Reviewed by James Stone, Huston-Tillotson University, brianjstone81 at gmail.com
D.37 Global Sites of Rhetorical Histories
Chair: Erin Kelly, University of Victoria
Speakers: Lisa Arnold, North Dakota State University, "Uncovering Transnational Literacy History: Beirut's 'Muslim Crisis' of 1909"
Natalia Avila, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, "What We Talk about When We Talk about Writing Studies in Latin America"
Erin Cromer, Purdue University, "(Re)Historicizing Transnational Rhetorics: Cultivating Methodologies of Historiographical Integration"
Miriam Fernandez, Washington State University, "Malintzin, the Aspasia of the Americas"
Federico Navarro, Universidad de Chile/CONICET, "What We Talk about When We Talk about Writing Studies in Latin America"
W.02 Cultivating Research Capacity through International Exchanges about Higher Education Writing Research
Chairs: Christiane K. Donahue, Dartmouth, and Université de Lille III, Villeneuve-d’Ascq, France
Cinthia Gannett, Fairfield University
The 2017 Portland CCCC focused on the theme of cultivation and demonstrated an ever-widening interest in cultivating multicultural and non-Western rhetorical histories. Within academia generally, and of course this is true of rhetoric and composition, theoretical and conceptual trends are a force that not only change the direction of a given field, but shape the way that we understand ourselves as scholars, also acting as terministic screens in the Burkean sense. Some of these trends are well-founded and long overdue, such as the recent intensification of research into intersections of social justice and writing pedagogy and assessment. At this year’s CCCCs, it is clear that this growing interest in non-Western and multicultural rhetorics is no mere trend; rhetoric and composition is undergoing a de-centering that is, perhaps, long overdue.
While I will only review two examples of this, a workshop and a concurrent session, there were several such sessions, and even workshops, as well as a special interest group that demonstrate the prevalence of our rethinking and decentering of our field. It is difficult not to notice the impact researchers such as Chuck Bazerman and Christiane Donahue have had on our field, from organizing the Dartmouth Summer Seminar in Writing Research for the last six years to nurturing international research at the CCCC. The workshops themselves perhaps do more to foster such an internationalization in that the workshop leaders invite researchers from around the world to collaborate with one another, opening up significant research networks and making possible fruitful collaborations and exchanges.
The "Cultivating Research Capacity through International Exchanges about Higher Education Writing Research" workshop is one such space for international collaboration. Represented in this workshop was an eclectic pool of research projects from Russia, South Korea, Pakistan, Australia, and Latin America. The workshop organizers, Christiane Donahue and Cinthia Gannett, created a collaborative environment, forming peer groups based upon interest and making drafts of research projects available to participants in advance. This allowed researchers to collaborate and workshop each other's projects at their various stages of completion. For myself, I received valuable insight from researchers from a range of backgrounds on a research project I completed at an artist's collective in Pakistan in 2015. Through discussion of the research of others, as well as from feedback and guidance of expert researchers with experience in international writing research, I not only improved my understanding of my own project, but I developed connections with others who have carried out research in Pakistan and other Muslim majority countries, research that has compelling implications in our contemporary political moment. For myself, the workshop, which, as in other years, began the CCCC experience, set a tone of friendly and rigorous collaboration with peers from around the globe. This workshop was one of two offered on writing studies in an international context. The consistency of representation and support for international research is growing rhetoric and composition into a globally relevant field, allowing us to decenter our practices and learn much from the research being carried out outside of the borders of the U.S.A.
As noted above, the representation of non-Western writing research and rhetorical history was strong yet again at the 2017 CCCCs. "Global Sites of Rhetorical Histories" represented the wide historical interests of rhetoric and composition, featuring research from the ancient Near East to the last 20 years of composition in Latin America. The first speaker on this panel presented research on "The Muslim Problem" of 1909 at the "American College" in the Middle East-North Africa region. After an offending sermon by a Christian about being surrounded by Muslims at Syrian Protestant College (SPC), now the American University of Beirut, students petitioned against required Christian services, resulting in 200 + students refusing to attend. What followed was a rhetorical backlash on the part of students participating in the free press, asking "what is the meaning of the American college, its history, legacy, identity, and colonizing influence" and voicing their frustrations in the student newspaper. This archival research sheds a light on student activism in the early 20th century and Muslim resistance to colonizing efforts. Students appealed to government authority figures, calling for recognition of their Muslim identity. The resistance to colonization through religion in education revealed student perceptions of schools as powerful in social transformation, something many professors encouraged in their students, seeing this unrest and rhetorical upheaval as a good thing, as a result of their rhetorical education. What does it mean to "be American" is one of the themes mentioned in the conclusions, an appeal to an "imagined America" outside of the borders of the United States. Transnational exchange and globalization are not new issues, as this case demonstrates, and the presenter concluded with a call for a "historical rhetorical approach to our examination of pedagogical practices."
