Suter Lecture: Lynne Tirrell

Toxic Speech: Resisting Extremist Rhetoric 

Speech can be toxic in many ways, to many degrees, and it can cause a variety of different harms. This talk will focus on the toxic dimensions of right-wing extremist rhetoric, for two purposes. First, to understand its mechanisms, and second to identify ways to resist and promote resistance. My approach focuses on discursive practices rather than one-off speech acts, emphasizing patterns of speech that enact norms shaping how we treat each other, how well we can thrive, and we function as citizens. When a society is besieged by the drumbeat of hate in everyday speech and in political pronouncements, what can the average citizen do? Let’s explore this together, with a clear eye on what is at stake. 

Lynne Tirrell is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut, and also affiliated with UConn’s Gladstein Human Rights Institute.  Her research centers on language, power, and social justice. Her current book, Toxic Speech, is under contract to Oxford University Press.  Tirrell’s early research on hate speech in the USA led to research on the role of changing discursive practices in preparing, inciting, and executing the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda. Notable publications include “Genocidal Language Games” (2012), “Toxic Speech” (2017), “Toxic Speech: Inoculations and Antidotes” (2018), “Discursive Epidemiology: Two Models” (2021).

Zoom: Passcode: Levels


Oct 20, 2023


3:00 pm - 5:00 pm


South Kedzie Hall