LLB, University of South Africa, 2001; CFP, University of Free State, 2003; MA, Brigham Young University, 2007; PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2012
Rhetorical theory, ethics and communication, rhetoric and public deliberation
My work focuses on understanding how we can engage more productively in public life. I am especially concerned with highlighting the important role of public deliberation in helping manage the necessary conflict that arises from social and political interaction in a pluralistic democracy. I believe that public deliberation, with all of the complexities that sustained deliberation brings, is a vital part of helping bridge conflicting world views. My dissertation research focused on the controversy over HIV in South Africa. In particular, I examined the complex role of culture in the conflicted meaning of HIV in South Africa, and I also detailed some of the challenges presented by trying to argue across different cultural frameworks. Prior to completing my dissertation, I also worked on an extended research project with my adviser and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin where we studied school board deliberation in three Wisconsin school districts. That research details the difficulties faced by school boards as they navigate a confluence of forces — from federal and state mandates to the whims of the local populace — while trying to balance competing interests and values — all of this in the context of the provision of a public service in which the entire community has a vested interest.
My current work focuses on the complex meaning of belonging in South Africa. The introduction of democracy in South Africa has provided many challenges, with the HIV crisis in particular showing how difficult it can be to escape the legacy of Apartheid. I am busy with a project exploring the way that different communities in South Africa seek to manage the different identities that were crafted by Apartheid legislation. In particular, I am investigating the wave of xenophobic violence that swept over South Africa in May of 2008, with the aim of understanding how South Africans have reacted to the violence, and how that response is creating new spaces of belonging in South Africa.
My classes focus on helping students develop critical skills for engaging in public life. All of my classes introduce students to key questions of rhetorical theory and criticism. I also encourage my students to reflect on the implications of their own participation in public life, and all of my classes have some kind of civic engagement component that provides students an opportunity to put rhetorical theory into practice. My main classes at Colgate are:
- WRIT 215: Public Speaking
- WRIT 315: Public Address - History, Criticism and Performance
- WRIT 354: Rhetoric in Public Life
- Solomon and Conners, "Deliberating the Business of Education," Rhetoric and Economics, Edited Volume, forthcoming
- Asen, Solomon, et al. “Imagining a Technical Sphere, Enacting Education Policy: Visions and Uses of Research Evidence in School Board Deliberations,” Argumentation and Advocacy 47 (2011): 195-213
- Asen, Solomon, et al. "Research Evidence and School Board Deliberations: Lessons From Three Wisconsin School Districts." Education Policy 27 (2013): 33-63
- Mellon Dissertation Fellow, 2011-2012
- Michael McGee Award, Alta Argument Conference, 2009