My research program is primarily concerned with rhetoric surrounding homelessness and poverty in the United States. I supplement traditional rhetorical analysis with qualitative methods like interviews and focus groups to conduct this research.
My dissertation used rhetorical circulation as a lens through which to examine the spread of Housing First -- a popular policy response to "chronic" homelessness. In it, I analyzed rhetoric across multiple levels of government via a variety of texts, including video of community meetings, newspaper articles, advocacy materials produced by non-profit organizations, and interviews I conducted with more than 20 people involved in the spread of this policy.
May 2015 - August 2016, I also worked as a project assistant on "Trust in Research, Trust in Relationships: How State Legislators Acquire and Use Research in Deliberation," a study funded by the William T. Grant Foundation. I assisted with project design, conducted face to face interviews with Wisconsin state legislators, processed interview data, and produced analysis of the interviews and accompanying legislative hearings. The project's primary investigators are Robert Asen and Karen Bogenschneider, both of University of Wisconsin - Madison.

"Moving Beyond Validity in Rhetorical Studies." (forthcoming). Annals of the International Communication Association. co-authored with Emily Sauter and Daniel Cronn-Mills.

"Reconsidering Symbolic Use: A Situational Model of the Use of Research Evidence in Polarised Legislative Hearings." (2019). Evidence & Policy Vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 525-541. co-authored with Robert Asen.

"'Expensive' People: Consumer Citizenship and the Construction of Neoliberal Publics." (2018). Communication and the Public Vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 190-204.

"When Homelessness Becomes a 'Luxury': Neutrality as an Obstacle to Counterpublic Rights Claims." (2017). Quarterly Journal of Speech Vol. 103, no. 3, pp. 230-250.

“Tokenism and Cultural (Mis)Recognition in ‘The Man with the Golden Voice.’” (2017). Howard Journal of Communications Vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 217-233.

Book Reviews

Review of Homeless Advocacy and the Rhetorical Construction of the Civic Home by Melanie Loehwing. (2020). Quarterly Journal of Speech Vol. 106, no. 1.

Review of The Presidents and the Poor: America Battles Poverty, 1964-2017 by Lawrence J. McAndrews. (2019). The Journal of Interdisciplinary History Vol. 50, no. 2, pp. 301-302.

Review of Distant Publics: Development Rhetoric and the Subject of Crisis

by Jenny Rice. (2014). Rhetoric and Public Affairs Vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 358-361.


Review of Queer Youth Suicide, Culture and Identity: Unliveable Lives? by Rob Cover. (2014). QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking Vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 216-218.

Research Interests
  • How advocacy messages move through (and/or are obstructed in) public policymaking processes.
  • How local communities negotiate policy controversy via public deliberation.
  • Research use in advocacy and policymaking.
  • Popular media representations of homelessness and poverty.
  • The intersections of gender, sexuality, race, class, etc., in representations of homelessness.
  • Public sphere theory, deliberative theory, social movements + activist rhetoric, and more.

© 2019 by Whitney Gent