Saturday, April 16, 2016

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Closing up the blog ...

Dear All,

As promised, here is a link to the list of questions and approaches we reviewed during Tuesday's class meeting (a stable copy also exists in our course library). As you prepare your RNF presentation for next week, let one or more of these questions or approaches help you to frame how you have negotiated the dual goals of this assignment.

Tomorrow, I will be printing programs for our symposium. If the title you sent me previously is still complete and describes your project, please feel free to let me know that. But do let me know, either way.

As a reminder, I have 17 people confirmed to attend (including the 8 of us), but some of them may leave and arrive at variable times. To be safe, I'd say go ahead and make 17 copies of your handouts, but do accept my apologies in advance if not everyone picks them up.

And finally, please be sensitive to your time frame, rehearse in advance, and plan to deliver the most polished presentation you can. Because we are simulating something like the RNF, I'll ask for professional dress and that you consider a fairly low-context audience (i.e., an audience who may be less familiar with the context of your work and with our course than you would normally assume).

With many thanks and much anticipation and wishes for a productive weekend,
-Dr. Graban

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

4/5 Wrapup: Comparative Rhetorics Symposium and Looking Forward

Dear All,

As promised, here is a link to the table where we made note of driving forces across the Fall 2013 special issue of Rhetoric Society Quarterly (43.3, guest edited by LuMing Mao). If you'd like me to post your preparation notes to Canvas, feel free to send them to me via e-mail.

We will meet in the classroom next week (April 12) for a communal working session, so please bring any materials you need in order to make headway on your RNF projects. We'll have projection if we need it, and whiteboard space, and I can conduct break-out conferences on an individual basis. (Of course, also feel free to seek me out in office hours or an appointment outside of class.)

There is much work to do in preparation for our RNF Symposium on April 19. We have a small audience committed to attend and offer questions and critical feedback on your projects. In addition, I will send a general invitation to the English listservs next week. To date, we can anticipate an audience of 17 people (including ourselves), so do keep that in mind when it comes to providing copies of any handouts.

I'll design a program for the symposium next week and would appreciate having your full titles as soon as possible. I'm also more than happy to help you brainstorm ways to trim or clarify if you're struggling with titular scope.

Finally, here is the general order of speakers and topics that I circulated to our audience earlier today:

3:35-4:35 (10-minute presentation and 10-minute discussion each participant)
  • Andrew Ealum, The Problem of Authenticity in Studies of MesoAmerican Rhetorics
  • Ashley Rea, Listening to the Cross-Cultural Archive 
  • Stephanie Levitt, Rhetoric, Indigeneity, and Legal Discourse

*** 10-minute break ***

4:45-5:45 (10-minute presentation and 10-minute discussion each participant) 
  • Travis Maynard, Re-assembling Assemblage within a Non-Western Framework 
  • Sean McCullough, Listening for Rhetorical “Silence” in How Graphic Novels Write Global Conflict 
  • Meghan Dykema, Questioning Agency in the Circulation of Non-Western Women’s Rights Activism

5:45-6:05 General Q&A and wrap-up

See you next week!
Dr. Graban

Friday, April 1, 2016

Critics of Global Rhetoric Converging and Diverging in the Sky: A Network of Concerns

Exploratory 4 was not really easier to do than the other exploratory projects, but it was the most helpful for me, because it helped me get a better sense of how to go about tackling the dense texts we have been reading for Global Rhetorics. The critics from our readings (Lisa R. Arnold, Marilyn M. Cooper, and Saba Fatima) did not all have the same goals (diverging), but they were all wrestling with similar global rhetoric concerns (converging).

In our "network of concerns," Meghan Dykema and I identified several topics from the Global Rhetorics course and mapped out how the different critics were pursuing those topics, along with critics from last week: Pal Ahluwalia, Kermit E. Campbell, and Richard C. Marback. For this blogpost, however, I will stick to only talking about this week's critics. Our network map was designed like a 2-D model of what could potentially become a 3-D layout of concerns for global rhetoric. Each concern (represented in cloud bubbles) is broad on the surface, but we added notes to make them more clear. We noticed that certain critics were more concerned with certain topics, so not all the critics connect directly to all the topics. Also, just because two critics may connect to the same topic does not mean that both critics have the same goals in mind for said topic.

For instance, for the "Multilingual/Multiliterate Pedagogies" topic, we had both Arnold and Cooper connecting to the cloud bubble. But because of the note boxes on the lines connecting them to the clouds, we reveal they don't necessarily have the same goals for that topic. Arnold's goal is to look into the historical contexts of how the use of different languages has been incorporated in the past to further learning:

"Armed with a sense that composition has a global and multilingual history, we will better be able to provide writers with the rhetorical tools necessary to gain economic, political, cultural, and social power in the places where they live and work.” (Arnold 296)

Cooper's goal is to show how using multiple languages in the classroom might be a better tool for writing composition in the classroom, and enrich student identities:

“[P]edagogy of multiliteracies . . . requires us to rethink the notion of identity, how it is enacted in language use, and also what teachers of college writing tell students about choosing correct or appropriate languages.” (Cooper 87)

These divergences in specific goals do not, however, stop these two critics from converging in thought. Although Arnold's focus is more on looking into the histories of schools (specifically the Syrian Protestant College, 1866–1902) and their multilingual practices for learning, she also recognizes the importance of multilingual learning, like Cooper:

“‘[D]ifference in language’ might be a ‘resource for producing meaning’ rather than an impediment to it[.]” (Arnold 290)

So, the network map we constructed successfully shows how the two critics are both different and alike at the same time. The specific goals of critics set them apart from each other; otherwise, nothing significantly new would come from their research. However, where they converge shows where the globally rhetorical conversation of multiple critics is forming.

