Constitutive Rhetoric – constitutive of whom?

I was wondering if there was any framework or strategy for rhetorically analyzing identity formation, so I typed “rhetorical analysis of identity.” The second thing that popped up was a wikipedia article on constitutive rhetoric. Curious, I clicked on it and began reading. It became very confusing to me because the pronouns that they use could be either the speaker (rhetor) or the audience.

Then, I challenged myself to think deeper. Why does this have to be an either/or idea. What if it is actually a both/and. Then, a lightbulb lit and I began to facepalm (even though I have glasses). Why had I not thought about that even though I think about it every day.

Every time we interact with other people, when we talk, we construct an identity. But when someone interacts with us, we also construct our identity. We can decide to respond angrily, happily and we do this WITHOUT words. How we respond non-verbally (body language, facial expression, etc.) impacts an aspect of our identity (even if it is only temporarily).

So maybe constitutive rhetoric is constitutive of both the speaker/writer and the audience. If this is the case, then how can we analyze HOW identity is affected?


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