In "What we talk about when we talk about writing studies in Latin America," Frederico Navarro and Natalia Ávila Reyes traced, in "a systematic and aggregable way," the development of the field of writing studies in Latin America in higher education on the regional level. This research, nurtured in its infancy by Chuck Bazerman, demonstrates a growing body of research on writing in Latin America. Using mixed methods, including interviews and surveys, ethnographic studies, discourse analysis and citation analysis, the researchers provided a portrait of writing research over the last 20 years, including research in several disciplines. This research was published in three different venues, all international and education focused, and a 2012-2013 CCCC research initiative grant funded the massive survey, the results of which were published. The presenters provided a timeline that is rendered in abbreviated form as follows:
- 1987 – Mass writing FYC at University of Buenos Aires (16,000 students) – alongside explosion in university enrollment
- 1994 – UNESCO formed
- 2003 – International Symposium on Genre Studies in Brazil
- 2006 – First journal special issues on writing in higher education came out; Reading and Writing Local Network was formed
- 2014 – Latin American Writing Centers-Programs Network, with international bibliographic database
- 2016 – Latin American Association of Writing Studies was created
In this historical survey, the researchers were interested in what types of things researchers throughout Latin America were interested in and what methods they employed, from ethnography to New Literacy Studies, multimodality, genre, corpus and text linguistics, cognitivism, WID, etc.
They also presented an author co-citation network, identifying two inferred communities as a result of this research, as well as two parent disciplines – linguistics/discourse analysis and pedagogy – two kinds of hybridization – methods, theories, and rhetorical patterns inherited from linguistics, as well as communal definition of problems. The researchers sought to contribute to a global, equal conversation about writing, cross-fertilization, and decolonial perspective, contesting a center-periphery rationale, not new locations, nor inclusive historiography.
The next presenter, Erin Cromer, presented on "Rhetorics of place in ancient Petra, Jordan." This research essentially laid out a historiographic methodology to account for the materiality of transnational publics. The theoretical framework for such a study was the primary focus, as the researcher was in the process of attempting to secure grant funding and a visa for access to the ancient city of Petra. Questions to be considered within this new materialist, historiographical method include "How did rhetoric transform in the ancient Near East?" and "How do public memories rhetorically materialize across urban cities?" Following the work of philosopher Thomas Nail and his theory of political kinopower, the researcher plans to interrogate how motion, flows, and circulations are realized in material rhetorics across time. Studying global sites of rhetorical history, she argues, lends new insights. Developing new methods that investigate atypical evidence, such as important sites, ritual and otherwise, brushing up against memory studies, opens up new avenues of study in the history of rhetoric.
The final speaker, Miriam Fernandez, utilized a similar methodological approach, turning to manuscript, art, and sculpture. She presented on "Malintzin, The Aspasia of the Americas," looking to four 16th century texts in which Malintzin is represented – spoken of in letters, represented imagistically in manuscripts, as Cortes’s wife, as well as a 16th century statue. Similar to Erin Cromer, this speaker is interested in how materiality and discourse work together to create a historical perspective on a figure such as Malintzin. Just as Aspasia, there are no extant writings we can with certainty attribute to Malintzin. However, looking to the evidence available in these various media, we can see that Malintzin was a powerful woman, one of rhetorical strength and power, but we can only see her as such a figure through patriarchal representations and the voices of men.
The workshops and the concurrent sessions, as well as the special interest groups at the 2017 CCCC in Portland, demonstrate that attention to multiculturalism and non-Western rhetorics, histories, and pedagogies are far more than another passing trend in academia. As we continue to grow beyond our borders, the endless possibilities for collaboration and research continue to grow along with us. It is an exciting time to be a rhetoric and composition scholar with an interest in the richness of the rhetorical traditions of the world.