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Jacqueline Kerr

Jacqueline KerrSixth-Year Doctoral Student (in 2017-18)
Department of English
Project: Mapping the Rhetorical Tectonics of Place in Regional and Local Discourses of Hydraulic Fracturing

In the national debate over hydraulic fracturing (fracking), pro- and anti-fracking discourses tend to depict a flattened, homogenous American public that shares the same beliefs, values, and experiences with fracking. To unflatten the rhetorical landscape and flesh out the dimensions of place in regional and local discourses of fracking, my dissertation centers on a case study of Vernal, Utah – an historically boom-and-bust town in northeastern Utah struggling financially amidst the recent downturn in the gas and oil industry and dealing with a controversy over the possible link between pollution from fracking and the town’s escalating infant mortality rate. Drawing on archival materials and interviews with 13 residents and government officials, this project offers insight into the lived experiences of residents in a fracked town. Their stories illustrate the necessity of considering the intricate rhetorical dimensions of place in people’s beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and actions toward complex environmental issues like fracking.

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