Courtney Rivard

Office:   Greenlaw 427
Curriculum Vitae:   File rivard CV 2017.docx
Hire Date:   2 012


Teaching Assistant Professor


Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz, 2012.

B.A., Emory University, 2003.


Research Interests

  • Composition and Rhetoric
  • Digital Humanities
  • Indigenous Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Memory Studies
  • Race and Gender Studies


My interdisciplinary research brings together Composition and Rhetoric, Digital Humanities, and Political Science to interrogate how notions of race, gender, and national belonging are produced through the rhetoric of archival structures, such as categorization, indexing, and tagging practices. For more details, see

Currently I have three major projects underway:

The Voice of a Nation: Mapping Documentary Expression in New Deal America


This collaborative project emerges from Photogrammar, a public facing digital humanities project, designed to bring together the photographs taken during by the Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) with the life histories from the Federal Writers Projects in order to give users the opportunity to explore visual and textual evidence relating to the Great Depression.

The Voice of Nation: Mapping Documentary Expression in New Deal American takes a deeper look into the Southern Life Histories Collection through a digital book platform through an interdisciplinary lens that weaves together Composition and Rhetoric, Digital Humanities, and Digital Public History . The Life Histories Project began as monumental effort by the Work Progress Administration's Federal Writers' Project to collect the stories from everyday people by putting unemployed writers to work during the Great Depression. At its height, the project employed 6,000 writers and wrote nearly 10,000 life histories. These life histories mark a unique genre of writing that bring together social documentary, ethnography, and oral history that reveal as much about the writers as the interviewees. Through a theory that we call "thick mapping," we fuse metadata mapping practices with text analysis to interrogate these life histories in ways never done before. Utilizing the affordances of the digital platform, our argument unfolds in a series of map layers each digging more deeply how into how race and gender are represented in the composition and narrative structures of the life histories. Together this analysis reveals how notions of Southern identity were negotiated through this unique new genre, created at a time of political, economic, and social turmoil.


The Invention of Disaster and the Rhetorics of Race, Gender, and Nation

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In this book manuscript, I investigate the new methods deployed by many U.S. historical institutions to collect and display materials relating to two contemporary disasters: September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina. These new methods, which I define as “disaster archiving,” contain four key elements: (1) immediate collection of physical materials, rather than the previous methodological tenet that called for significant time and distance before initiating collection procedures, (2) preservation of objects in perpetual destruction to maintain their authenticity, (3) a focus on stories rather than historical context, and (4) digital collection of born-digital materials that demonstrate the general population’s thoughts and feelings relating to the event including emails and digital to a scale never before possible. Using new and emerging theories surrounding archival rhetorics, I demonstrate how this new method of collecting 'history-in-the-making' reveals the ways in which notions of race, gender, and national belonging become built into archival structures.

Materiality, Archives, and Rhetoric:

De-linking the Colonial Logic of the Federal Acknowledgement Process

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My next book project emerges from my community work with the Pointe-au-Chien and Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw-Muskogee Indian Tribes of Louisiana.  The two tribes are currently mounting cases for federal recognition, which requires them to prove their existence as a tribe from now until the 16th Century. The tribes are in desperate need for the resources provided by Federal Recognition so that they can protect their communities from devastating coastal erosion brought on by climate change, oil and gas exploration, and the onslaught of hurricanes, such as Katrina and Rita. In order to make their case, they must conduct extensive archival research, but were prohibited from accessing key archives because they lacked doctoral degrees. Using my privileged Ph.D., I conducted necessary research for them while analyzing the complex power of the archives to regulate access, categorize according to colonial logic, and privatize and disperse key documents.

Materiality, Archives, and Rhetoric: De-linking the Colonial Logic of the Federal Acknowledgement Process addresses a crucial area that has been overlooked by recent critical studies of historical institutions’ collection and display goals – the ways in which archival finding aids and collection search engines categorize and index collected material, an area in which digital technologies now play a fundamental role. The result of this oversight is that the classification systems often reproduce inequalities by ignoring marginalized communities’ worldviews and naming practices. I argue that legal rhetoric outlining evidentiary standards work together with archival classification systems to create barriers that are nearly impossible for tribes to overcome.


One of my chief teaching goals is to impart upon my students the profound power that rhetoric has in shaping the ways they understand and interact in the world. I strive to as Paula Patch (2010) explains, “meet students where they are” (p. 279). This phrase demonstrates the impulse within multimodal composition to refuse to ignore students’ standard practices of writing and research, such as using Wikipedia, and instead use them to teach composition skills. However, I also use this phrase to emphasize my commitment to implementing grounded pedagogies that center the specific culture and history that students are immersed in through such digital genres. I believe that this approach is essential for students to both understand that learning and writing happens everywhere, not just in an academic classroom, and, as a consequence, they have the power to make change in the world that surrounds them.

Courses Taught

  • Writing in the Digital Humanities (Eng 105i)
  • Writing in the Social Sciences (Eng 105i)
  • Multimodal Composition (Eng 149 - "Mapping UNC Foodways")
  • Networked Composition (Eng 317 - "Data as Rhetoric")

Course Material


Book Projects

The Voice of a Nation: Mapping Documentary Expression in New America with Lauren Tilton and Taylor Arnold (under review)

The Invention of Disaster and the Rhetorics of Race, Gender and Nation (prospectus nearly complete)

Currently Under Review

“Turning Archives into Data: Archival Rhetorics and Digital Literacy in the Composition Classroom” for publication in College Composition and Communication.

“Collaboration, Teaching, and Interpretation: Making Data Construction Visible” with Lauren Tilton and Taylor Arnold for publication in DH Quarterly.

Referred Journal Articles and Book Chapters

2018     “The Rhetorical Power of Archives: The Federal Writers’ Project, Wikipedia, and First-year Composition.” Teaching Rhetoric and Composition through the Archives. Eds. Wendy Hayden and Tarez Samra Graban Southern Illinois Press. (forthcoming)

2015     “Archival Recognition: The Pointe-au-Chien’s and Isle de Jean Charles Band of the Biloxi-Chitmacha Confederation of Muskogees’ Fight for Federal Recognition.” Settler Colonial Studies. (5.2)

2015     “Introduction: Indigeneity and the work of settler archives.” Co-written with Adams-Campbell and Ashley Glassburn Falzetti. Settler Colonial Studies. (5.2)

2014     “Archiving Disaster and National Identity in the Digital Realm: The September 11 Digital Archive and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank” in Identity Technologies: Producing Online Selves.  Eds. Julie Rak and Anna Poletti.  University of Wisconsin Press.

2013     "Collecting Disaster: National Identity and the Smithsonian’s September 11th Collection.” The Australasian Journal of American Studies (special issue on "The Material of American Studies).

Additional Publications

2012     “Critique Matters, Too: Review of Museum Matters: In Praise of the Encyclopedic Museum by James Cuno.”  E-misférica 9.1 (“On the Subject of Archives”).  Eds.  Marianne Hirsch and Diane Taylor.

2008     “Virtual(ly) Remembering September 11, 2001: Memorial Websites and U.S. Nationalism.” Collective Memory and Collective Knowledge in a Global Age. Centre for the Study of Global Governance, London School of Economics. Working Conference Paper.