Critical Communication History| Religious Rhetoric(s) of the African Diaspora: Using Oral History to Study HIV/AIDS, Community, and Rhetorical Interventions

Christopher A. House


As oral performances, HIV/AIDS sermons across the African diaspora are transitory, but ministers’ memories and those of their parishioners are not. This poses the problem, for communication historians, of recovering this significant rhetorical activity. This study does so by using oral history interviews with Black Protestant church leaders in three AIDS-stricken areas: Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. I discuss how oral history methodology, heretofore underutilized in communication studies, allows me to recover their evanescent rhetorical strategies, underpinnings, and justifications. Specifically, through the use of oral history I argue that church leaders’ religious rhetorics of identification yield interventional strategies and rhetorical resources that create safe spaces for people living with HIV/AIDS and models for future rhetorical interventions to address the crisis.

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