Toward a Working Theory of Institutional Rhetorics.

Publication Date

October 2019

Document Type

Contribution to a Book

Publication Title

Reinventing (with) Theory in Rhetoric and Writing Studies: Essays in Honor of Sharon Crowley


Andrea Alden, Kendall Gerdes, Judy Holiday, and Ryan Skinnell


Institutions often develop specific rhetorical strategies for defining and advancing institutional goals. These rhetorical strategies regularly become institutional and rhetorical patterns that shape multiple institutions as a cohesive group despite manifesting in locally specific ways under specific circumstances. Additionally, institutions often influence discourse norms and behaviors more broadly. As a result, individuals and other institutional sectors, including business, government, and education, have increasingly adopted those vocabularies and values, as well. Despite institutions’ influence as rhetorical actors, almost no work has been done in rhetorical studies to theorize institutions as more than the scenes in which rhetorical action takes place. This chapter is begins to fill that gap by (1) assessing how institutions use rhetoric to speak and (2) advocating for a theory of “institutional rhetorics” to better understand how institutions affect the traditional domains of rhetorical studies—culture, politics, and language.


rhetoric, institutions, institutional rhetoric, theory, rhetorical theory