Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Director

Dan Richards

Committee Member

Julia Romberger

Committee Member

Bridget Anderson

Committee Member

Jordynn Jack


Women’s service in the U.S. Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) community began in the 1970s amidst policy changes that opened more active duty roles to women while maintaining restrictions on their access to combat. However, in the past two decades, the changing contexts of war brought the EOD community, and subsequently, these women to the forefront of combat preceding the 2016 policy repeal, positioning these women at a poignant, kairotic moment in history. The exigency of such a project in the field of rhetoric applies to more broadly analyzing the disparities between policy discourse and the lived experiences of individuals who these policies seek to regulate. Their positioning also sheds light on the challenges twenty-first century scholars face in analyzing shifting gender roles in the workplace, with policies advocating for gender equality, which often buries continued gendered ideologies and discourse.

Through the lenses of vibrant materiality, situated knowledge, and cyborg, techno-bodies (Bennett; Haraway; Balsamo), this project argues that in complex, dynamic rhetorical contexts, only analyzing human subjects and their agency and authority is limiting, and instead requires examining through the lens of an assemblage of agency of human and non-human actants that collectively impact rhetorical contexts negatively and positively. The project also theorizes agency and authority as shifting in institutional and cultural networks, existing in complementary and contradictory ways, exemplified through women in EOD articulating they feel authoritative, constrained, and even unintentionally agentic in different rhetorical situations they encounter. While situated knowledge and cyborg, techno-bodies draw attention to disparities between policies and lived experiences and the conflation of material and discursive bodies, these lenses also exemplify how these disparities and the military’s increasing demand for techno-bodies have aided in creating opportunities for women’s increased institutional agency and authority.

The project undertakes a mixed methods approach of qualitative and quantitative data from surveys, available government documents, and other cultural artifacts to create a more triangulated analysis. While this project is rooted in rhetorical, and feminist rhetorical, analyses, its dynamic nature demands using an interdisciplinary approach that pulls from discourse analysis, political, historical and military scholarship and other humanities based feminist scholarship.