Assembling Epistemic Scripts - Ramblings on Epistemic Script as Cultural Unit

It should be no secret to many of you that I am interested in the concept of assemblage. I don’t necessarily think it is a conceptual cure-all or the panacea for composition; however, I do think it is something that should be circulating wider in the field to help us understand and teach the processes of composing. However, part of why I like assemblage so much is just how versatile it is. Sure, it is a process of composing, where we can explicitly assemble a series of citations or samples to form a new text. But assembly as composing process is only the tip of the iceberg, as we can use assemblage as a framework for composing writ large, where we consider a lot more broadly the kinds of pre-existing materials that we draw upon when we compose: whole texts themselves (as in a canon or syllabus), cultural discursive conventions, the actual physical materials of texts, media, and genre conventions, just to name a few. Any given text is an assemblage that explicitly and implicitly relies on what has come before it. I give this overview for those that weren’t in Dr. Yancey’s Convergence class last semester, but it also serves as a starting premise of this blog post: the idea that assemblage is malleable and can encompass different sizes of textual “units.” And ultimately my project is arguing to add another thread to assemblage theory, showing how it could be viable and valuable in approaches to (teaching) composition that prioritize and emphasize the concept of identity.

I made mention in class that I think Fatima’s idea of an epistemic script could give us a way of thinking about identity as assembled, so I’m going to use this post to try and make some of those early connections. So, first things first: if Assemblage isn’t just about samples or citations of words or small bits of audio, but can include larger and smaller units of meaning, then theoretically an “epistemic script” could be one of those units as well; if that were the case, then we could begin to think about how a person’s identity is comprised of the epistemic scripts they carry, temporarily assembled on the body and in the psyche of an individual. But to connect assemblage and identity in this way, we need a stronger understanding of what constitutes epistemic scripts. Fatima, pulling from Alison Bailey, defines scripts as “a person’s gestures, language, attitudes, concept of personal space, gut reactions to certain phenomena, and body awareness” (342). Of course, the cultures of which we are members shape how we believe and how we speak. But, I do not believe that this is an exhaustive list, as this brief list is primarily concerned with things we internalize from our cultures. Instead, I believe that like assemblage, we can open up epistemic scripts to include scripts that are more external. Opening up the idea and scope of epistemic scripts can put it on similar ground as I placed assemblage above, where we can see individual texts, or certain bits of texts, as performing or representing portions of an individual’s identities.

To try to make this connection a little more concrete, I can point to the network that Sean, Ashley, and I designed for our exploratory--specifically, I want to point to just how messy it was. We had a lot of textual data around the perimeter to show all of the points of identity we saw play out in the texts, but when you look toward the center, to all the lines and arrows, that’s where you see how messy identity is, how all of these factors overlap. We are comprised of multiple identities and they emerge and fade as our contexts dictate. And each one of those identities has been substantiated by different scripts we have internalized--whether through action, attitude, or belief. So, something like the loyalty to America script that Fatima points to could be considered an epistemic script. But what does this loyalty “sound” like? What does it “look” like? What does it “act” like? I can’t speak for the Muslim-American loyalty script, but we can build an image of a prototypical “loyal” american. He (and it is definitely a he) probably distrusts any manufactured good that isn’t made in America while he blasts Creedence out of the open windows of his pre-owned Japanese pick up, not at all sensing the irony resonating between his sentiments and choice of vehicle. Even in this small profile, we have a few different scripts at play: internalized xenophobia, resentment at the downturn of american manufacturing, a pick-up truck (with our without bumper stickers, take your pick), and Creedence. What does liking Creedence tell us about this person? Well, it doesn’t tell us anything definitive about him, but it is one script that he has assembled; maybe a Vietnam vet uncle got him into Creedence; but when taken in consideration with the other scripts at play, we can gain a sense of who this example “is.” Of course, it’s hard to locate something like these far-away scripts within a person, but something as small as “likes Creedence” and “drives pickup truck” can take on meaning when placed with others in order to come to something other Americans can recognize as “loyal.” That tangent aside, scripts also become interesting when we reconsider Arnold’s article as ultimately being a dispute over curricula, in which teachers were in conflict about which scripts to impart to their students; inasmuch school acts as enculturation, the choice of entire texts or attitudes to impart becomes a kind of assembly and a kind of scripting, hoping that students take up the scripts we offer them. Thinking about scripts and assemblage like this makes it a bit nebulous because the borders we can draw around any script or semantic unit is ephemeral and may not be as readily recognized as the function they are serving, but I think scripts may be a way to give us a somewhat identifiable unit of identity and connect assemblage to composition’s overarching concern with identity.

Do We Risk Essentializing Global Rhetorical Study by Looking for Common Concerns?

After talking to other students and reading the blog entries that have been posted already, it seems like I might have been in the minority when I read this exploratory prompt and thought it sounded like the most straightforward of the four. For better or worse, as I’ll get into below, I read “create a network of concerns” and felt I had a pretty solid understanding of what that meant and how to approach the task. For me, it meant identifying some concerns from recent class discussions and looking for ways that the authors took up those concerns (or didn’t), and it also meant trying to find some major concerns within each of the three texts for this week. Thus, I think the framework for this project was a mix of deductive and inductive measures. I definitely approached the readings looking for concerns such as the fallacy of progress and the need to rethink our disciplinary histories, but Andrew and I also tried to let the texts speak back to us as much as possible in revealing their concerns.

As I mentioned above, my reading of the assignment might have been something of a double-edged sword as my mind immediately jumped to attempting to establish relationships between the different texts (i.e., to put them into a conversation or a social network via their connections). For me, that meant looking for commonalities, and thus, our map of broad-ish concepts with more nuanced nodes and overlays was born. Looking back, still think that this was a fairly successful way to approach the task, but it does also lend itself to putting texts in conversation that might not necessarily want to be speaking to each other, which was a question that Dr. Graban brought up during our presentation. As with so many things this semester, it seems, this question made me think of Laurie Gries – specifically, her concern about what texts (written or not, in her case) want us to do with them. By focusing on ways that these texts overlapped in their concerns, were we “speaking for the [texts] about their original intentions” (Gries 92) rather than letting them speak to us entirely? Obviously, we weren’t making claims about the original intentions of primary, ancient texts, but rather about articles that are themselves interpretive, but I do take the question as a caution against reading with too eager an eye for commonalities, as the danger of essentialism is always looming whether we are reading primary or secondary texts.

