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Dissociation is a rhetorical device in which the speaker separates a notion considered by the audience to form a unitary concept into two new notions. Kathryn Olson, Director of the Rhetorical Leadership Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, explains that by doing this, the speaker fundamentally changes the reality of the thought system in question by creating a disjunction between what was an integrated concept to begin with. According to M.A. Van Rees, dissociation is a two step process of distinction and definition: distinction divides a single concept into two new notions for the audience and definition replaces the original term or concept with two new terms, each with their own definitions.
This process is rhetorically effective when a rhetor presents a particular concept in a light that is favorable to the his/her interests by dissociating a term with any notions that do not serve the rhetor's purpose. According to Øyvind Ihlen, the rhetor attempts to "remove an incompatibility that arises from confrontation between propositions" to better affect an audience's beliefs. Defining a situation through dissociation, when done correctly, authoritatively declares the two resulting concepts distinct and rules out any further argument.
- Van Rees, M.A. "Strategic Maneuvering with Dissociation." Argumentation 20.4 (2006): 473-487. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.
- Olson, Kathryn M. "The Role of Dissociation in Redeeming Knowledge Claims: Nineteenth-Century Shakers' Epistemological Resistance to Decline." Philosophy & Rhetoric 28.1 (1995): 45-68. JSTOR. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
- Ihlen, Øyvind. "Rhetoric and resources: notes for a new approach to public relations and issues management." Journal of Public Affairs 2.4 (2002): 259-269. Wiley Online Library. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
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