Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 5-7-2021


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Erik Garrett

Committee Member

Pat Arneson

Committee Member

Ronald C. Arnett


This dissertation brings together three scholarship areas: rhetorical theory and analysis, hostile urban architecture and design, and Sloterdijk’s version of posthumanism. I synthesize these complementary areas to address the following questions: How do architecture and design contribute to the rhetorical meaning-making of being human and facilitate the communication of that meaning to others? How do different types of architecture and design produce the material contexts for conceptualizing what humanness means and contribute to the development of fore-structures for interpreting and communicating that humanness (e.g., hostile architecture and barbed wire)? How can we conceptualize various types of architecture and design, or materials in general, as the fore-structures that allow us to domesticate and dehumanize, or create and communicate humanness? What makes a human for Sloterdijk? Domestication. What domesticates a human for Sloterdijk? Technology. Architecture and design are technologies. They are rhetorical materials that separate audiences based on how one can physically interact with them and make meaning from the interaction. One can read architecture and design based on fore-structures provided by a culture, but not all audiences will read architecture and design in the same way. I argue that the various meanings imbued in these materials are purposive and a result of these constructed spaces as material fore-structures. In this dissertation, I look to the forgotten spaces, the banal design of our everyday lives, the overlooked materials, and the taken-for-granted elements of our built environments to better understand their importance as rhetorical artifacts that contribute to the ongoing process of hominization and domestication. In our environments, architecture and design play an essential role in who we are and what we can know about being human. My argument goes as follows: Architecture and design are rhetorical and contribute to the constitution of being human. Posthumanism is a network of related theoretical concepts that argue for the continued contingency of the concept of human. Sloterdijk is a posthumanist that contends we have always been posthuman, or that we are always in the process of domesticating ourselves as human. For Sloterdijk, space, structures, and design help to bring us back to our originary dyadic-ontological state and separates the animal from the human. Hyde and Smith’s ontological rhetoric, and material rhetoric, help us to understand how we are born into structures—both linguistic and physical— imbued with meaning. Rhetorical theory helps us explain how we interpret and use the meaning that we are given from our interactions with architecture and design to understand and make claims about what is and is not human. My rhetorical analysis of hostile urban architecture and design grounds these ideas in specific examples from our lived experience. We are born into meaning that comes from our lived spaces. We use that meaning to interpret the world of architecture and design that we are embedded in, and that meaning is part of what we use to separate the human from the non-human, or to humanize and dehumanize.



Available for download on Saturday, May 07, 2022