While any act of interpretation poses this threat, I do believe we have to make some interpretive moves if we are going to attempt to identify some concerns for the field of global rhetorical study. Ultimately, I think this is what our map helps us to do. If we are to claim that there exists a set of concerns that are vital to the study of global rhetorics, then we do have to make the case that they are present in multiple works within the field. Andrew and I mentioned in our presentation that we hesitated over authors who were initially only connected to one concept or concern, and I think this is because we hoped to establish with our map that the concerns we identified are prominent trends, concepts that appear across this field of study and that are significant by nature of their multiple appearances.

Still, we were also cautioned not to “conflate” the goals of these very different readings under the same broad concepts, and this is where I think the multiple layers of our map become important. Andrew suggested adding the additional layer of transparent nodes to help triangulate the more specific concerns of each author, and I think this element helps to situate each text’s goals uniquely within the broader framework of the map. In addition, the clarifying text within each node helps to illustrate how the different authors, each working toward their own distinct goals, still take up or reveal concerns that others address or approach. The “Affect/Embodiment” concern highlights what we hoped this method would accomplish. While we have two authors connected to this concern, Fatima and Marback’s concerns with affect and embodiment take very different forms, both of which contribute to their overall goals. Fatima’s article emphasizes empathy in particular, arguing that it is “the sort of affective response that should inform [Muslim Americans’] political discourse” (347). Marback, meanwhile, recognizes the powerful potential of an affective response in negotiating a turbulent past; by arguing that Robben Island invites visitors to “respond with disgust and shame to a past none would choose to repeat” (48), Marback highlights the power of these emotions in developing a future for South Africa that remains conscious of its recent history. Interestingly, though their overall goals are quite different, Fatima and Marback’s mutual connection to affect and embodiment also shares an emphasis on the relationships between affect and citizenship. Both Fatima and Marback invite readers to consider citizenship as “an embodied activity of being in and moving about in a world filled with other people and many things" (Marback 73), and emphasizing the affective dimension of political participation helps us “makes sense of the ambiguity of our emotions, and also allows us to claim ownership of our citizenship…within that ambiguity” (Fatima 353).

At the end of the day, I’m still torn on the question of whether to emphasize mutual connections or focus on the differences between these and other texts in global rhetorical study. Ultimately, I think our attempt at a nuanced “connections” map was really an attempt at a happy medium between the two. While the risk of flattening out the unique goals of these different projects is a real one, I think we must take that risk in order to establish a set of concepts we can argue as important to global rhetorics. 

Not One over the Other, but One next to Another: Relation-Building through Connection and Disconnection

As our survey of global rhetorical practices and methodologies comes to a close, I cannot help but to think that this last week’s readings have served as the perfect synthesizing focus for our written and oral discussions this semester. As I believe Travis may have noted in class, the notions of nonessentialist identity and translingualism seem to speak to the “goals” of Global Rhetorics. Too often, our desire to understand other cultures and their rhetorics on our own terms wins out over our countervailing intention to practice the form of rhetorical restraint for which Laurie Gries advocates, a restraint that forces us to silence our colonizing interpretations in order to “hear” the buried voices of unfamiliar selves—not to be referred to as illiterate, unintelligible “others.” Thus, we return to harmful binary constructions that pit East against West, First-World nations against Third-world nations, literacy against orality, English against every other language, and self against other.

Accordingly, every thought—spoken or not—every “contribution” to our understanding of global rhetorical practices, epistemologies, and methodologies, has involved cognitive contestation. From our first day of class to this past one, my mind has been at war. Saturated with a Western identity and ideology, how could I ever dismantle my terministic screen, a screen that stimulates my hand to write “Foucault,” “Barthes,” “Derrida,” “Bakhtin,” or “Burke” in the margins of the works we’ve read? Is this not an example of the very interpretive colonization that we’ve been working to circumvent? Are these voices not poised, ready to invade the worlds symbolically constructed by others? Or, does the relegation of these influential voices to the “margins” of the pages enact an apt metaphor for a healthy method of gaining entrance to the discipline of Global Rhetorics? As a scholar, as a writer, I am the product of what I have read. I should not erase my history any more than I should the histories of the unfamiliar selves from whom I wish to learn. However, the validation of my history, my voice in this context, does not relinquish me of the responsibility I have to place myself in uncomfortable situations, to embrace unfamiliarity, and to make associations when appropriate while at the same time being unafraid to make healthy dissociations, too.

Thus, in the construction of our network of global rhetorical concerns, Ashley, Travis and I very quickly recognized the need to mitigate our collective desire to privilege connections over disconnections. As scholars of Global Rhetorics, we want to make connections, between ourselves and our practices and the selves and practices of rhetors from other spatio-temporal situations, and this desire is not mal-intentioned, albeit it does not account for productive disconnections that can be made. I believe it was this balancing act that made the construction of our network so difficult at first. In our initial attempts, we had drawn inflexible connections between bifurcated concepts, like “nation-state and community” and “national identity and cultural identity.” These connections inhibited us from creating the robust network that we know Global Rhetorics demands. These binaries betrayed a hierarchy that did not allow us to consider how other concepts and themes related to these ones. In order to complete the assignment, then, we had to start over and determine some overarching concerns that we recognized in each reading (implicitly or explicitly) and branch out from there.

