Hello! Welcome to my website for WRTG-101 with professor Hunter Hoskins at American University. Throughout my website, I have published many works that express my thoughts and opinions on a variety of different topics, with a primary focus on rhetorical networks, and how they surround us in everything we see, do, read, think about, and so on.
However, throughout the entire semester, I have spent the majority of my time researching a location featured in Ruben Castaneda’s book, S Street Rising; the chosen location being The Dupont Circle Club, a non-profit organization that works to assist people in eliminating substance addictions. While analyzing the club, I considered rhetorical aspects and networks hidden behind the interior, exterior, historical, cultural, and even political properties of the club. Overall, I think that this final project of analyzing this organization was much more interesting than I had ever imagined it could be, but more importantly, the project has really opened my eyes to the rhetoric of space and place, especially in D.C.. Below are several links to different pages on my website concerning my final built environmental analysis project. Please enjoy.
Before I begin my rhetorical discussion on The Dupont Circle Club, I would like to first give some background information on Dupont Circle. The actual Dupont Circle we know today began construction in 1871, under the U.S. Corps of Engineers (nps.gov). Originally called, “Pacific Circle”, congress authorized the construction of a memorial statue of Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont, in recognition of his Civil War service; The statue was erected in 1884, and is the source of the circle’s current name (nps.gov). However, the statue has since been demolished, and replaced with a white marble fountain. Within several years of the construction of the statue, Dupont Circle quickly became a popular location for more affluent people to reside in, even hosting the home former United States president, Woodrow Wilson (I discuss this in an annotated bibliography here).
The entirety of Dupont Circle was not home to affluent citizens however, with most residential areas of the neighborhood being comprised of middle-class row houses, built for working individuals. Throughout the years, the neighborhood has gotten more and more diverse, housing thousands of people of different backgrounds, and thus being viewed as one of D.C.’s most vibrant neighborhoods. In fact, today, Dupont Circle is often referred to as, “the home of the LGBT community in D.C.,” and hosts the Capital Pride Festival every June, in support of LGBT pride. Additionally, Dupont also hosts the High Heel Drag Queen Race every October, in support of drag queen culture and pride. Given all of this, it is safe to say that Dupont Circle is a very spirited and diverse area of D.C.. In fact, Washington Post uploaded an amazing video to Youtube, interviewing different people that live in or near Dupont Circle; it is a great video, and I recommend you watch it!
Additionally, I would like to provide a link to a fantastic Prezi presentation about Dupont Circle and the LGBT community. Please note that the presentation is in no way my own work! The presentation is the work of a former WRTG-101 student, who, along with my current professor, gave me permission to provide a link to the publicly-uploaded presentation. You can view the presentation here. It may give you more insight and information about Dupont Circle, and I highly recommend you check it out.
All in all and from what it comes down to, Dupont Circle has earned the reputation of being one of D.C.’s most notorious neighborhoods, with its rich culture and countless attractions. However, the neighborhood still has a “dark side” that most people never see, which I will discuss in this essay.
Essay 2: Mapping Commonplaces
The Dupont Circle Club is a non-profit organization, located at 1623 Connecticut Avenue, NW, that hosts a wide variety of support groups (ranging from alcoholics-anonymous to drug related support groups) in hopes of assisting people in recovering from substance addictions. Primarily, the hosted support groups tend to follow 12-step recovery plans that have been scientifically proven to be extremely effective in curing people of their substance addictions, although every hosted group’s method may be slightly different than another’s. The club operates all year round in an effort to, “offer the hope that things can get better,” and has a great location, centralized in D.C.. Being just one block away from Dupont Circle, the club is easily accessible via the metro red line, is right across the street from a metro bus station, and even has limited street parking available. Within a ten minute walk radius of the club, there is a variety of shops, galleries, restaurants, lounges, and even a yoga studio; most of these local business are promoted by the club.
In short, there is some background information on The Dupont Circle Club, what and where it is, and how the organization takes action in order to achieve its goal of helping people. However this essay’s purpose lies in uncovering a rhetorical network between a commonplace (which can be physical or nonphysical) and its connection to the club, in hopes of shining light on a, “topos,” or theme of sorts that the club shares with this said commonplace.
