Enoch, Jessica

Enoch, Jessica “’Semblances of Civilization’: Zitkala Sa’s Resistence to White Education”


In this essay, Enoch juxtaposes the autobiographical work of Zitkala Sa’s rhetoric with the Carlisle Indian Boarding School papers in order to demonstrate Zitakala’s direct rhetorical resistance to Carlisle’s educational rhetoric that legitimated, produced, and reproduced an Indian education that oppressed the very students it claimed to liberate.  Enoch claims Zitkala’s over acts of resitance against dominant educational narratives are inflected with her Indian ethnicity.  In her rhetorical analysis of Z’s counternarratives,  Enoch demonstrates how Z had to reach audience members not only across cultures but across cultural realities.  Z uses her personal experiences to flip the dominant scripts and break down false dichotomies that contributed to assymetrical power structures.  Z also embraced what Lyons would call her rhetorical sovereignty by using autobiographical stories as a means to disrupt dominant narratives that justify unjust Indian education practices.  In doing so, she changes the terms of educational debate at a time when it mattered most for Indian students…


Sites of analysis:  autobiography,

Methodology:  juxtoposition of autobiography and dominant news sources; rhetorical analysis; re—reads z’s work in original contexts—political and cultural conversations about Indian education.


“Resisting the Script of Indian Education:  Zitkala Sa and the Carlisle Indian School”


Published in College English, “Resisting the Script of Indian Education” emphasizes the pedagogical resistance Zitkala Sa enacts by publishing her autobiographical essays about the horrors of the Carlisle Indian Boarding School—an act of rhetorical sovereignty that Enoch claims scholars in composition and rhetoric can learn from.  As in “Semblances of Civilization,” in this essay, Enoch juxtopeses Zitkala autiobographical essays with the Carlisle Indian education rhetoric published in the school newspapers Indian Helper and Red Man, which Enoch describes as propoganda aimed at White readers, teachers and students presently at Carlisle and Carlisle alums.  According to Enoch, these papers had two main aims: garner continued support for Indian Education and legitimate operations of the Carlisle school and monitor Carlisle students and teachers through the figure of the Man-on-the-band-stand, which acted much like Foucault’s Panopitican.  Zitkalas essays published in the Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, and other places served to flip the dominant educational script and inscribe her own personal narratives which attacked three of the school’s educational premise:  savage must be civilized; cultural barriers of Indians must be broken in order for Indians to develop individual self; and English language is necessary for success in white civilized world.  Zitkala enacts rhetorical sovereignty by arguing that Indians should have a voice in the educational debate.

            This resistance, Enoch claims, raises an important concern for comp and rhet scholars:  “How can we, as teachers of rhetoric and composition, be political workers and ethical educators who call students to reflect critically on their worlds and revise the oppressive narratives that script their daily lives?” (137).  Enoch claims Zitkala’s work provides three answers to this question:  1.  Her work can become site of critical reflection and inquiry inside classroom about not only historical educational unjustices but contemporary ones; 2.  Include Zitkala’s work in our disciplinary history of “pedagogical resistance that recount challenges to educational narratives that silence and erase”; 3. Let Zitkala’s work serve as a model for the ways in which we as educators can be political cultural workers and activists who intervene in dominant educational narratives (139). 


Para la Mujer:  Defining a Chican Feminist Rhetoric at the Turn of the Century


In this essay, Enoch contributes to a working definition of Chicana feminist rhetoric by recovering the rhetorical strategies employed by Mexican women Maria Renteria, Sara Estela Ramirez, and Astrea, all of whom in writing for La Cronica, a Spanish-language newspaper based in Laredo, Texas, attempt to redefine the Mexican woman.  Situating these feminists’ work both in Chicana rhetorical tradition and in women’s rhetorical histories, Enoch demonstrates how these women engage in self-definition to claim a right to name and represent themselves by infusing their rhetorics with concerns of race, gender, and class (21).   Specific to Chicana feminist rhetorics, Enoch idenitifies how Reneria, Ramirez and Astrea redefine the Mexican woman not by offering a static, fixed , essentializing definition but by offering a complex and ever-shifting depiction that rejects stereotypes often relegated to Mexican womanhood.