As globalization has become more prevalent, we noticed that issues of identity and language seemed to be the biggest concerns. Globalization often imposes an essentializing script—on difference in both identity politics and language. The construction of nonessentialist selves, though, occurs through conceptualization of the self and identity politics as predicated upon complex matrices of relation, and it was this conceptualization of the self that seemed to inform our complex network of relations that we constructed for Global Rhetorics. Levinas asserts that “the self is constructed not in opposition to the other, as in the Hegelian master-slave dialectic, but rather is grounded in responsibility for the other” (qtd. in Cooper 91). Constructing a network that follows from Hegelian dialectics inhibits generative global study of rhetorics. For example, in her essay “Muslim-American Scripts,” Saba Fatima substantiates responsibility to others as essential for the formation of nonessential identities in her excoriation of the “subconscious desire” for Muslim-Americans “to disconnect [them]selves from complicity in the consequences of sanctions imposed by the United States against ‘our own,’” claiming that “[b]y not being politically active, [Muslim-Americans] distance [them]selves from policy decisions that affect Muslims around the world, thus keeping in abeyance any feelings of responsibility” (Fatima 345). By “shirking” their responsibility to contest unhealthy generalizations of Muslims across the world, Muslim-Americans allow xenophobic, myopic voices to determine their identities for them. Historically, these conceptions of relation and responsibility have been oppressed and even repressed by identity politics that always position one entity—in this case, political and news media in the United States—over another, never next to another.

In our network, then, we wanted to show a complex relation of “selves,” the concepts and themes, operating next to one another, in a form of responsibility to one another. However, as we started drafting, we noticed that we needed to become more cognizant of the ontology of the connections we sought to make. For the most part, globalization has enticed scholars to define connection through a Burkean negativism: connection is connection because it shall not be disconnection. We make connections because we see disconnections, but this can be problematic for a multitude of reasons, two of which being that this reason for connection often erases difference and prioritizes dominant discursive scripts. A more significant reason is that it limits our understanding of connection. For one, we do not understand what connection actually means apart from disconnection, but we also impose upon connection a flat definition. Are all connections the same? Are there not multiple types of connections?

When constructing our network, then, we were forced to consider how we would connect each node. At first, we used arrows which linked one node to another, but some of our nodes seemed to resist this form of one-sided connection. We then tried connections between nodes with arrows going both ways, but it became difficult to determine how much give-and-take actually took place between the nodes. We also tried constructing lines which denoted connections across nodes, but it seemed as if certain nodes became less important in these connections, acting only as waypoints between “more significant” nodes. In a sense, our terms enacted a form of resistance to connection, to identification, that we had not anticipated in the slightest. However, this was a healthy resistance as Cooper notes that identity politics should not be “seen as a process of control,” but “as resisting control” (93). Thus, our mapping allowed us to see that connections cannot often be subjected to control. By noticing how certain nodes resisted connection to, between, or across other nodes, we could be more mindful about the connections we made—and the disconnections we made, too. For instance, in placing nodes next to one another, the impulse was always to make a connection between them, but we also began to consider what could be said in “making” a disconnection between two related nodes.

For example, Lisa Arnold’s explanation of the SPC faculty members’ decision to provide “students with consistent instruction in English” as a means of granting students “direct ‘access…to nearly all that is valuable both old and new’” (284) highlights the connections and disconnections we forged between our two overarching concepts. While language grants access to certain communicators, it may not always foster Cooper’s idealized identity politics that stem from relation-building and responsibility to and for others. Thus, our “language” node could connect across “access” and “community,” but it could not connect to or across “relational” or “responsive.” Language certainly plays a role in identity construction, but English is often characterized as a language which functions on a dominant discursive script of erasure and essentialism. As Arnold argues, instruction of and in English can, though, lead to a different form of community identity formation that is not always plagued by homogenizing monlingualism, for, “[w]hile languages inevitably carry with them the traces of their originating cultures, they are at the same time flexible enough to accommodate new ideas, values, and beliefs” (286).

As globalization continues to occur, we cannot let our desire to make connections inhibit healthy disconnections. While the introduction of the English language to foreign cultures expands networks of communication, it does not and cannot erase distance, space. As we continue to explore the rhetoric of nations, cultures, and peoples across the globe, we must keep in mind Arnold’s assertion that English functions differently as it enters and exits various cultural, communal, and national spaces. No two Englishes are perfectly translatable. Understanding this will help us to move toward a knowledge and practice of rhetoric that does not lead to essentialist identity politics and erasure of literacy practices.  

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Preparation for 4/5: Defining Globalization: Symposium on Revisiting "Comparative" Methodologies

Dear All,

As promised, here is a guide to next week's discussion (based on/in RSQ 43.3, 2013, special issue on Comparative Rhetoric):

  • Everyone reads Mao and Swearingen
  • Andrew reads Garrett
  • Ashley reads Lloyd
  • Meghan reads Ashby
  • Mikaela reads Ashby
  • Sean reads Garrett
  • Stephanie reads Lipson
  • Travis reads Wang

As always, I'll ask you to come to class prepared to speak "on behalf" of each scholar, including what you know -- or can discern -- about:
  • the aim (i.e., their main stated claim, as well as what you perceive to the outcome of what they write)
  • the evidence (i.e., the key claims or key terms that help to organize the main claim and unfold it, or drive it forward)
  • the context in which they write (i.e., audience/readership, time and timeliness)
  • and the exigence (i.e., implicit or explicit intertexts pointing to other things they might be writing in response to, or debates they might be reacting to).

In addition, I will ask you to prepare historiographically, and you may remember from our earliest discussions this semester that "historiographic understanding" implies a kind of disciplined investigation of what should raise questions in any given project:
  • What kind of history do they tell? What are their sources? What reasons do they give for neglect of the tradition they discuss?
  • Who establishes the terms? Should that relationship be reversed? Or changed? How do the terms circulate?
  • What standpoints are privileged over others? Are there any representational traps (for us)? What else should we pay attention to?
  • Why are you interested in this and in what aspects? What seems too simple? Too complex? Do you find yourself drawn to or repulsed from a particular argument, tradition or cultural overview and why?