To start with, while out on a trip I took to visit the club, I was walking around the Dupont Circle neighborhood, and I noticed tons of small alleyways that were secluded and ominous (I discussed this in my digital archives here). Just walking by most of these alleyways, I saw people smoking (both cigarettes and drugs), people openly drinking alcohol, homeless people begging for money, and even noticed people spray-painting (graffiti) the sides of buildings (I also mentioned this in my digital archives here). From what I can say, the experience was eye-opening since it made me realize that there is a darker side to not only Dupont Circle, but to D.C. itself. The Dupont Circle neighborhood is often viewed as one of the more affluent and admirable areas of D.C., but from what I witnessed, there is a lot that goes on everyday that isn’t exactly common knowledge.
I believe that the Dupont Circle Club directly aims to limit these kinds of activities, by assisting those who use substances to cope with problems in life, which is why I am choosing to rhetorically link these numerous alleyways (which, for this specific purpose, will collectively act as the commonplace related to the club) to The Dupont Circle Club.
Also worth mentioning, America is currently facing an unfortunate rise in the number of people abusing substances to either fight illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder, or just for recreational use (which actually often leads to the aforementioned illnesses, thus creating a cycle). Specifically, the two most commonly used substances that are on the rise in America are alcohol, and certain opioids such as heroin. In fact, in the last year or so, many videos have surfaced online that show people being found unconscious in random places after overdosing on heroin; the video below, published by TomoNews US, may be disturbing to some but contains numerous clips of these unfortunate occurrences.
These overdoses are continually rising in the United States, with more than six out of ten overdosing deaths involving opioids (cdc.gov). Additionally, it is a macabre statistic, but every year, approximately ninety-one Americans die from overdosing on opioids, which is a number that has quadrupled since 1999, and continues to rise yearly (cdc.go). Again, since The Dupont Circle Club’s primary objective is to assist substance abusers in eliminating their use altogether, I argue that this current rise in the use of substances in America also contributes to the rhetorical network.
Now referring back to the alleyways of Dupont Circle, I believe that they are all collectively a commonplace that is rhetorically connected to The Dupont Circle Club, because it is fair to assume that these nooks n’ crannies often serve as spots for people to use or sell substances; so, in other words, the club tries to stop what is going on in the alleyways nearby it, but those occurrences in turn are what keep the club operational and allow it to receive donations (since most people eventually turn to organizations for help). It is a complicated network, where two things are somewhat working against each other, but still depend on each other in a unique way. Although drugs and alcohol are often discreetly consumed in these hidden pathways, there are still other matters to consider when discussing them. For example, the amount of graffiti visible on the sides of buildings.
To better put things into perspective, ever wonder why you never see this kind of spray-painted vandalism on the front of buildings while driving or walking by? I hardly ever do, except when walking through these types of alleyways. So who is to say that substances (whether legal or illegal) cannot be used or exchanged in these hidden paths between and behind buildings? It is without a doubt that these things occur every day in D.C., and without proper surveillance either from police force, or from something such as CCTV, these remote locations serve as commonplaces for crime, or for substance abuse. In fact, in an annotated bibliography which you can find here, I discuss an article I had read about a violent crime that took place close to Dupont Circle years ago, where a man was found attempting to hide a gun underneath a garbage bin in an alleyway.
Moving on, below is an interactive map that I made using Google Maps. From my research conducted while visiting the Dupont Circle area, combined with the help of Google Earth, I was able to map out all of the alleyways, backroads, pathways, etc., within the region officially designated as the Dupont Circle District. I made this in hopes of better showing how this network of paths is collectively much more relevant than most people currently believe, and to show how this collectiveness fabricates the commonplace that I am rhetorically connecting to The Dupont Circle Club. It is important to understand however, that I am not suggesting that every single pathway is a commonplace where people go to drink and/or use substances, but rather, suggesting that based off of what I have personally witnessed and also read about, it is fair to assume that many of these pathways likely have been, or will be used at some point to consume or exchange substances (and therefore being the ones that connect to the club).
