Picture of Chautauqua Park, Boulder, Co


Regenerative Rhetorics: A Symposium on Rhetorical New Materialisms 

May 26-28, 2024 

Boulder, Colorado


Regeneration is mindfulness of the creativity of which we are a part.”

                            –Vandana Shiva, 2022 Slow Seed Summit


[We need] to break our habit of over-simplifying the world. The series of global crises that we now face cannot be managed with a widget. We cannot simply upgrade, swap out, or switch over. The current state of our world requires us to work hard to fully understand the complexity of living systems and to design elegant approaches that honor and appreciate that complexity….Regenerative practice is based on the premise that we cannot make the outer transformations required to create a truly sustainable world without making inner transformations in how we think, how we work, and who we are. 

                                                                                                                                     – Regenesis

Regenerative Economy is based on ecological restoration, community protection, equitable partnerships, justice, and full and fair participatory processes….A Regenerative Economy values the dignity of work and humanity and prioritizes community governance and ownership of work and resources, instead of oppressive systems that devalue people and their labor through violent hoarding by a few. Rather than limit peoples’ ability to fully shape democracy and decisions that impact our communities, a Regenerative Economy supports collective and inclusive participatory governance. It requires a re-localization and democratization of how we produce and consume goods, and ensures all have full access to healthy food, renewable energy, clean air and water, good jobs, and healthy living environments. A Regenerative Economy requires an explicit anti-racist, anti-poverty, feminist, and living approach that is intersectional and eschews top-down, patriarchal, classist, xenophobic, and racist ideology.                                      

                                      – Adapted from Movement Generation, Indigenous Environmental Network, Climate Justice Alliance, People’s Action, and Grassroots Global Justice Alliance drawing upon Indigenous leadership and generations of work and vision from Black farming cooperatives and labor movements.

In queer and Indigenous thought, regeneration points to potentiality and horizons. For Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Mississauga Nishnaabeg), regeneration functions as [the] value of systems that affirm life in multiple forms, species, and relationalities. Drawn from the vantage point of Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg political systems, Simpson’s regeneration is antithetical to settler colonialism. Naomi Klein offers a western view, also meditating on the possibilities of regeneration beyond extractive regimes, a “worldview that must take place if we are to move beyond extractivism. A worldview based on regeneration and renewal rather than domination and depletion.” As a critic of environmental and queer cultural studies, both of these conceptualizations of regeneration invite wrestling with structures of affect in attachments to land and energy. I am particularly moved that regeneration challenges how critics make sense of inheritance, and how expressive cultures (art, visualization, memory making) can interface with these political challenges. (25)                            

                                                                                                 – E. Cram, Violent Inheritance, 2022 

Symposium Theme

The regenerative rhetorics symposium invites scholars to explore how rhetorical new materialisms might regenerate our conceptions of rhetoric in ways that allow for more robust, resilient, and thriving societies. If, at various points in history, rhetoric has been central to civic engagement, worldmaking, and the cultivation of diverse publics, how might regenerative new materialist orientations to rhetoric aid our reconceptualization of these activities in light of a 21st century marked by global precarity, racial inequality, and economic and ecological crisis?

Like rhetoric itself, regeneration, as a concept, is multiple in meaning. Etymologically, we can understand regeneration by harking back to the Latin term regeneratus, meaning “created again.” In this sense, we can think of regeneration as a bringing back into renewed existence or a bringing forth of a more vigorous life, a revival of sorts. The OED also suggests that we may think of regeneration as restoration. To regenerate is to restore to a better state--a definition that rests upon the assumption that something has gone awry, brought about ill effects, or shifted in an unconstructive, if not problematic, direction. Regeneration can also be thought about as replenishment, as in the claim that “regeneration often refers to the replenishing of what has been exploited and repairing what has been damaged” (Sutton, 2021). In this sense, regeneration is often thought about as regrowth, conjuring, say, a starfish’s or tree’s ability to regenerate a missing limb. 

