HI all. Last week, I read an essay by Eileen, which I thought you all would be interested in. I will speak briefly about it in my presentation on Tuesday, but thought I would post the section in my lit. review about her article and her work. Enjoy.
How do we truly engage feminist rhetorics in transnational contexts?
Eileen Schell asks this reflective question in her article “Gender, Rhetorics, and Globalization: Rethinking the Spaces and Locations of Feminist Rhetorics and Women’s Rhetorics in Our Field,” printed in the newly published Teaching Rhetorica (161). In this article, Schell examine theories of transnational feminisms and demonstrates how in enacting a pedagogy which focuses on gender and globalization, feminist rhetorical scholars can link geopolitics with feminist theories and practices in the classroom. After mapping transnational feminist theories and pratices, which have clearly influenced her own work, (Friedman, Hesford, Glenn, Grewal and Kaplan, among others) Schell turns to issues of gender and globalization in relation to the transnational female work force. Schell draws on Christa Wichterich to explain that for women, globalization “brings new forms of work, multiple strategies for social protection, different lifestyles and value-orientations” (qtd. on 167). Schell then draws on Inderpal Grewel and Caren Kaplan to remind us that middle and upper class women in late-capitalistic countries must acknowledge that our privileges are always connected to another women’s oppression or exploitation (167). Schell claims the “economic disparities and asymmetrical power relations between women in different locations and different sets of circumstances make feminist rhetorics and women’s rhetorics both a challenging and a promising arena of scholarly and political practice” (167). Schell argues that in order to engage femininst rhetorics in transnational contexts, we must rethink the concepts of rhetorical location, rhetorical action, and rhetorical education for citizenship, all of which are foundational to rhetorical study (167). Rhetorical location becomes complicated in a global arena, Schell explains, because we must understand flows of capital and people across national borders in order to truly understand rhetorical location. Schell suggests we must practice an integrated cultural analysis, which “is about understanding how the products, services, and people with whom we interact are part and parcel of a transnational system of capitalism with complex networks of power relations, discourses and materialities that combine and recombine to form particular chains of connection and power” (168). Therefore, as scholars in the field of rhetoric and composition, we must spend more time interrogating the rhetorical location of rhetors to investigate the specific geopolitical orientations from which they are speaking.
Besides suggesting that we also need to take into account how technologies and new media are shaping contemporary rhetorical action, Schell suggests we broaden and expand our curricular objectives to help students become “citizen-subjects” aware of and responsible to the global context rather than only one’s home nation-state (169). Schell presents the work of Julie Andrzejewski and John Alessio to explain the three objectives of global citizenship, which rhetorical education should work toward fostering: “ (1) developing an ‘understanding of a citizen’s responsibilities to others, society, and to the environment’; (2) developing ‘an understanding of ethical behavior in personal, professional, and public life,’ and (3) developing ‘knowledge and skills for involved responsible citizenship at the local, state, national, and global level’” (169). Schell then details one of her courses that addresses feminist geopolitical rhetorics with these three reconceived concepts in mind. Her course asks students to analyze the rhetorics behind the sweatshop labor pyramid in order for them to better understand how globalization operates and their own implications within this exploitative system.
In doing so, Schell demonstrates the ethics
and politics involved in “highlighting
‘transnational linkages’ and multinational
and multilocational approaches” to feminist rhetorics and women’s rhetorics (172). She thereby provides a cultural rhetorical ethics, which scholars in our field need to consider not only when conducting their own scholarship but also, as Schell makes clear, when developing and enacting their own pedagogy.
I should also add that Teaching Rhetorica is a useful text that demonstrates how gender can inform writing instruction in innovative and inspiratonal ways in the post-secondary classroom. I have it if anyone wants to borrow it….