As we discovered in class during the bug, vegetable, mom activity (you know the one where I told you to write or draw these things on a piece of paper and most everyone refused to step on "Mom"), symbols have power beyond being merely well symbols (a symbol is something that represents an idea, actual thing or process, but is not the idea, thing, or process itself). We ascribe meaning to symbolic things and sometimes come to see those symbols as representing the thing in itself (e.g. responses such as "I'm not stepping on my mom!"). One of the definitions of rhetoric that I offered was the study of human symbolic activity. Rhetoric is interested in symbolic activity for this exact reason - symbols come to stand in for real things and we go to a lot of effort to preserve symbols. In their blog No Caption Needed, Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites analyze visual rhetoric and how it relates to democracy and citizenship. In this brief post, they discuss the use of symbols in protest and how they come to stand in for something else. Here is the link:
Questions to consider:
1. Can you think of some other examples of symbols and what they represent and what happens when these symbols are threatened/distorted/changed? (For example, in class I mentioned how burning the American flag is a symbolic act that evokes very strong responses from people because its seen as unpatriotic.)
2. What do you think is Hariman and Lucaites' criticism(s) of the broom protest in Brazil? What is the broom protest standing in for?
3. Why do symbols matter?
4. What happens when symbols come to stand in for social protest/change/revolution?