Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2015

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Wendy Atkins-Sayre

Committee Chair Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 2

Ashley Mack

Committee Member 2 Department

Communication Studies

Committee Member 3

Steven Venette

Committee Member 3 Department

Communication Studies

Abstract

In this thesis, I argue that the A21 Campaign’s discourse mobilizes Christian affect to produce relational proximity between audience members and human trafficking victims. My study intervenes in related literature surrounding Burke’s (1969) idea of identification by acknowledging that discourse can invite audiences to feel relationally close to or empathetic with others in the absence of consubstantiation. Relying on Gould’s (2009) notion of the mobilization of affect, I contend that unconscious, Christian affective investments are mobilized within A21’s rhetoric through the covert deployment of evangelical tropes that register with Christians’ affective desires and encourage believers to act as Christ or “saviors.” Specifically, this analysis unveils three ways in which Christian affect is covertly mobilized. First, the campaign uses coded Christian language and tropes to appeal to believers’ religious values, constituting an evangelical public willing to affectively invest in the non-profit. Secondly, victims’ experiences are personalized to prime audiences to empathize with sex slaves, viewing themselves as relationally proximal to the trafficked “other.” Lastly, audiences are positioned as “saviors” who are encouraged to fulfill their role as Christ followers by taking action to support the A21 Campaign. Together, these strategies function to invite Christians to embrace the taboo topic of sex slavery within the sacred setting of the church, beckoning believers to further the social movement based on their religious convictions.

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