Title

Redemptive exclusion: A case study of Nikki Haley's rhetoric on Syrian refugees

Abstract

This essay identifies and explicates a key rhetorical form-"redemptive exclusion"-underlying former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley's efforts to defend barring Syrian refugees from American soil. Through a reliance on ethotic prolepsis, the rhetorical form of redemptive exclusion enables the creation of a transcendent perspective that reconciles seemingly opposite contemporary cultural and political rhetorics: xenophobic discourses of exclusion become coarticulated with the mythic promise of an America open to all. We show how Haley's rhetoric combines antithetical gestures of inclusion and exclusion by interweaving synecdochic narratives of her own immigrant history; hyperbolic narratives of American benevolence toward immigrants; and stereotypical narratives of terrorist identity that preempt the acceptance of Syrian refugees as even potentially American. We argue that Haley converts the rejection of Syrian refugees from American soil into an opportunity for constraining and qualifying the mythic ideal of the United States as an historical beacon for immigrants around the globe. In the conclusion, we suggest that a close study of how redemptive exclusion takes life in Haley's discourse offers more general lessons about the rhetorical and ideological character of controversies over U.S. immigration policy.

Publication Title

Rhetoric and Public Affairs

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