And finally, since you will have a good sense of how your particular scholar thinks and works, the final step in preparation asks you to try to speak on their behalf about the work of another:
  • for Wang - Lyon (wk 2) and Nordstrom (wk 7)
  • for Garrett - Liu/You and Ochieng (wk 5)
  • for Ashby - Mao (wk 6) and Young (wk 7)
  • for Lipson - Borrowman (wk 2) and Baddar (wk 3)
  • for Lloyd - Stroud (wk 3) and Xiao (wk 6)

You may write up the results of this tripartite preparation however you want, so long as you don't mind sharing your results with the class. (I'll arrange to distribute them via Canvas if you send me an electronic copy.) I only ask that you be thorough in your preparation and that you allow yourself sufficient time to read and reflect, so that this does not become a task list for you to check off. In other words, I invite you to prepare this way not to generate a bulleted list of answers, but rather to put yourself in their mindset and begin to articulate the real and necessary tensions between approaches to "comparative" work in rhetoric and composition.  

Looking forward to Tuesday,
-Dr. Graban

Discussion on 3/29: Convergence of Desires

Dear All,

After your discussion of Exploratory 4 and the vagaries of constructing a relational network of concerns, I know you are in the right mindset for our final discussion next week. I strongly encourage you to remind yourselves of some of your best moments of understanding. Each week (or two) we have grappled with a different framework, and you have grappled with them well! Now, near the end of the term, I am looking for you to demonstrate some mastery over materials and methods, and that's difficult considering the speed at which we had to move through the course.

As promised, I'll share two specific discoveries from Tuesday's discussion that may help you to think about next week's discussion as both a synthesis and an opportunity to raise new questions and concerns.

photo credit: S. McCullough [click to enlarge]
At one point, we discovered that Lisa Arnold's broadening of composition's history involves not just adding a historical dimension to translingual discussions, but rather re-historicizing some of the field's dilemmas as emerging from translingual concerns. This requires a more complex historical positioning than any narrative we currently tell -- especially those narratives that are centered in the dilemma of "how to educate globally without denationalizing," since those narratives are based less in diaspora and political evolution, and more in unidirectional assumptions about citizenship and belonging, and about what languages we have been interested in and why. But re-historicization goes beyond just telling a different narrative. For Arnold, in fact, it extends as far back as one region's emergence from the Ottoman Empire, its consequent sense(s) of "nationalism," and the curricular and administrative decisions that were made as a result of that emergence.

A related question for us to consider: What should our institutional archival work look like if we want/ need to be able observe trends beyond our own?


At another point, we discovered that Saba Fatima's uptake of "script" made the concept more malleable for rhetoric and composition study, by offering us a way to think about scripts not only as semantic containers, but as units: collections of concepts or ideas related to a particular discursive event. If we know how to look for them, "scripts" are capable of expressing incongruities between whole theories of language. This means we can usefully complicate the knowledges that we typically associate with global rhetorical work -- i.e., diaspora and standpoint -- so as to do more than just essentialize one group in lieu of another. We can also understand what makes our own projects "political" even if they don't explicitly involve politics. By the end of last class, we weren't sure if Fatima's "epistemological nationalism" necessarily included us, but we were aware that she enabled us to look more critically at the associations we embrace and the practices we love in order to see them as nuanced and complex. For example, we might fill in the blanks differently in the following statement:
"Such incidents reinforce the prevalent notion held by many Muslim-Americans that unless our views are in line with current US foreign policy--that is, performing the undying patriotic script--we cannot expect to have any political influence despite having the monetary means to do so" (Fatima 345).
We might use "rhet/comp theorists, literacy organizations, or national conferences" in the first spot, and "attitudes towards language study, attitudes towards foreign study, or national educational policy" in the second spot.

A related question for us to consider: What determines our notions of "what is possible" in the field?, or What drives our epistemology? 

Until Tuesday,
-Dr. Graban

Privileging Standard American English = Excluding Minorities

Although this week's exploratory assignment noted that “our readings this week cannot be conflated under the same goals,” I still understood this assignment as a connecting assignment; to me, a “network” requires noting how the texts are similar despite the differences.

My understanding of the assignment was also that we should be focusing on the “significant concerns” that the three authors implied regarding the challenge of studying global rhetorics. With my goals of unity and “significant concerns” within the study of global rhetorics in mind, I actually found the three pieces to be very similar regarding the four themes Mikaela and I highlighted in our (very basic)network: identity, privilege, language, and hegemony.

I particularly found intriguing the continued reference to privilege in each of the three articles from this week. Arnold noted the concept of privilege particularly when describing the persistence of monolingualism. (Arnold 290). At SPC, the missionaries originally wanted to teach in Arabic so that the Syrians  could more easily spread their religious beliefs. (Arnold 281). However, instruction at SPC switched to English for a variety of factors noted by Arnold, including the fact that it became challenging to find competent Protestant professors who could speak Arabic and that Arab faculty were informally disallowed from the professorial ranks. (Arnold 289). Thus, instruction switched to English – effectively beginning the resistance to a translingual framework at SPC. (Arnold 290). Arnold goes on to state, “[i]n the refusal of the monolingual paradigm, the question of whether or not we should ‘take’ or ‘not take’ a translingual approach becomes a question of privilege; asking the question implicates us in a monolingual framework that privileges English and our mastery of it” (Arnold 290-91).

                Cooper also touched on this theme of privilege – particularly, the privileging of Standard American English - when he discussed Benjamin Franklin’s unusual attitude in which he associated speakers of languages other than English with speakers who had undesirable traits. (Cooper 96-97). Cooper’s note that “by the end of the twentieth century, the campaign to eradicate Indian languages had succeeded to such an extent that most Indians in the country were not native speakers of their ancestral languages” indicated privilege to me because, as we have discussed in earlier classes, a major goal of imperialism is normally to eradicate the colonized’s native language. (Cooper 97). This eradication allows the colonizer to maintain a sense of superiority, a hierarchy of value within the persons living within the society.

