The Rhetorical Invention of Diversity cover
The Rhetorical Invention of Diversity
Supreme Court Opinions, Public Arguments, and Affirmative Action
Despite the tepid reception of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1978, the Supreme Court has thrice affirmed its holding: universities can use race as an admissions factor to achieve the goal of a diverse student body. This book examines the process of rhetorical invention followed by Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., his colleagues, and other interlocutors as they sifted through arguments surrounding affirmative action policies to settle on diversity as affirmative action’s best constitutional justification. Here M. Kelly Carr explores the goals, constraints, and argumentative tools of the various parties as they utilized the linguistic resources available to them, including arguments about race, merit, and the role of the public university in civic life. Using public address texts, legal briefs, memoranda, and draft opinions, Carr looks at how public arguments informed the amicus briefs, chambers memos, and legal principles before concluding that Powell’s pragmatic decision making fused the principle of individualism with an appreciation of multiculturalism to accommodate his colleagues’ differing opinions. She argues that Bakke is thus a legal and rhetorical milestone that helped to shift the justificatory grounds of race-conscious policy away from a recognition of historical discrimination and its call for reparative equality, and toward an appreciation of racial diversity.
Publication Date: May 1st, 2018
294 pages| 6 in x 9 in
M. KELLY CARR is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Basic Course Director at the University of West Florida.

Early Praise

“Carr situates the famous Bakke opinions in their full social, political, and rhetorical contexts. In particular, she skillfully presents the inventive force of Justice Powell’s opinion as the product of broader public discourse, the effect of amici briefs, and the internal deliberations of the justices. Legal and rhetorical scholars both will learn much from this detailed and elegantly written account.”
Francis J. Mootz III, Dean and Professor of Law, McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific
The Rhetorical Invention of Diversity is a superb rhetorical analysis of the Bakke decision. It meticulously situates Justice Powell’s efforts to rally a majority of his colleagues and the public to his position within the complex rhetorical currents and eddies of equal protection law, the civil rights movement, and the white backlash against affirmative action. Dr. Carr provides an important and richly textured case study of the process of ‘collaborative invention,’ whereby judges inevitably draw upon law, legal precedents, judicial philosophy, academic discourses, amicus briefs, and their understandings of history and culture to develop arguments that address specific cases and, in turn, shape thought and action involving the law.
Clarke Rountree, Chair and Professor of Communication Arts, University of Alabama in Huntsville, author of Judging the Supreme Court: Constructions of Motives in Bush v. Gore, and editor of the book series Rhetoric, Law, and the Humanities
“M. Kelly Carr has written an engaging and important book that provides new perspective on the landmark Bakke decision. Drawing on a rich range of materials including not only the text of the decision but also amicus briefs, statements, internal memoranda, and marginalia, Carr encourages us to understand Bakke as an instance of public rhetoric developed through a collaborative inventional process drawing on social, political, and legal resources. The analysis is sharp and insightful, the writing is clear and accessible, and the interdependence between text and context is treated generatively and authoritatively. The significance of the Bakke decision cannot be overstated, and this book is an essential contribution to our appreciation of its continued relevance.”
Robert E. Terrill, Professor of English and Director of Writing and Rhetoric Studies, Indiana University Bloomington, and author of Double-Consciousness and the Rhetoric of Barack Obama: The Price and Promise of Citizenship and Malcolm X: Inventing Radical Judgment


Book AwardKohrs-Campbell Prize in Rhetorical Criticism, 2019
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