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Unformatted text preview: Quarterly Journal of Speech Vol. 89, No. 4, November 2003, pp. 345–365 Resisting “National Breast Cancer Awareness Month”: The Rhetoric of Counterpublics and their Cultural Performances Phaedra C. Pezzullo Since 1984, October has been recognized in the U.S. as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In 1997, the Toxic Links Coalition of the Bay Area, California, began organizing annual “Stop Cancer Where It Starts” tours to counter attempts to obscure the environmentally-linked causes of cancer. By drawing on research including participant observation, this essay analyzes the politics of these two publics in an attempt to illustrate the limits of a binary conceptualization of publics and counterpublics and to emphasize the rhetorical value of the cultural performances that constitute public life. Key words: breast cancer activism, greenwashing, pinkwashing, counterpublics, cultural performance, participant observation M any of us have known someone with breast cancer or have survived breast cancer. For U.S. women, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed form of cancer, 1 accounting for approximately one-third of all new cancer cases in women. 2 In addition to the more than two million current U.S. breast cancer survivors, the Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization claims that, “this year, breast cancer will be newly diagnosed every three minutes, and a woman will die from breast cancer every 13 minutes.” 3 In response to this epidemic, breast cancer activism has increased rapidly since the mid-1980s to form the breast cancer movement. 4 Amid growing publicity, research funds, and attention to breast cancer in the past two decades, identifying the causes of breast cancer remains a top priority for the movement. Although much of our knowledge about breast cancer, and cancer generally, is fraught with uncertainty, it is generally accepted that at least some people have developed cancers owing to environmental pollution. 5 Assuming for the sake of argument that the skeptical estimate of “two percent … put forth by those who dismiss environmental carcinogens” is minimally accurate, Sandra Steingraber com- ments: Two percent means that 10,940 people in the United States die each year from environmen- tally caused cancers. This is more than the number of women who die each year from hereditary breast cancer—an issue that has launched multi-million dollar research initiatives. 6 This is more than the number of children and teenagers killed each year by firearms—an issue that is considered a matter of national shame. It is more than three times the number of non-smokers estimated to die each year of lung cancer caused by exposure to secondhand smoke—a problem so serious it warranted sweeping changes in laws governing air quality in public spaces. It is the annual equivalent of wiping out a small city. It is thirty funerals every day....
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This note was uploaded on 02/21/2012 for the course CMCL-C 205 taught by Professor Mcconell during the Spring '10 term at Indiana.
- Spring '10