Inventing Home: Movement, Place, and the Rhetorics of Polish Chicago
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This is an ethnographic study of the rhetorical world of Polish immigrants in and around Chicago, with primary focus on a grassroots organization of Polish pro-immigrant activists. Through a series of specific investigations of the everyday ways of talk among this group, and among the Polish immigrant community more generally, I argue that rhetorical invention is always a profoundly situated event, and, moreover, that the work of rhetorical analysis demands the work of “radical contextualization.” My approach in the dissertation embodies these arguments: as I analyze both community and individual discourses, I situate them within a range of other concerns, including recent developments in U.S. immigration law, the pervasive languages of the pro-immigrant political movement, questions around the practice of ethnographic representation, theories of space and place, the changing global socioeconomic order, and my research participants’ historical experiences of life in communist and post-communist Poland. By continually placing the rhetorics of my fieldwork within this web of overarching forces, I demonstrate how the symbolic and material realms—or “rhetoric” and “reality,” or perhaps even “words” and “things”—interlock and overlap in ways that render them, effectively, indivisible. What emerges, instead, is an irresolvable tension between “symbolic desire” and “material constraint,” which provides a generative source of everyday rhetorical inventions.