Professor Patia joined the Department of Rhetoric Studies in 2016. Her research focuses on the agitation or social movement activity of marginalized individuals and collectivities, and she is engaged in scholarly conversations on the roles of citizenship and social protest in democracy, as well as critical studies of race, gender, class, and sexuality.
Professor Patia examines how power is challenged and maintained through rhetorical and communicative processes. She explores these relationships of power and difference through primarily historical rhetorical efforts by marginalized individuals and groups to create a more just world and by the powerful who would maintain and expand the discriminatory policies of the status quo. The aim of Professor Patia's work is to clarify the role of rhetoric in social change, and specifically what democratic rhetorical practices tell us about how we should live in the world. These insights not only contribute to rhetorical criticism and theory, but also have the potential to influence how we think about contemporary activism based around issues of race, gender, sexuality, and (im)migration.
In her dissertation, Democratic Visions: The Rhetoric, Faith, and Activism of W.E.B. Du Bois and Jane Addams, Professor Patia analyzes the written and oral discourses of Du Bois and Addams, as well as their agitation for social justice. Her dissertation asks: How do activists, marginalized by difference, express "faith" in a more equitable or just future? John Dewey notably described democracy as "a way of life" that rested on "a working faith in the possibilities of human nature." Years before Dewey, Du Bois and Addams both articulated a faith in people that makes democracy in deed rather than democracy as mere creed possible. Professor Patia explore Du Bois' and Addams' understanding of "democratic faith" through analysis of their speeches, essays, books, letters, and exchanges with other activists and intellectuals in their networks. She argues that democratic faith is an affirmative response to moments of political contingency. Professor Patia's dissertation engages the work of Du Bois and Addams to offer a vision of democratic faith and its rhetoric as related attempts to manage contingency by abiding with uncertainty in pursuit of a goal.
At Whitman, Professor Patia teaches courses in public address, public speaking, and social movements. She teaches special topics courses in rhetoric on immigration and border discourses that are cross-listed with Whitman's Race and Ethnic Studies Program.