Open Access
Boes, Cynthia Dawn
Graduate Program:
Communication Arts and Sciences
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
January 29, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Thomas Walter Benson, Dissertation Advisor
  • Thomas Walter Benson, Committee Chair
  • James Hogan, Committee Member
  • Jeremy Engels, Committee Member
  • Linda Furgerson Selzer, Committee Member
  • rhetoric
  • intercultural communication
  • speaking for others
Since Linda Alcoff wrote “The Problem of Speaking for Others” in 1991, the literature of speaking for others has developed slowly and sporadically. Theorists and critics in various disciplines have used her conclusions as well as those of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak to create a broader understanding of various ways of “speaking” and the ways in which a speaker can help and hurt the spoken-for while speaking. In this dissertation, I analyze the literature of speaking for others along with other relevant scholarly literature to help make clearer what it means to speak for others and why and how such an act could benefit the spoken-for. One of the major concerns in speaking for others is the way the speakers’ identity affect the message. Identity theories and whiteness studies help to explain what it is about the speakers’ identity that is significant for their message and possible ways to overcome potential problems that identities might place on the message. Rhetorical theory also directly relates to speaking for others, showing what it means to speak and how the message can be most effective. In this dissertation, I synthesize speaking for others, identity, and rhetorical literature to create a stronger understanding of the benefits and problems inherent in the act of speaking for others. In order to understand how these conclusions affect speaking, I apply them to ten popular culture texts which speak for Darfur and their speakers. I analyze the identities of the speaker, spoken-for, and audience to show how identities affect the messages. I also analyze the messages to demonstrate ways that speakers for Darfur are able to help the Darfurian victims as well as ways in which their messages might hinder an audience from taking action to help the Darfurian people.