Political Condemnations

Public Speech Acts and the Moralization of Discourse

Authored by: Zohar Kampf , Tamar Katriel

The Handbook of Communication in Cross-Cultural Perspective

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138892095
eBook ISBN: 9781315709321
Adobe ISBN: 9781317485605


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The discourse of human rights, which is dominant in civil societies around the world today, holds up a globalized vision of a ‘decent society’, i.e. a society, according to philosopher Avishai Margalit, “whose institutions do not humiliate people” (Margalit, 1996, p. 1). Human rights discourse is constructed in large part through the use of epideictic rhetoric (Rosenfield, 1980)—a rhetoric of praise and blame that promotes values of equality and human respect on the one hand and disparages those social bodies and actors who violate them on the other. As recognized by students of rhetoric since antiquity, in assigning nobility and baseness to public actors and their actions, epideictic rhetoric sets up models for conduct and thereby reinforces shared cultural values and traditions (Hauser, 1999). While scholarship on epideictic rhetoric has tended to focus on the role of discourses of praise in constructing moral communities, scholarship dedicated to examining words of blame is scarce (Church, 2010), and it is the latter that will hold our attention here.

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