Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry

The Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry (POROI) is an interdisciplinary institute for research and public engagement housed at the UI’s Obermann Center. Its mission is to explore how scholarship and professional discourses are conducted through argument, how paradigms of knowledge are sensitive to social-political contexts, and how the presentation of scholarly and professional findings involves the recognition and negotiation of audiences.

Rhetoric Seminars

Every semester, POROI hosts rhetoric seminars featuring the work-in-progress of UI and visiting scholars, artists, researchers, and activists. Each presentation takes place with an audience from diverse disciplines who have read the work and are prepared to engage with the text. The group then provides rigorous and supportive criticism concerning what it sees as the work’s strengths and weaknesses, providing the speaker with ideas for revision and eventual publication. 

This year, POROI hosted the following seminars:

“Globalizing through the Vernacular: The Making of Gender and Sexual Minorities in Eastern India”
Aniruddha Dutta (Gender, Women’s, & Sexuality Studies and Asian & Slavic Literatures, CLAS)
April 6, 2017

Based on ethnographic fieldwork in eastern India, Professor Dutta’s book, Globalizing through the Vernacular, studies how metropolitan LGBT activism and the transnational development sector interface with urban-rural networks of working-class or Dalit (oppressed-caste) gender non-conforming people.

“Violent Inheritance and Queer Generation”
E. Cram (Communication Studies, CLAS)
March 8, 2017

Foregrounding the American West and Canadian borderlands, E. Cram’s book introduction explores “environmental archives” as they mediate contemporary memories of place, shaping regional structures of feeling around tropes of inheritance.

Faculty Matters Series

This new series focuses on faculty members as sources of value for universities and public life, and the contexts that support faculty’s projects and contributions to local and broader communities. POROI invites reflection on how we define academic freedom, whom that freedom supports and why it is necessary, and what happens when that freedom is infringed upon (legally, socially, intellectually, personally). 

A Moment of (Post) Truth: A Media Workshop & Forum

March 24, 2017

This interactive media analysis workshop—part of POROI’s new Faculty Matters series—featured a roundtable discussion with local journalists and UI School of Journalism & Mass Communication professors reflecting on new challenges that audiences and journalists are facing as the legitimacy of the press, science, and the fact itself are vigorously contested. They addressed the following questions:

  • What new responsibilities and strategies become important in the face of an accelerated and intensified news cycle?
  • What conditions cultivate an open exchange of ideas and lay the foundation for public trust?
  • What do each of us want journalism, the classroom, and inquiry to look like in a civic democracy?

View the participants and schedule

“What a buzz-filled and active experience we had! We ended up with three times as many people as those who let us know they were coming. Discussion ranged from the classroom, to our lives online, to the place of science in politics and everyday life, to best practices in journalism, to codes of ethics.”

—Naomi Greyser, POROI Executive Director

Attendance: 90

New Issue of Journal

poroi-forannualreportIn February 2017, POROI published Volume 12, Issue 2 of POROI: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Rhetorical Analysis and Invention. It contains a five-authored symposium on engaged rhetoric of STEM disciplines and rhetorical critiques of discourse surrounding MSG and human trafficking. Symposium authors include Carl G. Herndl, Lauren E. Cagle, Kenneth Walker, Sara Beth Parks, and Caroline Gottschalk Druschke (also the issue’s guest editor), plus papers by Jennifer L. LeMesurier and John T. Gagnon.

New Course on Writing for Learned Journals

In Fall 2016, eighteen graduate students participated in POROI’s new seminar, Writing for Learned Journals (GRAD 6300). By demystifying the process of publication, teaching best practices for writing and research, and modeling rigorous peer review, the course supported students in submitting a polished manuscript to a learned journal in their field.

Students from the Colleges of Engineering, Business, and Nursing joined students in disciplines across the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and in the Carver College of Medicine to work on an array of exciting projects. Highlights included discussions of the nature of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources; and the epistemologies best suited to the study of vials of blood, archaeological artifacts, historical events, embodied experiences, and the firing of neurons. With projects about racial performance on Black Twitter, new clinical practices for gender identification in hospitals, video game economics, and agricultural engineering that combats global warming, students demonstrated the vital place of graduate students at the University of Iowa.


heathcottThis year, POROI co-sponsored New School urbanist and educator Joseph Heathcott’s visit to the UI, which included a lecture—“A Tale of Two Projects: Race, Neighborhood, and Design in the Twentieth-Century City”—and a workshop for graduate students on alternative careers for interdisciplinary PhDs. POROI also co-sponsored the October 17, 2016, screening of the documentary film Starving the Beast: The Battle to Disrupt and Reform America’s Public Education at the Englert Theatre.

About Obermann Center

The University of Iowa’s Obermann Center for Advanced Studies in Iowa City, Iowa.