Buddhists have a practice known as “sharing the merit,” which provides an opportunity to pause and acknowledge all the teachers, friends, and fellow travelers who have contributed to the cultivation of one’s own wisdom. Sharing the merit also affords one the chance to recognize past mistakes, to take stock of one’s present place on the path, and to offer whatever fruits have been harvested thus far for the benefit and well-being of all. This is not a book that claims to have figured out, once and for all, a solution to the challenging issues it addresses. But as an offering to the larger conversation about possible steps forward, I hope it is of some value. To the degree that it is, I share that merit with the many teachers, friends, and fellow travelers who have helped me along the way. Because writing this book was a slow process for me, I have undoubtedly overlooked some names, which I regret. Any oversights or errors in its content are wholly my own.
My sincerest thanks to the hundreds of students at University of Georgia and University of Washington with whom I thought through some of the ideas expressed in these pages. A deep thank-you to my teachers and friends at Willamette University and Penn State for enlivening in me a love for the study of rhetoric and the scholarly life. Thank you to my colleagues at University of Washington for providing me a cherished intellectual home for the past decade. In particular, thank you to Leah Ceccarelli, LeiLani Nishime, and Ralina Joseph, who gave insightful feedback on various iterations of these chapters. UW’s Royalty Research Fund provided much-needed financial resources. UW’s Whiteley Center, a beautiful retreat space on San Juan Island, provided a quiet place to work and the company of the local deer as I finished the book. David Domke and the communication department at UW offered additional research support, for which I’m grateful.
Many graduate students have provided valuable assistance, including Lisa Slawter, Brian Cozen, Elodie Fichet, Sam Woolley, Luyue Ma, K. C. Lynch, and Josh Losoya. Thank you to Dominic Muren for conversations that inspired me greatly during the early stages of this project. Thank you to artists Andy Singer, Jeff Carter, Bethan Laura Wood, and Hyerim Shin, who all graciously permitted me to use their work, and to the Duke University Press, which permitted me to include portions of an article I wrote on Target published in Public Culture. Thank you to Kevin DeLuca, Scott Palmer, and Maria Klots for their enduring friendship. Thank you to Jason Weidemann, editorial director at the University of Minnesota Press, who has seen me through two books now, always with kindness, patience, and rigor.
Finally, and above all, thank you to Ken Rufo. He encouraged me when I was ready to chuck the whole thing. He helped untangle the stickiest knots in my argument. He showed me new conceptual lenses that brought things into focus. My whole-hearted gratitude to Ken for these and so many other things.
This book is dedicated to my children, Lainie, Josephine, and Liam. A person couldn’t ask for better fellow travelers on the path.