Rough Notes on Transnational Feminism and Rhetoric

Definition of Transnational Feminism

Nayereh Tohidi

Transnational feminism is directly connected to the processes of globalization. Socioeconomic and socio-demographic changes at both the local national and global levels contributed to the emergence of transnational feminism in the mid-1908s and early-1990s. Transnational feminism is the academic and theoretical dimension of this phenomena.
The most important change at the local and national levels has been the growth in the size and quality of the new middle class and working class women in different countries. Declining fertility rates, thanks to better control women have gained over their bodies and sexualities, has contributed to educational attainment, gainful employment, unionization, civic engagement, consciousness raising and social networking among women. Thanks to the theoretical and research contributions of second wave feminism, exposing the gendered nature and masculinist orientation of nationalism and nation-state projects, disillusionment with male-dominated socialism and socialist movement, and confrontation with religious politics, especially Islamic fundamentalism, have all contributed to this emergence of transnational feminism.

Feminist criticism about the male biases within the projects of nationalism, development, and modernization that compromise women’s rights and women’s opportunities and also women’s movements, coincided with the rapidly penetrating processes of globalization. Global mass culture, the diminishing power of the nation state and national borders, the new liberal economic policies, especially the decline of the welfare state, the emergence and expansion of new communication technology, the Internet in particular, and the United Nations regional, national and world conferences on women all paved the way to the emergence of transnational feminism.

The concept of transnational feminism offers the desirability and possibility of a political solidarity of feminists across the globe that transcends class, race, sexuality and national boundaries.

Maylei Blackwell

Like the conceptualization of borders that the late poet, intellectual Gloria Anzaldua wrote about, transnational feminisms are spaces of conflict, of contradiction, of contact in which women, women of color, and other marginalized actors, have transformed discourses and spaces that exclude them, i.e. human rights discourse or the space of the U.N., into spaces of possibility and collaboration.

Possible Outline of Seminary Paper:

Define transnational feminismt connection to globalization

Present key figures and the converstations that have unfolded. Show how rhetoric is major player in this work. Mohanty, Sandoval, Grewel and Kaplan, Alexander.

Define global turn of our own field.

Then illustrate how scholars in our field are using transnational feminist theory in rhetorical studies. Hesford, Mary Queen, others.

Therein, Discuss objectives: criticism, agency, empowerment,

methodologies: Discourse analysis, rhetorical criticism, rhetorical visual analysis

Discuss role of rhetoric. TF involves rhetorical analysis of:
• Human rights discourse
• Rhetorics of Protest
• Rhetorics of Silence
• Rhetorics of Resistance
• Rhetorical Agency/Empowerment
• Discourse of Globalization—dominant scripts
• Identity Construction in Globalize World
• Rhetorics of Labor
• Rhetorical framework of National Economy vs. Global
• Feminist Discourse of Globalization
• Activist rhetoric
• Rhetorics of Violence/Non-violence
• Rhetorics of US policy and UN policy

Define rhetorical strategies:
Absence/presence—absence of speaker and presence of auditory narrative of trauma gives trauma presence without making spectacle of speaker/victim
Rhetorical listening—ratcliffe, through listening we can avail arguments that may bring differences closer together
Rhetorical Witnessing
Rhetorical Negotiation—process of working through trauma as an act that involves the negotiation of available cultural and national scripts and truth-telling conventions.
Rhetorical specificity
Spectatorization—transnational subjects become transnational artifacts
Rhetorical sentimentality
Visual rhetorics

Transnational Feminist Genres: Hesford: “Documenting Violations”

Testimonio-“lateral move of identification through relationship which acknowledges the possible differences among ‘us’ as components of a centerless whole” (quoted in Hesford, Sommar)
• -retains rhetorical appeal of the particular yet situates particular with the communal—the plural “I”
• affirmation of individual self in a collective mode
• Beverely says “situation of narrator in testimonio is one that must be representative of a social class or group” for “testimonio implies a challenge to the loss of authority of orality in the context of processes of cultural modernization that privileges literacy and literature as norms of expression”

Testimonios in form of:
• Documentaries—goal is empathetic action
• Autobiographies
• Memoirs
• Autobiographical Novel
• Confessions
• Eyewitness Reports
• Non-fiction novel
• Life history
• Trauma Narratives or testimonials told by first person who recounts trauma of human rights violations—involves testimonies

Rhetoric Turn

• Turn away from nationalistic concerns to global with recognition of need to join conversation abut pressures of globalization and consequences of New US Nationalism (Hesford PMLA)
• Turn away from disciplinary and national attachments to identity (Hesford)
• Turn away from concerns with establishment of unified discipline
• Call by Reynolds (in Hesford plma) for spatial methodology that enables writers to account for “their own locatedness” and that recognizes “differences in people’s sociospatial worlds and their unequal access to modes of travel”
• Focus on Hush-harbor rhetorics and hip-hop as hush-harbor rhetoric
• Requires a comparative-historical frame and a broader understanding of culture, text context, and the public sphere than what traditional rhetorical and ethnographic criticism provides
• Ethnographic practices that “trace paths of circulation and travel rather than assume the fixity and rootedness of subjects
• Understanding the intertexuality of local and global cultures
• Study of role of persuasion in the formation of transnational publics
• Critical cosmopolitanism—use of global ethnography to reshape our approach to the rhetorical concepts of identification and difference and broaden our understanding of text, culture, and context


• Develop role rhetoric can play in shaping course of globalization

Possible methodologies which are lacking to study transnational rhetorical practices and publics
• Critical studies of rhetorical history
• Interrogation of
o why certain rhetors and rhetorical communities were excluded from canon in first place
o strategic use of silence as a rhetorical method
o how rhetorical power is trafficked
o recent debates over rhetorical methods among feminist historiographers
o transnational perspective on feminist rhetoric and the geopolitics of identification and on rhetorical location
o old rhetorical strategies that are still at play in todays geopolitics, such:
• formalized, moralistic language of official discourse
• conspiracy theory and the rhetoric of condemnation
• anti-american sentiment
• objectification and dehumanization of groups deemed a threat to social mobility
o rhetorics of non-violence
• rhetorical hermeneutics—tools for interpreting texts and producing them—use of rhetoric to practice theory by doing history
• rhetorics of national security
• discourse analysis and rhetorical criticism
• national public rhetoric in US


1 Comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam

One response to “Rough Notes on Transnational Feminism and Rhetoric

  1. Eileen E. Schell

    It is great to see you blogging your project for 601. I see many familiar names and debates here, and these notes will serve you well in drafting your final essay.

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