Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric and Technical Communication (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Humanities


Patricia J Sotirin


This dissertation explores the viability of invitational rhetoric as a mode of advocacy for sustainable energy use in the residential built environment. The theoretical foundations for this study join ecofeminist concepts and commitments with the conditions and resources of invitational rhetoric, developing in particular the rhetorical potency of the concepts of re-sourcement and enfoldment. The methodological approach is autoethnography using narrative reflection and journaling, both adapted to and developed within the autoethnographic project.

Through narrative reflection, the author explores her lived experiences in advocating for energy-responsible residential construction in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. The analysis reveals the opportunities for cooperative, collaborative advocacy and the struggle against traditional conventions of persuasive advocacy, particularly the centrality of the rhetor. The author also conducted two field trips to India, primarily the state of Kerala. Drawing on autoethnographic journaling, the analysis highlights the importance of sensory relations in lived advocacy and the resonance of everyday Indian culture to invitational principles.

Based on field research, the dissertation proposes autoethnography as a critical development in encouraging invitational rhetoric as an alternative mode of effecting change. The invitational force of autoethnography is evidenced in portraying the material advocacy of the built environment itself, specifically the sensual experience of material arrangements and ambience, as well as revealing the corporeality of advocacy, that is, the body as the site of invitational engagement, emotional encounter, and sensory experience.

This study concludes that vulnerability of self in autoethnographic work and the vulnerability of rhetoric as invitational constitute the basis for transformation. The dissertation confirms the potential of an ecofeminist invitational advocacy conveyed autoethnographically for transforming perceptions and use of energy in a smaller-scale residential environment appropriate for culture, climate, and ultimately part of the challenge of sustaining life on this planet.