Cooper’s discussion of language as identity reminded me of Young’s similar discussion: “Language becomes a sort of mask that can be useful in our lives, allowing us to enter into conversations and to explore possibilities. But language can also be dangerous if it is used to cover up parts of our lives that play an important role in the shaping of our identities” (Young 133). Privileging one language over another seems to me to be a form of essentialism; in essence, those who privilege Standard American English inappropriately essentialize people who speak other dialects based solely upon their skin color and speech patterns. This forces those of other skin colors to lead a sort of double-life, something most Caucasians don’t seem to understand:  “Contrasting what Doug Millison says about his feelings in learning new languages with what Royster says . . . Millison sees in language a chance to discover ‘a more authentic self,’ or, as Baillif quotes Lanham as saying, ‘a sincere soul,’ whereas instead Royster sees ‘a range of voices’ that allow her to ‘affirm differences, variety’ . . . for Royster . . . languages are a mode of identities” (Cooper 89).

                For Fatima, one of these identities for Muslim-Americans should be the cultivated affective response. To cultivate such an affective response, Fatima notes the importance of empathy. (Fatima 351). Fatima stresses the need, “in cases that involve policies toward nations that are foreign in terms of culture, language, values, and so on, and that are also subordinate within power hierarchies,” to “look at ourselves through their eyes, to explore their world as a comfortable inhabitant” rather than to “simply form policies based on our own master narratives” (Fatima 351).
                However, Fatima quotes Nancy Snow, who argues that “at least some familiarity is needed with the person toward whom one feels empathetic.” (Fatima 350). “‘If we are not sufficiently similar to those with whom we empathize, imaginatively projecting ourselves into their circumstances would not be a reliable guide to how they feel, nor would attempts to simulate their thoughts and feelings be empathetically accurate’” (Fatima 350).

                Throughout her piece, I believe Fatima relates herself to the Muslim-Americans whose scripts she is describing: she continuously uses the adjectives “our” and the subject “we.” (Fatima 343). Though not purposefully, I believe Fatima’s familiarity with her own essence as a minority – a Muslim-American – indicates the continued issue of privilege in the study of global rhetorics. Because of her membership in the culture which she studies, I believe Fatima has the agency to be able to discuss that culture; and Fatima is cognizant of her agency with her selective wording.

                Do others – particularly, white Westerners – have the agency to do similar global rhetorical studies? Even if we are unfamiliar with the cultures? Or, as noted by Shome and numerous other authors we have studied this semester, “having been primarily schooled in Western academic mode . . . the postcolonial critic’s intellectual perspectives cannot wholly be free of the power relations that she or he is out to displace.” (Shome 47).

                Thus, in setting out to complete this assignment, I very much focused on the similarities between the three articles, particularly the similarities I could find in the author’s views of the complications of studying global rhetorics; and I found more similarities than I expected originally reading the titles of the articles. Particularly, I believed that each author discussed privilege, and this tied in with our discussions of the privilege of scholars in studying these global rhetorics.

Networks, Language, and Homogenization

Composing our exploratory for this week made me confront some of my own implicit assumptions about what networks are, and how they function. In my initial sketching of our network, I presented key concepts as hierarchical in nature, proceeding out of a top down understanding of how individuals (and individual terms) function in a larger society. But as we continued to draft our exploratory, I came to see that networks have the capacity to fundamentally destabilize hierarchies, to present an understanding of the world as far more rhizomatic. It reminds me of what Manuel Castells writes, when he refers to a network society as one “constructed around personal and organization networks powered by digital networks and communicated by the internet” (136). This network society creates a culture of autonomy, encouraging individuation on both personal and larger economic organizational levels. Our own networked map shows this to a certain degree—key concepts are represented in their own individual terms, linked by influences or textual elements. While our map shows the connections between the ideas of identity, representation, non-essentialism, and many more terms expressed in the readings, it also shows variation in the relationships between terms through the system of changing arrows.

But what our network doesn’t do as effectively is illustrate differences and gaps between the readings and terms. And because the majority of our connections are the same style of arrow, we can’t represent the differences between certain nodes. Our map moves outwards in many directions, but it lacks a certain depth or layering that the “real” relationships between the terms have. This reminds me of another conception (and critique) of networks: in Actor-Network Theory and After, John Law and John Hassard argue that actor network theory exists as a semiotics of materiality and so applies to the relationships of concepts to all materials, not simply language. Law and Hassard note that actor-network theory imposes a certain perspective on the character of these links and connections—one that homogenizes and limits them. It “wages war on essential differences” (Law and Hassard 7). We are reminded, as so many rhetors have argued, that language is not inherently neutral. While I’m no expert in actor network theory, the idea of war on “essential differences” seems similar to the challenge of globalization of rhetoric and composition to fight essentialism in our scholarship and pedagogy.

Arnold might agree with Law and Hassard’s assessment of language—she argues that “while languages inevitably carry with them the traces of their originating cultures, they are at the same time flexible enough to accommodate new ideas, values, and beliefs” (Arnold 286). Language has the ability to bend to accept new values, but also can act as a force for homogenization. Cooper notes this, writing “the integrity of the nation-state and cultural unity are often equated in arguments for the importance of a common or standard language, perhaps because threats to the nation inspire a more immediate reaction than threats to cultural unity” (Cooper 95). Maintaining a state with “unified” cultural identity often includes the privileging of one specific language over others, as many of our past readings have pointed out. Essentializing gives the mythical “nation-state” power—and this is just what Fatima has experienced in her daily life as a Muslim-American. She argues, “This more complex affective response guards against those who would attempt to essentialize our self into a singular identity, to rally for particular political purposes” (Fatima 354). I’m still wondering how we could truly represent the conflicts between these readings as well as the similarities through a network without eliding differences or assuming equal relationships between nodes. My other readings into networks suggest that they too have power—our representations of the world shape it to some degree.  And ultimately, we’re left to ponder Cooper’s claim: "Is our goal to enable students to write in their own voices or to instill in them common cultural values?" (Cooper 88) To what extent does language instruction facilitate the expression of difference, and to what extent does it encourage homogenization?