Meanings of regeneration, however, go far beyond such general notions. Regeneration, for instance, is often linked to remembrance and revitalization; for many Black and Indigenous communities, to regenerate is to revitalize traditional ways of knowing and practicing in order to address health disparities, food insecurities, and ongoing problems largely perpetuated by ongoing social, political, and environmental racisms and injustices. When it comes to farming, regeneration can even be linked to revolution; as explained by the Black Dirt Farm Collective, in remembering ancestral pathways and returning to sacred practices and understandings, “we are reinvigorating what it means to be black on this earth,” envisioning an “Afrofuture where black life and black joy can flourish in their rawness,” and inventing new forms of “art, movement, practice, and process[es] of social and ecological transformation.” For many, then, regeneration is, yes, about justice–environmental, racial, global, and intersectional–but it also moves beyond justice toward sovereignty (Black Dirt Farm Collective). 

Regeneration has also come to be understood in recent years as a paradigm for thinking beyond sustainability. If the sustainability movement seeks to maintain the resources we have in the present and prevent further environmental depletion, regeneration, as a cross-disciplinary movement, seeks to foster practices that make life more robust, resilient, and adaptive to inter-connected and entangled environments. Examples of this orientation abound and can be found everywhere, from regenerative medicine, which is currently exploring how sound waves can affect stem cells and stimulate the regeneration of human tissues, to regenerative economics, which is attempting to develop models of growth and development that overcome social inequalities and revitalize ecosystems. And rhetoric is not divorced from this process. As André Gonclaves argues, regeneration is about “re-learning how to communicate and find common ground on our differences, assuming reality is too complex” to scale up standard solutions and “to ignore the potential and fragilities of bioregions with unique characteristics.”

Drawing upon these varied ways of thinking about regeneration, the regenerative rhetorics symposium asks scholars of rhetorical new materialism to think about what regeneration can do for rhetorical study. What new methodologies, for example, might emerge through the weaving of rhetorical studies, regenerative studies, and other critical frameworks? What methods can we adapt or what new methods might open up should we take seriously the challenge of regeneration to transform how we think, how we work, and who we are? And how can regeneration as a framework help renew and revitalize rhetorical theory? If regeneration implies thinking about the past in addition to the future, how might scholars of rhetorical new materialisms draw upon diverse histories (e.g., Homeric, poetic, and materialist) to develop conceptions of rhetoric that are more affirming of life in its myriad forms? Likewise, how can regeneration help us think about rhetoric and rhetoricity in the present historical moment? If, throughout much of Western history,  the capacity to generate rhetoric has been confined to the sphere of the human citizen subject, how can regenerative new materialist approaches to rhetoric help us appreciate the rhetorical agency of the world's diverse species and ecosystems? 

We are also curious how rhetorical new materialisms can assist regenerative efforts by taking up critical inquiries, especially ones that challenge naive perceptions about the utopian and untainted promise of regeneration. For example, in thinking about what rhetorical new materialist history entails, how might rhetoricians build on the work of Black and Indigenous farming historians to help recover not only regenerative farming’s complex violent, exploitative, and extractive roots but also the important actor-networks of BIPOC peoples, practices, technologies, and contributions that have helped and continue to help regenerate our lands and our economies? Or, building upon the recent work of E. Cram, how might we interrogate regeneration as a practice that is intimately connected to settler colonialism and capitalism and that involves generational struggles over vitality and (common)wealth? 

We also invite thinking about the relationship between regeneration and social reproduction, especially as the two concepts implicate the way we think about gender, sexuality, race, and ability, as well as ideals of futurity, productivity, growth, and development. How might a regenerative lens, tethered to rhetorical new materialisms, open up non-normative horizons and enable our society to materially revalue its values and reinvent its institutions, systems, and activities? Additionally, as just one other avenue, we invite scholars to consider whether regeneration implies a vitalist orientation to material reality (with its encouragement to think in terms of the flourishing of life) or if there are other ways to think about regeneration that can productively embrace the world’s entropic tendencies toward death and decay. If death is always entangled with life, how might (re)generation help us think about dying well in addition to living well? 

We, of course, invite and are excited about your own critical inquiries too. 


Symposium Schedule

The aim of our symposium is not only to think carefully about the relationship between rhetoric and regeneration but also to create an environment that is regenerative for rhetoricians in the days directly following the 2024 RSA Biennial Convention. Consequently, the regenerative rhetorics symposium will not be a typical symposium that orbits around formal individual presentations but rather a gathering designed to shift how we typically think, collaborate, and work. To accomplish this aim, the regenerative rhetorics symposium will be held from May 26th to May 28th at Colorado Chautauqua, a historic venue with onsite lodging, dining, and walking trails that sits at the base of the iconic Flatirons in Boulder, CO. Taking advantage of this stunning, natural setting, the symposium will feature a 2-hour long hike or seated outdoor conversation that will be used to organize interactive sessions that will comprise the remainder of the day’s events. Piggybacking these activities will be catered but informal social gatherings intended to rejuvenate dialogue, deepen relations, and cultivate academic joy. 

