Filling In the Gaps:
Primary Voices of Japanese American Incarceration

Methods: Rhetorical Attendance Listening to Multimodal Texts

Memorial cemetary at Rohwer
Pictured: The Rohwer Memorial Cemetery, photograph taken in May of 2015. Brown headstones are visible in slanted rows with trees and an empty field in the background.

My methods in this webtext reflect the kind of interdisciplinary approach that Carolyn Handa (2014) described as necessary to engaging with multimedia and internet sources, since the simultaneity of how we experience digital rhetorical performance requires us to "place our selves and our digital research on the borders between both physical and digital space and on the borders between rhetoric and those disciplines that can only enrich our rhetorical study" (p. 166). Feminist historiography, narrative theory, memory studies, affect theory, sound studies, oral history, and Asian American and digital rhetoric studies inform my approach to these narratives of Japanese American incarceration, each building upon the other and informing my analysis of the texts.

My analysis also includes my own narrative at times, as seen in the Introduction section of this webtext. I also share myresponses to the sonic texts and see my own embodied reactions as examples of how one might fill in the "emotional" gaps. I adopt Jenefer Robinson's (2005) process approach to emotion, that "emotion is not a thing or a response or a state or a disposition; it is a process, a sequence of events" (p. 59). We experience 1) an affective appraisal, the focused attention on an object; 2) the physiological response, our bodily reaction; and 3) the cognitive appraisal, our judgement and understanding of the affect and feeling (p. 59). For this reason, I do not separate categories of affect, feeling, and emotion as Eric Shouse (2005) and others have done. I see these three categories as working together to create the overall emotional response to the text. I catalogue my own responses, analyze the responses of commenters, and use my own emotional intelligence to anticipate other potential emotional responses to the text.

I am also mindful that my connections to this event are personal, both because of my ancestry and my relationship with Carolyn Handa and her family. Rather than neglect this connection, I embrace it by sharing how I experience these texts and practice "rhetorical attendance," which Mira Shimabukuro (2015) described as "the explicit infusion of personal memory and cultural know-how that, together, create a felt sense about the ways we conduct research" (p. 27), that we must "pay attention to, be present at, take care of, apply oneself to […] or stretch toward" (p. 22). Engaging with narratives of incarceration requires the kind of attendance Shimabukuro outlined, as the narratives and this history are deeply personal. I am also influenced by Krista Ratcliffe's (2005) important work on rhetorical listening, which is suited for my particular position in relation to this event. I am someone who does not occupy an uncontested position, since my physical belonging does not often correspond to my communities. As a white and Asian southern woman of Japanese descent, I grew up with intimate knowledge of Japanese culture without the exposure to west coast Japanese American culture. To practice rhetorical listening and attendance, I am transparent about my own responses to the text while making an effort to take great care with the materials and anticipate potential responses. I share various associative elements that cross my own mind, as they inform the ways I read and understand the rhetorical significance. I attempt to follow LuMing Mao's (2018) call to scholars of Asian American rhetorics:

As we rhetoric and composition scholars continue to bring to the foreground how Asian Americans deploy languages and other symbolic resources to speak for and about themselves both in time and over time, we must also reflect more critically on what we are representing and how we are representing it. It is incumbent on us to cultivate, and indeed demand, an intersubjective and interdependent stance so that our own historically conditioned knowledge and dispositions can be appropriately examined and our own terms of engagement sufficiently imbued with a sense of accountability, interconnectivity, and vulnerability.

This also works in tandem with what Jaqueline Jones Royster and Gesa Kirsch (2012) have called "critical imagination," where we aim to see "the noticed and unnoticed, rethinking what is there and what is not there, and speculating about what could be there instead" (p. 20), and "strategic contemplation," which asks us to think "about, through, and around" our research, and consider how "lived experiences shape our perspectives as researchers and those of our research subjects" (p. 22). Rhetorical attendance and other feminist methodologies are central to my analysis. In the next section, I identify the connection they have with sound and digital rhetoric studies to explain why I choose to isolate the vocal rhetoric, rather than engage with the simultaneity of digital experience.

Sound Studies and Digital Rhetoric

Handa (2014) saw the emergence of digital technologies creating a refocus on delivery or rhetorical performance, a rhetorical canon often ignored in rhetoric and composition studies. Handa argued that "digital delivery on the Web is also akin to a musical performance, meant to be seen, heard, or experientially ‘consumed' by an audience" (p. 111). Steph Ceraso (2018) also talked about this "simultaneity" of multimodality—that when we see a plane take off, we do not isolate "the image, then the sound, and so on" but rather experience all the senses simultaneously (pp. 6–7). Ceraso went on to acknowledge how we attend to "different sensory modes in isolation" (p. 7). In this webtext, I isolate voice not for meaning-making (the meaning-making necessarily happens in relation to the other multimodal aspects, as well as my own embodied experience with the text) but rather to provide a visual and sonic representation of the voices by using WavePad, as Amanda Nell Edgar (2019) does. WavePad is a free software that allows me to provide a visual for pauses, volume, rhythm, and emphasis. I choose to isolate the voice to focus on how the vocality contributes to this multisensory experience.

In "Toward a Resonant Material Vocality for Digital Composition," Erin Anderson (2014) claimed:

In order to more fully account for the voice, as a rhetorical mode and a compositional material, perhaps we must expand our present frameworks of orality (speech) and aurality (sound) to include questions of vocality (voice), as a peculiar category of sound that attends speech but also exceeds it, and as a mediated material that pushes the boundaries of human embodiment and agency.

I argue that the vocality of these memory-narratives contributes significantly to how the audience is affected, which leads them to fill in necessary gaps of understanding. This isolation of voice also allows me to explore what Amanda Nell Edgar (2019) referred to as "vocal intimacy," the "voice's ability to create physiological and affective relationships between speaker and listener" (p. 4). Like Roland Barthes, Edgar noted the intimate relationship between speaker and listening, that "By entering the body through the ear's cavities, sound becomes a part of the listener, uniting speaker and listener at the level of corporate interiors" (p. 8). As I listened to the narratives, I made an effort to be acutely aware of this intimacy, and I urge the listeners of this webtext to also take note of this relationship.

By combining these interdisciplinary methods, this webtext aims to build upon current scholarship in rhetorical studies that addresses narrative, affect, and history.