Castells, Manuel.The Rise of the Network Society. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 
 1996. Print.
Law, John, and John Hassard, eds. Actor Network Theory and After. Oxford: Blackwell,  

1999. Print.

Disadvantages of Humanizing: The Trouble With Empathy

The prospect of creating a “network of concerns” for global rhetorics sounded challenging and ambiguous from the start. The first and most fundamental challenge I faced was how to create the network itself in an online medium. The network I created ended up being structured more closely to that of a grouping of concepts. The center of the grouping had four categories: Identity, Privilege, Hegemony, and Language. These categories were then populated with textual examples from each author to support the assertion that those categories were prevalent in each text. The second part of the network involved three secondary charts, one for each author that contained their central idea and critical dilemma and textual support surrounding the idea.

I approached this project differently because I wanted to see if I could explain relational connection without relying only on convergence and divergence. I wanted to locate these authors’ ideas in relation to the four major concerns I chose. To work from the inside out and come up with a new means of organizing ideas. If I could go back and redo an aspect of the project I more clearly articulate the connection between each author and my guiding categories. This way it would have been easier to show exactly where each authors ideology was on the spectrum and which of the four concerns their work focused on the most.

This assignment gave me the opportunity to consider the arguments of these authors through the Burke-like terministic screens of, Identity, Privilege, Hegemony, and Language. This allowed a more focused understanding of the works as they relate to the field of Global Rhetorics and as they relate to each other. Lisa R. Arnold was largely concerned with the pedagogical implications of language and monolingual bias. Her article read more like a critical case study of the Syrian Protestant College (Beirut). She adds a historical dimension to the translingual issues that exist within rhetoric and composition studies. “The archives suggest that the issue of language- including which language should be taught and why, the effect of language on student identities and the power and cultural value attached to language and education-was of central concern to the colleges founders, ultimately determining the pedagogical approaches taken and curricular decisions made at SPC in its early years” (Arnold 277).  Because of the very clear historical and pedagogical roots of this essay Arnolds interests fall between Language and Privilege in the network of concerns. She is primarily focused on advocating for a de-privileging of monolingualism in the academic community and a more fluid inclusion of language and culture.

Saba Fatima’s essay, though not officially situated within the world of rhetoric and composition, has many of the same themes and concerns as the other readings that accompany it in this analysis. Fatima focuses specifically on Muslim-American Scripts and the importance of “cultivating affective responses” to these scripts (Fatima 353). Fatima works from within the Muslim tradition to create an awareness of scripts and norms of depersonalization. “Our scripts are mediated by our social location within systems of domination. In other words, our scripts as Muslim-Americans differ when we travel abroad, when we speak on terrorism in American public discourse, or when we see the coverage of American wars from within the comfort of our homes” (Fatima 342).  According to Fatima’s logic the scripts that we operate on can affect the way we are situated in society. Her ideology falls between Identity and Hegemony on the network of concerns. This notion of scripts as guiding forces in national discourse was something I had never considered before but really spoke to my interests. She frames her perspective as that of a stranger in their country who is viewed as untrustworthy and overly empathetic.

Marilyn M. Cooper is concerned with the “process of rejecting pure identity” (Cooper 93). She is focused specifically on deconstructing the hegemonic notion of national identity. “A nonessentials notion of identity- often referred to as a power modern identity or self- has been developing in academic discussion in recent years” (Cooper 91). Cooper wants us to move our thinking away from essentialism and toward a more hybrid understanding of identity. I found Coopers ideas the most difficult to connect to the network of concerns because her goal was not immediately clear, however I also found this work the most dynamic because of its ambiguity. The focus on language in this piece locates it more firmly in the academic sphere, and gives the article a slightly more pedagogical tone. However I found that it was possible to separate the academic intentions of the theoretical discussion of national identity. “It is the assumption once again that identity is a matter of control that makes the goal of national identity seem oppressive, to leave us with the equally unsatisfactory options of the melting pot of the tower of babel: either we completely resolve our differences rationally and agree on the values that ground our actions or we are incapable of any productive action or interaction” (Cooper 100). Cooper does a seamless job of incorporating issues of national identity and academic concerns of language and monolingualism.

These three readings strongly informed my understanding of language and the role it plays in nationalism and academia. Looking at language from the perspective of a Muslim-American allowed me to consider the vantage point that they have in the United States. I framed my readings of Arnold and Cooper through the experience of Fatima’s narrative of Muslim-American experience. Each author brought so much of their own experience and individualized vocabulary to that table that it was hard to read them in conversation with one another because they were so dense and intricate on their own.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Discussion on 3/22: Defining "Globalization" in Notions of "Africa"


Photo credit: S. McCullough [click to enlarge]
Very nice work last class. That was our first of three days dedicated to "defining 'globalization,'" and you may remember we had a fairly complex justification for trying to understand "globalization" through considerations of African philosophy. What struck me time and again during our discussion was how the readings -- Marback's in particular, but also the texts in which he situated his project -- equipped us to notice new commonplaces from which to characterize African rhetoric. For South Africa, you noted these commonplaces in the kind of participatory agency invited by memorial sites and expressions of vulnerability (i.e., Robben Island, commemorative gestures, etc.). For "Africa" more broadly, you noted these commonplaces in the kind of listening practices required to understand what philosophies have traditionally been silenced (i.e., griot performances, sapiential knowledge, etc.).

From our cluster of guiding questions:  
  1. Beyond Salazar's "Athens" metaphor, what are the different conceptions of "Africa" that our writers contend with, or that we are being asked to contend with? 
  2. What are they hoping we will notice, embrace, or reject? 
  3. How does this help us differentiate between contrastive, comparative, cross-cultural, intercultural, transnational, and/or global approaches to studying rhetoric and composition?
we did not fulfill that final question, but we can try to do so next week. In fact, next week I'll ask you all to open the class by sharing the results of your fourth (and final!) exploratory, before launching into our discussion. From there, it might be easier to consider how "nation," "nationalism," "attitude," and "identity" provide another set of factors through which we can both reflect on what we are learning this semester and articulate the global rhetorical uptake in each of our final projects.

