Rhetoric, Ebola, and Vaccination: A Conversation Among Scholars

Authors: Jennifer L Scott (Shawnee State University) , Kristin E Kondrlik (Case Western Reserve University) , Heidi Y Lawrence (George Mason University) , Susan L. Popham (University of Memphis) , Candice A Welhausen (University of Delaware)

  • Rhetoric, Ebola, and Vaccination: A Conversation Among Scholars


    Rhetoric, Ebola, and Vaccination: A Conversation Among Scholars

    Authors: , , , ,


Five scholars who study the rhetoric of health and medicine share our diverse perspectives on the Ebola outbreak that began in West Africa in March 2014. Using a unique multi-vocal approach, we raise questions for future research on the rhetoric of vaccines and vaccination, such as the role of visualizations in risk perception, the individuation of blame, the role of genres in vaccine development, and the rhetorical presence of material conditions that promote disease transmission. Our overall goal is to initiate scholarly conversation about Ebola specifically and about outbreaks and vaccine development generally. Through our conversation, we explore subjects such as risk perception and data visualization, individuation of blame, genre systems, and the materiality of outbreaks. Together, our analyses suggest that vaccines, while a highly effective means of disease prevention, can also function rhetorically to draw attention away from the broad array of material and socioeconomic conditions that lead from a single infection to an outbreak. But by investigating what is revealed, what is concealed, who is blamed, and who is exonerated in discourses about vaccines and outbreaks, rhetoricians can contribute to the development of effective—and ethical—medical and communicative interventions.

Keywords: rhetoric, communication, health, medicine, Ebola, vaccine, risk, genre

How to Cite:

Scott, J. L. & Kondrlik, K. E. & Lawrence, H. Y. & Popham, S. L. & Welhausen, C. A., (2015) “Rhetoric, Ebola, and Vaccination: A Conversation Among Scholars”, Poroi 11(2), p.1-26. doi:

Rights: Copyright © 2015 Jennifer L. Scott, Kristin E. Kondrlik, Heidi Y. Lawrence, Susan L. Popham, and Candice A. Welhausen

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Published on
18 Dec 2015
Peer Reviewed
CC BY 3.0