The Decolonial Power of Shapeshifting: Subversive Ecofeminist Rhetorics
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There is a repeating pattern in rhetoric in which women discursively re-shape their bodies into that of a nonhuman animal. This thesis utilizes a framework of ecofeminism and rhetorical empathy in order to understand this kind of shapeshifting. Three primary rhetors comprise the basis of this investigation: Terry Tempest Williams, a Mormon conservationist, Gloria Anzaldúa, a queer feminist Chicana scholar, and Tanya Tagaq, a Nunavut singer. Contrasting against patterns of animalization which enable Othering tactics, shapeshifting centers empathy in order to subversively build relationship. Shapeshifting is internally composed, while animalization is externally imposed. Additionally, the rhetoric of shapeshifting is unruly and multimodal. It is enacted across a wide range of persuasive performances, from the written word to songs and videos. It stems from an ecofeminist exigence and functions to build empathy which would otherwise be less available to the audience.