Access to this thesis is limited to Boise State University students and employees or persons using Boise State University facilities.

Off-campus Boise State University users: To download Boise State University access-only theses/dissertations, please select the "Off-Campus Download" button and enter your Boise State username and password when prompted.

Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Arts in Communication



Major Advisor

erin mcclellan, Ph.D.


Manda Hicks, Ph.D.


John McClellan, Ph.D.


Seth Ashley, Ph.D.


In this thesis, I propose a theory of emancipatory social movement rhetoric in order to address the complexities apparent in contemporary global social movements that are leaderless, virtually connective, and emergent (rather than strategic) in their approaches to social organizing. Such a theory aims to guide how scholars and participants alike construct rhetorics of resistance for larger social and political change. Emancipatory social movement rhetoric is uniquely radical, and engages in rhetorical displays of protest that are emancipatory in their processes, goals, functions, and ways of being and doing. A rhetorical approach to examining social movements is significant because studying its rhetoric as social and symbolic action (Hauser, 2002), epistemic (Scott, 1967), and consequential in the world (Nothstine, Blair, and Copeland, 2003) is capable of revealing complex emancipatory aims. I will examine the rhetoric of Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist punk rock protest collective, as an exemplar of emancipatory social movement rhetoric because their rhetoric, in particular, calls forth an approach to examining social organizing and resistance that can account for a distinct set of complexities. The widespread attention that their ongoing acts of resistance have garnered in media over a prolonged period of time simultaneously call forth a need for a new, more comprehensive theoretical lens capable of exposing the inter-related ways in which rhetorics of resistance function. After outlining what I see to be the four distinct features of emancipatory social movement rhetoric, I look collectively at eight texts highlighting the rhetoric of Pussy Riot to discuss how these central features of emancipatory social movement rhetoric provide unique insight into Pussy Riot in particular and contemporary global social movement more generally. I then discuss the significance of this approach for scholars and activists alike and end with some implications of studying emancipatory social movement rhetoric more broadly.

Conroy Revised Thesis.docx (214 kB)
Revised thesis