Arts