Some people may just see a bunch of random lines mapped in between buildings and streets. However, this course has really changed my thought process regarding these kinds of things, and so personally, I see a rhetorical network of relating commonplaces that connect to The Dupont Circle Club. What do you see?
Moving on again, part of Jenny Rice‘s, “Keep Austin Weird,” example moreover relates to the commonplaces that I am describing, wherein she describes different types of rhetors in the city of Austin, Texas, and things such as their different purposes, audiences, and so on. Check out the chart below for a visual representation of her ideas.
As you can see, Rice actually refers to local graffiti artists as an example of a rhetor, and thus describes them more in depth. Similar to my example, I am arguing that The Dupont Circle Club organization is a rhetor, with a purpose is of eliminating its clients’ abuse of substances, while its audience is really anybody who is interested in the subject; whether it be people like myself conducting research, potential, current, or past clients of the club, or even just pedestrians walking by the building or the alleyways in Dupont Circle.
Similar to the above diagram, below is one that I made to visually showcase the rhetorical network that I am describing.
All in all, what I am mainly trying to prove is that there is an obvious connection between my aforementioned commonplace, and The Dupont Circle Club. Usually, people tend to think of a connection between two things as that which allows them to support each other, or at least coexist; and from what I have uncovered here, I think that this connection is certainly unusual, but no different. I slightly touched up on this earlier, but the commonplace and the club depend on each other since the commonplace (unfortunately) brings people together at times to partake in certain actions, consequently bringing the same types of people together to support each other in club meetings. It is a network embodied not only D.C., but in nearly every other city in the United States. Furthermore, the subject of whether or not certain substances are acceptable in society is very controversial, especially when discussing substances such as alcohol and marijuana; however, I think that most would agree that substance abuse is not acceptable, and certain substances such as heroin are not acceptable altogether. Therefore, I am shining light on the fact that people who either use unacceptable substances, or any substance in excess (whether it be in the commonplace or not) eventually rely on services such as the club, thus completing the embodied network. Lastly, I would like to say that I hope that you now have an understanding and interest of a rhetorical network that you may have never even thought about or knew existed in the first place. I believe that the, “topos,” in this network can best be described in one word: reliance. Substance abusers find reliance in the collective commonplace, and then often find reliance in a supportive organization like The Dupont Circle Club.
With all that has been said, I would like to end on a more positive note. Although I do believe there is a “dark side,” of Dupont Circle, with countless alleyways hiding things away from most people, there is still hope for a better social space. Similar to how I discussed David Fleming‘s hopefulness for the future in the concluding section of his book, City of Rhetoric, in my reading analysis 5, the future of D.C. seems to be getting brighter. For instance, reporter Dan Reed wrote a great article for Washingtonian, discussing the countless alleyways and hidden pathways in D.C. which are now being restored and transformed into small, walkable markets and places for artistic murals. You can access his article here. It is an article that personally brought some hope to me, and maybe one day another article will be similarly written, but will instead discuss how nearly every single alleyway in D.C. and other major cities in America has been converted into something that betters our society’s social space.
Taking everything into consideration, I would like to conclude with a summarization of few key points that I have previously discussed. The first being that after taking this course, it has made me realize that although at some times you have to, “dig deep,” to understand certain connections, everything in life has a rhetorical purpose in some way, and is therefore a part of a rhetorical network that may be just waiting to be discovered. That being said, it makes me wonder if I am the first person to ever uncover the rhetorical network that I have analyzed throughout this page, and if one day someone may add to it even more than I already have. Moving on, the second point I want to discuss is that my uncovered network, containing The Dupont Circle Club and the collective commonplace and, “topos,” is one that was fashioned based off of my own perspective, and that others may analyze the same way as I did, or different; but that is what makes these things so intriguing, given the fact that the possibilities are endless. Lastly, I would like to say that although much of this project may have focused on negative characteristics of D.C. and America, there will still always be hope for a future of a D.C. and America with better social spaces, and more positive rhetorical networks waiting to be discovered.
Thank you for visiting my website!