Recap of 3/22
As promised, here is a link to Junge's and Johnson's documentary film from last class:

In moving towards praxis, we got as far as devising a set of questions inspired by our discussions of rhetorical sovereignty, and then we noticed how that set of questions resonated with the questions posed by Mao, Hesford, and Tuhiwai Smith at the beginning  of the term.

In turn, I offer those questions back to you as a set of attitudes or considerations, what I'm loosely calling our "Transnational Rhetorical (TNR) Approach":
  • enables the study of communications outside of an Aristotelian framework (helps us to rethink framework)
  • promotes a kind of self-reflexivity of our own reactions to texts (that are, themselves, tied to triggers, stereotypes, and prejudices) and also to their patterns of circulation 
  • promotes linkages between local cultures and global problems
  • involves learning how to question “development” and “globalization” as a text, an ideology, a movement
  • pays attention to how “trans” means “changing the nature of something” and not just “moving through, across, or between”
  • recognizes how globalization is uneven by looking at the multiple powers at work in/on a single location (commercial, ethnic, cultural, corporate, etc.)
  • sees social and economic issues as intertwined and builds a critical vocabulary based on those things
  • tries to avoid cultural hegemonic interpretation (where “hegemony” means one view is seen as naturally dominant over another)
  • considers borders as discourses (i.e., ethnic borders, ideological borders), and assumes that borders change
  • encourages us to understand “nation” as a discursive construct, and perhaps help us to know what values or ideals we are currently using to define and understand “nation.”
  • involves reading the decolonization of a culture through its colonizing rhetorics
  • asks how the local/vernacular can help promote models for transnational rhet/comp that might work from the ground up, where “verna” = relationship between the local and the institutional

Let's see where this takes us in the remaining weeks.
Preview of 3/29
Our three readings for next week -- Arnold, Fatima, Cooper -- are intentionally diverse. Each of these writers establishes a "critical program" that occurs at the convergence of two or more desires. What are those desires, and how do they resonate with some of our past class discussions about embodiment, history, national identification, and rhetorical sovereignty? And then, what do they contribute to the conversation that perhaps we haven't yet seen?

I'm genuinely looking forward to this,
-Dr. Graban

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Not One of One, One of Many

Twenty-five years after the publication of Donna Haraway’s seminal “A Cyborg Manifesto,” and feminist scholars are still grappling with the concept of the “cyborg” and its predisposition for “coalition-building.” Rebecca Richards, then, elucidates the performance and the function of the cyborg in her reconfiguration of Haraway’s concept for the twenty-first century as feminists continue to heed the call “to actively reclaim cyborg identities through the use of irony and blasphemy for their own political purposes” (4). Language, as a technology, affords women the ability to metaphorically disassemble and reassemble their bodies in their ironic attempts to achieve status in a male-dominated political public sphere. Citing Queen Elizabeth I of England as a prototypical iron lady, Richards demonstrates how the Queen “reconfigures herself from female to male in order to rally the troops,” engaging “in a rhetorical performance that uses the technology of language and naming to create herself into something that she does not embody” (5): A King, a male.

Thus, like all of Richards’s archetypal “iron ladies,” Queen Elizabeth I becomes “both a part of the dominant structure of patriarchy and an active political agent” (6). Through language, she blasphemously reassembles herself into a man, and, if Richards had cited more of the Queen’s famous speech at Tilbury, one could see that the reassembly does not cease with her claiming the crown of the King. In her last line to her subjects, Queen Elizabeth I reclaims her status as Queen and its inscribed gender in her use of the pronoun “We:” “I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you on a word of a prince, they shall be duly paid.” Thus, the Queen’s linguistic blasphemy manifests itself not only in her masculinized reassembly of herself, but also in her integration of her newly acquired male “parts” with her extent female “parts.” Acting as both King and Queen, Elizabeth was both complicit with dominant structure and acting against it.

However, as this case and Richards’ reflections signify, “[r]econstructing the feminine body through ironic language in order to become a qualified leader is not a new rhetorical construct” (8). An unfair historical precedent has been set; “women are always already a hybrid identity when they enter into political space” (8) because this space has predominantly been occupied by men. Women, then, must, through language, enter into a transgender discourse of complicity that transmits them through the glass ceiling so that maybe they can attempt to break it from both sides.

The political sphere, though, is plagued with homogenization. The electorate do not want a multifaceted leader. They want a strong leader, but, ironically, they want that strong leader to adhere to a milquetoast, hackneyed archetype: a genderless man. The heterogeneous electorate, then, can imbue this political figure with their own qualities and desires in their pursuit of a fallacious coalition-building.

As Keya Maitra notes, the Feminist struggle for agency has encountered a similar problem. Historically, feminist rhetoric has essentialized struggle and choice, fixing the terms to notions of “women’s consciousness rather than a woman’s consciousness” (368). Solidarity is a great goal, but not when it erases difference. For a time, Haraway’s cyborg operated negatively. It erased difference in that all socialist-feminists technologized their bodies. However, Maitra’s discussion of  “The anatman or no-abiding-self theory” helps one to see how the reclamation of a cyborgian identity can lead to authentic coalition building through “the application of the reasoning about the impermanence of everything to the realm of individual selves” (363). Always in a state of disassembly and reassembly, always in a state of becoming, the cyborg ontology allows feminists to achieve a solidarity in similar struggle, but to build a multifaceted coalition that does not reduce Feminism to the same struggle.

For that is not true coalition-building, the kind for which a cyborgian consciousness allows. However, as Richards concedes, “Haraway’s cyborg identity” has the potential to both “trap women within the real, lived contradictions of identity and also obscure difference” (20). Thus, despite its ability to ameliorate the restrictive double-bind, claiming a cyborg identity can lead to homogenization—of one’s own difference and the differences of others. In line with Jarratt’s thinking, the cyborg does not operate like a metaphor of substitution, one cyborg standing in for the entirety of women; it instead operates metonymically, many cyborgs contributing to the ultimate reality of the socialist-feminist cyborg ontology of every woman.