CFP: The Rhetoric and Discourse of Oil

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015
CFP: The Rhetoric and Discourse of Oil

Call for Papers for an edited collection: The Rhetoric and Discourse of Oil

Recent years have seen the rise of the “Energy Humanities,” which consider cultures in terms of the energy sources that make them possible, energy sources that tend to be invisible to those inhabiting a given culture. In Oil Culture, for example, Ross Barrett and Daniel Worden argue that in contemporary North America oil is largely secreted out of sight but, at the same time, “the oil industry is as ubiquitous and necessary to contemporary life as money” (xix). Or, as Ruth Salvaggio puts it in her essay in that collection, “Even as we can smell the gas that we put into our cars, or sometimes see the black substance that gets poured into car engines or heating furnaces, oil itself remains a spectral substance—until something ruptures and it all comes pouring out” (386). This simultaneous invisibility and necessity is effected through rhetoric. For instance, in the recent “Life Takes Energy” campaign, Enbridge presents various events—baking cupcakes, colouring on a rainy day, swimming, swaddling a new baby—before stating that the corporation provides the energy that makes these moments possible. We don’t see oil, or pipelines, or windmills in these ads, but energy’s necessity is asserted and the energy corporation’s necessity is implied.

Despite the rise of the Energy Humanities, eco-rhetoric, and Petroculture, no study of oil rhetoric currently exists. Therefore, The Rhetoric and Discourse of Oil seeks papers that examine how discourse and rhetoric create/enable the spectrality of oil (how rhetoric persuades individuals/the public that oil is an invisible magic elixir fuelling progress) and how it also disrupts or counters that view. Contributions to this collection will engage with our understanding of petroleum in its fundamental ambiguity, not only as a key sustaining source of modern culture but also as a toxic and destructive commodity. As such, The Rhetoric and Discourse of Oil seeks interventions in the discourses and rhetorics of oil and its related industries. Possible areas of focus include, but are not limited to, rhetoric and/or discourse and one or more of the following:


bitumen extraction;

hydraulic fracturing (fracking);

Off-shore drilling;

Pipelines and other forms of transportation (oil-by-rail, the Lac Mégantic disaster, tankers);

Spills, Leaks, Ruptures;

Upgrading and Refining;

Lawsuits (Aboriginal consultation, Treaty rights);


Government documents;

Industry documents;



Poetry, fiction, drama;

Visual Rhetoric;


Environment vs. Economy;

Economic History.


Please submit proposals of 300-400 words to Jon Gordon ( and Heather Graves ( by Jan. 31, 2016. Final papers will be due Sept. 1, 2016.