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Department of English Language and Literature


Erik Doxtader

Title: Professor
Department: English Language and Literature
College of Arts and Sciences
Office: HUO, Room 417

English Language and Literature
Editor, Philosophy & Rhetoric
Co-Director, Conference on Rhetorical Theory




PhD, Northwestern University, 1997
BA, University of Kansas, 1988

Areas of Specialization 

Philosophy of Rhetoric
Critical Theory
Contemporary Rhetorical Theory
Transitional Politics and Reconciliation
South African Political History
Contemporary Human Rights Discourse


Social Advocacy and Ethical Life
Contemporary Rhetorical Theory
Modern Rhetorical Theory
Violence and the Ethics of Recognition
Rhetorical History of Reconciliation in South Africa
Introduction to Rhetorical Theory and Criticism
Philosophy of Rhetoric

Editorial Appointments

Editor, Philosophy & Rhetoric

Awards & Grants 

    Partner Investigator, Discovery Project, Australian Research Council, 2012-2017.
          Project Title: Resistance, Recognition, and Reconciliation in Australia – Lessons from South Africa and Northern Ireland. A collaborative project running between 2012-14.
    Carolina Core Course Development Grant, USC College of Arts & Sciences, 2012.
    Co-Investigator, Blue Skies Research Grant, South African National Research Foundation, 2011.
          Project title: Surveillance, Intelligence, and Forms of Rhetorical Control in Democratic Discourse.  A collaborative project with Philippe-Joseph Salazar (Cape Town) and Dominique de Corcelles (CNRS, Paris); 2011 grant renewed for 2013-14.
    2010 Rhetoric Society of America Annual Book Award. 
          Awarded for With Faith in the Works of Words: The beginnings of Reconciliation in South Africa, 1985-1995.
    International Research Fellowship, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Cape Town, South Africa, 2001.
    NCA Golden Monograph Award, 2002, 2004.
    Research Fellowship, Program on Peace and Security in a Changing World, Social Science Research Council - MacArthur Foundation, 1999-2000.

Current Research Projects 

The questions that sustain my research emerge from my longstanding interest in the connections and disconnections between rhetorical theory, critical theory, and the possibilities of ethical-political life. In the last years, much of this inquiry has focused on how deeply divided societies grapple with legacies of violence and the ways in which they fashion passages from authoritarian politics and protracted historical conflict. My ongoing work in South Africa, for instance, is addressed to the theoretical and practical dynamics of reconciliation and the demands of transitional justice. As an academic and a long time Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, I am concerned with the ways in which reconciliation offers less the hope of a timeless peace than the opening of spaces in which to undertake critique that both discloses the roots of what Hannah Arendt called legal violence and disrupts the traditional relationship between constitution-building, political identity, and sovereign power.

In conjunction with my recent study of the rhetorical-theoretical grounds of contemporary human rights discourse, not least as they appear in the thought of Richard McKeon, this work has opened two new and related lines of inquiry. First, I am currently writing a book that asks after the neglected and altogether rhetorical underpinnings of transitional justice. Before the rule of law (and one can indeed think of Kafka here) that now defines its terms, aims, and professed value, transitional justice depends on an art of discovery, a rhetorical art of inquiry addressed initially to the question of how to "come to terms", how to find those words that turn historical justifications for violence towards opportunities for productive disagreement over the potential for ethical life. Thus, second, I am at work on an extended theoretical reflection to do with the ways in which words call out the question of the human and, following the paths set out by the likes of Benjamin, Heidegger, Derrida, Merleau-Ponty, and Agamben, what it might mean to consider rhetoric's potential as an experience of language as such, a mode of "recognizing experience" that renders the word ontologically and ethically otherwise.


“Messianic Hopes at the Moral Carnival – The [Rhetorical] Question of Advocating for the Humanities, for Now,” Acta Juridica. 2022
   • What Cannot Be Said? Special Issue of Philosophy & Rhetoric, 55.1, 2022.
   • In the Midst of Covid-19.”  Special issue of Philosophy & Rhetoric, 53.3, May 2020.
   • “With No Sanction for Lying: Recollecting the Potential of a Few Dispossessing Words,” African Yearbook of Rhetoric 8, 2019.
   • “Zōon Logon Ekhon—The (Dis)Possession of an Echo.” Philosophy & Rhetoric4, 2017.

   • The African Renaissance and the Afro-Arab Spring: A Season of Rebirth? Co-edited and introduced with Charles Villa-Vicencio and Ebrahim Moosa. Georgetown University Press/University of Cape Town Press, 2015.
   • In the Balance: South Africans Debate Reconciliation. Co-edited with Fanie du Toit. Jacana Press, 2010.
   • Inventing the Potential of Rhetorical Culture. Edited and introduced. Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010).
   • Faith in the Works of Words: The Beginnings of Reconciliation in South Africa, 1985-1995.  David Philip/ Michigan State University Press, 2009).
Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: The Fundamental Documents. Co-Edited and introduced with Philippe-Joseph Salazar. David Philip and New Africa Books, 2007.
   • Pieces of the Puzzle: Keywords on Reconciliation, Transitional Justice and Social  Reconstruction. Co-edited and introduced with Charles Villa-Vicencio. OneWorld Books, 2005.
   • To Repair the Irreparable: Reparation and Reconstruction in South Africa. Co-edited and introduced with Charles Villa-Vicencio. David Philip, 2004,   Second Printing 2006.
   • The Provocations of Amnesty: Memory, Justice and Impunity. Co-edited and introduced with Charles Villa-Vicencio. David Phillip, 2003.
   • Through Fire with Water: Violence, Transition, and the Potential for Reconciliation in Africa – Fifteen Case Studies. Co-edited and introduced with Charles Villa-    David  Phillip, 2003.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.