Samantha (Sam) Plasencia

Profile picture for Samantha (Sam) Plasencia

Contact Information

338 English Building
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Hours

Monday, Wednesday 2:15-3:15
Graduate Student

Research Interests

  • African American Studies to 1900; 18th & 19th Century American Socio-Political History and Literature; Theory and Criticism; Semiology/Rhetoric
  • The Black Radical Tradition; Black Literature and Culture; Black Political Theory; Political Aesthetics; Political Theology; Print Culture Studies; Critical Race Theory; Liberation Pedagogies; Critical Whiteness Studies

My research interests are motivated by a theoretical concern with how language shapes perception and the psycho-somatic experience of reality. How are our behaviors rhetorically motivated? How are these constitutive processes directed by anti-black apparatuses and institutions of power? How may they be redirected towards revolution? My orientation towards language is transdisciplinary, and so my work traverses the categories of thought and research that organize contemporary higher education.

Research Description

My dissertation project, Signifying Against Anti-blackness: Black Rhetoric in Early African American Writing, claims that many early black writers were also meta-linguistic theorists of signification. Their work elucidates the relationship between language, perception, and behavior in order to demonstrate how dominant grammars generate violent anti-black conduct and then cognitively and morally repress that violence through abstract signifiers. Practicing Black Rhetoric disrupts the suppressive protocols of this discursive apparatus through a historically materialist rhetoric that re-articulates relations of power. For practitioners, Black Rhetoric offers a way to signify without being subjectivized by dominant discourses. For readers, Black Rhetoric is pedagogical: it reminds us that language is contingent and associative—not bound by referents—and thus directs us towards ways we can abandon the ontological constraints imposed by dominant forms of signification.


  • PhD., English, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (expected 2020)
  • M.A., English, University of Florida (2011)
  • B.A., English, Women and Gender Studies, Rutgers University (2008)

Courses Taught

  • Early African American Literature
  • Introduction to Fiction
  • TA for English 255: Survey of American Literature I
  • Survey of British Literature
  • Rhetoric 105 Composition and Research
  • Rhetoric 101: Principles of Writing
  • Rhetoric 102: Principles of Research
  • BTW 250