An epideictic event: The rhetoric of birthday messages among African diaspora communities

  • Anthony Naaeke


There are several scholarly articles on birthdays or sentimental messages within a ceremonial context arguing that epideictic rhetoric has the potential  for civic contribution or activism (Sheard, 1996; Agnew, 2008; Richards, 2009; Bostdorf & Ferris, 2014). While some scholars have analyzed the birthday  cake or sentimental messages in greeting cards (Keith, 2009: D’Angelo,1992) or social media (Morris, 2014), none has focused specifically on the  persuasive discourse, verbal or nonverbal, in birthday celebrations among the African diaspora. This paper covers the gap by arguing that there are  several levels of rhetorical discourse encapsulated in the birthday discourse among African diaspora, often with personal and public persuasive  implications. The paper explored the meaning of epideictic or ceremonial rhetoric in classical rhetoric and using cultural criticism, analyzed the discourse  in selected birthday celebrations among African diaspora in the United States of America and Canada published on YouTube and drew some conclusions  about the personal and public effects of birthday discourse among the African diaspora. The paper chose cultural criticism as the unit of analysis  because, as Harp observes culture permeates all aspects of communication (Hart 1997) and the beliefs, thoughts, values, myths, language, and  experiences of the African diaspora influence why and how Africans in the diaspora celebrate birthdays.   


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eISSN: 1596-9231