Bradford Vivian


Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences,
Director of the Center for Democratic Deliberation in Penn State's McCourtney Institute for Democracy


  • Politics & Policy

Focus Areas:

  • American Politics
  • Ethics Education
  • Historical Commemoration
  • Politics


  • Vivian can speak to how people debate and appeal to the collective memory of past events, such as September 11, 2001.
  • His most recent book includes a chapter analyzing debates over the design of the September 11 memorial in NYC and the kind of messages it tries to communicative to visitors today—so any of my comments on this subject matter are shaped to a large degree by long-term research for that chapter.

Bradford Vivian’s research focuses on theories of rhetoric and public controversies over collective memories of past events. Vivian is the author of “Commonplace Witnessing: Rhetorical Invention, Historical Remembrance, and Public Culture” (Oxford University Press), “Public Forgetting: The Rhetoric and Politics of Beginning Again” (Penn State Press) and “Being Made Strange: Rhetoric beyond Representation” (SUNY Press). He is also co-editor, with Anne Teresa Demo, of “Rhetoric, Remembrance, and Visual Form: Sighting Memory” (Routledge). Vivian’s work has also appeared in such journals as the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Philosophy and Rhetoric, Rhetoric and Public Affairs, History and Memory, and Rhetoric Society Quarterly.

In The Media

To Appreciate Black History, Let Go of Confederate Nostalgia

from The Daily Beast February 8, 2019

"As I’ve shown in my research, sometimes communities decide that previously beloved narratives of the past have become divisive and deserve to be set aside. People often attempt to resolve conflicts rooted in history by adopting an attitude of forgetting. " - Bradford Vivian

"Lincoln's description of the Union as a house divided is well-remembered today. But many Americans fail to heed its deeper lessons about equality and the moral foundations of popular government." - Bradford Vivian

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