Date of Award

Spring 2020

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Cristy Beemer

Second Advisor

Christina Ortmeier-Hooper

Third Advisor

Marcos Del Hierro


This dissertation explores how and why scholars in Rhetoric and Composition, who study religious topics, choose to disclose (or not) their positionalities in relation to their research. Included in this investigation are scholars of atheist rhetorics, as well. Through interviews with scholars of religious topics in Rhetoric and Composition and textual analysis of religiously-based academic scholarship in the field, I explore the situations and contexts in which scholars feel most comfortable disclosing their positionalities and how they do so. Furthermore, I examine why some scholars choose not to disclose their positionalities in particular instances.

Drawing upon queer theory and “coming out” discourse, I make connections between the language my participants use to express their positionality disclosures in relation to religious research topics. From here, I discuss the nature of scholars to seek “allies” and to establish a sense ethos in their positionality disclosures. Finally, I consider the defensive posturing some scholars assume during positionality disclosure as a means of managing public (audience) perception about a particular religious identity and how that identity pertains to the discloser.

This dissertation illustrates that in the growing subfield of religious studies in Rhetoric and Composition, scholars of religious topics fear discrimination within the academy for disclosing their religious positionalities. Through interviews with several scholars and an analysis of several scholarly publications, this dissertation interrogates disclosure practices within the subfield of religious rhetorics. Ultimately, I argue that simply calling for positionality disclosure critically overlooks the fears religious scholars have of being perceived as intolerant, anti-intellectual, and/or politically conservative and the how these fears complicate a scholar’s sense of power, status, and comfort in the academic context. Furthermore, I argue for a more nuanced understanding of the struggles scholars in this area of research face and for the development of best practices for scholars to safely continue pursuing their work and for the continued expansion of this subfield.