The ecosystem of service: a rhetorical analysis and proposed cross-disciplinary approach for language surrounding service work

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Corrine Elise Easley (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Beth Huber

Abstract: Though undoubtedly a noble pursuit, service to others is not immune to the corrosive effects of power structures, unexamined bias, and institutionalized marginalization. This thesis searches for solutions to potentially ineffective and even harmful service by exploring the language employed in four historical spheres of service in the United States: religion, business, government, and higher education. These spheres each have their own term for service: charity, philanthropy, welfare, and civic engagement/service-learning respectively. Using rhetorical and pedagogical theory from Kenneth Burke, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Paulo Freire I analyze writing and speeches from key contributors to these service spheres. This analysis demonstrates the immense impact language has on thought and action surrounding our approaches to service. It also becomes clear throughout the paper that there is an interconnection between the service threads, regardless of their efforts to remain separate. These threads form a web, or ecosystem, that thrives when the distinct service spheres interact and cooperate. The paper concludes with a case study that aims to combine service approaches from differing spheres, in which I facilitated and collected data from intentional reflection activities with short-term mission trip groups in order to rhetorically analyze their language choices surrounding the marginalized populations they served.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
charity, engagement, philanthropy, rhetoric, service, welfare
Social service -- United States
Service learning -- United States
Rhetoric -- United States

Email this document to