Below is a brief outline of the scheduled activities:

May 26:   5pm                        Welcome Reception and Catered Dinner

May 27:   9am – 9:45am       Catered Breakfast and Opening

                9:45 – 11:45am      Walk and Talk/Collaborative Planning Session

               11:45 – 12:15pm     Catered Boxed Lunch

               12:15 – 3:30pm       Interactive Sessions

                3:30 – 3:45pm        Break

                3:45 – 5:15pm        Interactive Sessions

                5:15 – 6:30pm        Break/Happy Hour

                6:30 – 9pm             Catered Dinner and Social Gathering

May 28:   9 – 10:00am         Catered Farewell Breakfast 


Expected Participation

All invited scholars are asked to submit a 5-page max paper (double-spaced) responding to the symposium theme by May 1, 2024. The symposium hosts will arrange invited scholars into groups of three to ensure the cross-pollination of ideas and ask scholars to read their group member's papers before arrival. We will email you with the names and email address of your group members by May 15, 2024. In the spirit of thinking and working differently, we will not place any constraints on the interactive sessions other than limiting the time to 30 minutes each. We do, however, encourage folks to think outside the box and design programming that stimulates conversation, collective knowledge building, and perhaps problem solving.

On the morning of May 27th, each group of scholars will be invited to take a “walk-about” and share and discuss the ideas articulated in their paper submissions (finding a place to sit and chat is welcome as well!). This same group of scholars will also be asked to engage in a collaborative planning session for an interactive session they will facilitate in the afternoon. In the spirit of thinking and working differently, we will not place any constraints on the interactive sessions other than limiting the time to 30 minutes per group. We do, however, encourage folks to think outside the box and design programming that stimulates conversation, collective knowledge building, and perhaps problem solving. If you like, you are welcome to contact your group members after reading their work and get a collaborative jumpstart on your interactive session. BUT IN THE SPIRIT OF REGENERATION, THIS PRIOR COLLABORATION  IS NOT REQUIRED. 

For your information, the size of the symposium will be 24 scholars max, give or take a handful of local scholars.


Symposium Logistics

The symposium fee for this event is either $350 or $450, depending upon the lodging tier selected. In addition to covering lodging costs, the symposium fee covers all meals, beginning with the Opening Dinner on the 26th and ending with the Farewell Breakfast on May 28th. Below is a list of the different lodging tiers and their respective prices (Please note that we may not be able to pair everyone up with their first choice):

Lodging Tiers

$350 – Single Occupancy in Columbine Lodge: Apartment style building with single rooms and private baths. (15 available)

$350 - Two Bedroom Cottage: Stand-alone cottage; 2 Bedrooms/1 Bath (3 available)

$450 - Studio Cottages: Stand-alone cottages. 1-2 person occupancy with private bath and kitchenette (8 available)


Transportation must be arranged by each invited scholar. However, we encourage carpooling from Denver. If you would like to carpool, please use this sign up page to arrange shared transportation from Denver. Public transportation is also available; you can use this Moovit link to find the way from Denver to Chautauqua.   



Funding for this event has been generously provided by The WRITE Lab, a research lab housed in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric at CU Boulder, with a generous donation from the Department of Communication at the University of Denver. Organizing hosts include Laurie Gries (CU Boulder) and Joshua Hanan (University of Denver). Staff support at CU Boulder, which we are so grateful for, includes Melynda Slaughter and Linda Nicita.

The WRITE Lab is a faculty research space that explores what it means to do innovative, inclusive, and interdisciplinary studies at the intersection of writing, rhetoric, information, technology and ecology. In theory and method, we disclose how various modes of composing and performance engender identities, informatics, publics, policies, literacies, civic participation, and cultural action in local and globalized settings. Housed in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric at CU Boulder, we bring together scholars, artists, students, teachers, activists, and community leaders to foster a collective imagination and to pursue problem-driven projects, events, talks and publications, experiential curriculum, and community advocacy.