Rhetorics of place and ecological relationships: The rhetorical construction of Narragansett Bay

Matthew Ortoleva, University of Rhode Island


As an ethnographic study of how language and rhetorical acts are used to construct, challenge, and change ecological relationships to the Narragansett Bay watershed, this dissertation argues that there are three architectonic, master discourses that dominate the discursive domain of the Narragansett Bay watershed: the discourse of science, the discourse of economics, and the discourse of spirituality. These master discourses construct and authorize particular world-views, give human agents the vocabulary to speak about the world in particular ways, and produce multiple other sub-discourses, which in turn construct different ecological relationships to Narragansett Bay and lead to particular attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that have material consequences for the bay. Through participant observation, interviews, and document analysis, this study maps the discourses of Save The Bay, an environmental advocacy organization; aquaculturalists, a growing group of entrepreneurs who farm the bay; and the Narragansett, a Native American people indigenous to the region. Although each participant group in this study is affected by all three master discourses, each group enacts a different master discourse to construct and argue for a particular relationship to the Narragansett Bay watershed. This project concludes by suggesting that these three master discourses may be synthesized into an ecocentric discourse, which may offer a new view of stewardship and be productively adapted to help create healthy ecological relationships to the Narragansett Bay watershed and beyond. ^

Subject Area

Environmental Studies|Language, Rhetoric and Composition|Native American Studies|Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture

Recommended Citation

Matthew Ortoleva, "Rhetorics of place and ecological relationships: The rhetorical construction of Narragansett Bay" (2010). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3415506.