“You know it when you see it:” the rhetorical hierarchy of race and gender in rhinelander v. rhinelander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Kenneth Burke places order and hierarchy at the heart of his rhetorical theory. The impulse to order creates categories of terms used by cultures to construct social orders based on race, gender, class and economic status. These lead to a “paradox of purity” wherein individuals are evaluated substantively from that category despite their individual motivations. In 1925, a woman of mixed blood was accused of defrauding her husband by “passing” as white. Her white lawyers were required to maintain the racist social structure while simultaneously freeing their client from the strictures of that structure. The paradox of purity was resolved through a transformation of terms until an ultimate order was recreated that retained the hierarchy, yet placed another collective category, gender, at the pinnacle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-128
Number of pages18
JournalQuarterly Journal of Speech
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 1999



  • Bridging devices
  • Burke
  • Enactment
  • Gender
  • Hierarchy
  • Order
  • Race
  • Rhinelander

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education

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