Department of Communication
Public Address Conference
Jennifer Jackson

Cindy Sheehan’s Confrontational Iraq War Protests: A Case Study in Contentious Rhetoric

This dissertation examines Cindy Sheehan’s Iraq War protests from November 2004 to May 2007 as a case study of contentious rhetoric. The notion of contentious rhetoric is based on the concept of contentious politics developed by sociologist and political scientist Charles Tilly, sociologist Doug McAdam, and political scientist Sidney Tarrow. This new conceptualization acts as a guide to understanding how Sheehan navigates the dichotomy between women and war and how she uses her own motherhood as validation for her protests. I selected a cross section of Sheehan’s speeches and online blogs for this analysis and, through a close reading of these texts, looked for themes to emerge that align Sheehan within this context of contentious rhetoric. Through this framework, the analysis shows that Sheehan is not part of an isolated anti-war social movement, but is actually extending the women’s peace movement that has existed over the past century in the United States. By developing this concept of contentious rhetoric, this project creates an opening for studying the rhetoric that exists before a social movement occurs or fails.

Jennifer Jackson
University of Memphis 

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