Making sense of Michelle

Here’s another good example for thinking through the many different elements of the “rhetorical view” that we’ve addressed and developed … it’s a commentary about what people say about Michelle Obama.

Just to review, we’ve spent all semester identifying and describing the ways that communication does much more than transmit packets of neutral, pre-existing information or ideas. Instead we’ve explored a rhetorical sense of communication that helps us see the ways communication (including words, signs, symbols, performance, media, pictures, and so on) shapes, invents, forms, creates, influences, [insert other “making” word] the world around us and the way we understand and act in the world.

We’ve said that if we want to understand culture better we should look carefully at the surface of what we say about culture or the things we do (or ways we perform) in our lives. If we want to understand our actions, our beliefs, our values, our knowledge, our identities, then we should pay close attention to our communication because that’s the way we make sense of—or quite literally create meaning for—these things.

The link to the short commentary above is an example that looks at what people say about Michelle Obama’s personality, identity, style and considers what that means for the complex meanings about race and gender in U.S. culture.


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