Before describing the unique rhetorical practices of each woman, Enoch looks to Anglo writers writing at the same time as Renteria, Ramirez, and Astrea to show how Mexican women were defined as obedient, servile and passive and lacking a Mexican feminist consciousness (22).  Enoch also describes the dual ideologies at work—machismo (extreme male dominance) and hembrismo (extreme female submission)—that made it difficult for Mexican women to believe they could make active, significant, public contributions to their communities.  During this era of porfiriato, however, feminist action linked with an “emergen feminista politics” was at work in Mexico as feminists work toe better the lives of women across Mexico (24).  Renteria contributes to this work by attempting to rewrite the history of Mexican women in order to disrupt stereotypical views of who and what women could be in the present.  Ramirez, largely through her poem “Rise Up!” challenges women to redefine themselves and take an active role in their communities.  Rameriz does this by employing what Lisa Florez has called a “rhetoric of difference”—“’construct[ion] of an identity that runs counter to that created for them by either Anglos or Mexicans…[] and begin the process of carving out a space for themselves where they can break down constraints imposed by other cultures and groups’” – to encourage women to redefine themselves on their own terms (qtd. on 30).   Astrea also calls women to community action but through education and family.  Rather than use feminist action to weaken Chicana cultural and nationalistic efforts at large, Astrea urges for women to see that they can redefine their role in Mexican culture to assist the movment at large and women as well.


Overall, Enoch attempts to show that Ramirez, Renteria, and Astrea contribute to both a Chicana feminist rhetorical tradition and reevaluations of the topoi of definition.  They contribute to Chicana feminist rhetorical tradition by “creating definitions of the Mexican woman that invite disruption, change, and reconstitution” through an infusion of race, class, and gender (34).  This self-definition revises the way definition as argument is constituted; rather than embrace categorization, they revolutionize definition to create possibilities for every shifting constructions of self that break away from categorizations assigned to them (35). 


Survival Stories: Feminist Historiographic Approaches to Chicana Rhetorics of Sterilization Abuse


In this essay, Enoch analyzes the rhetorics of survival made when nine Chicana women who in a class action civil rights action suit-Madrigal v. Quilligan- argued that USC-LA Medical Center doctors violated their constitutional rights to procreate by not obtaining their informed consent for their sterilization operations.  Through this analysis, Enoch offers four historiographic approaches to study the rhetorical significance of  women’s rhetorics.  Three of these approaches are already part of the feminist historiographic toolkit; the fourth, Enoch claims, is her contribution to “add a ‘tool’ to what Ferreira-Buckley has called the ‘historian’s trade’” (pg number?).  In the first two approaches, Enoch follows the lead of JJRoyster and SWLogan while in the third she follows the suggestion of Richard Enos to contextualize the rhetorical practices in their original rhetorical context to determine their intended meaning.  In the fourth, approach, Enoch pushes the boundaries of the rhetorical situation beyond the immediate interaction of the speaker, audience, and subject to see how the Chicana women’s stories were voiced, dismissed and ultimately survived.  The specific sites Enoch studies surrounding the Madrigal v. Quilligan case are the women’s testimonies, the judge’s conclusions, and an article written by the women’s lawyer.  This work not only helps us understand the specific rhetorical situation that occurred in this case, but how these rhetorical practices can deepend our understanding of Chicana feminist rhetoric and women’s rhetorics on broader level today.

Enoch explains that at the time these women were sterilized, the rhetoric of sterilization was spirited in contemporary debates made in the name of feminism and population control.  Yet, at this same time, sterilization was being used by some doctors as welfare control, which lead to discriminatory medical practices targeting poor and minority groups all over the U.S.  Sterilization abuse, especially at UCLA Medical Center which served poor Chicanas, was a controversial issue at the time.

Enoch recovers the testimonies the Chicana women made to confront this controversy by facing numerous obstacles based on class and race to make their voices heard.  Enoch situates these testimonies in a Chicana feminist tradition because “their arguments formed a collective and unified rhetoric that stood at the intersection of the particular classed, cultured, and gendered needs of the Chicana community at that moment”  (page number?).  More specifically, these women’s rhetoric can be situated in Chicana feminist rhetorics because they “protest experiences of and crimes against the Chicana body.” As Cherríe Moraga observes in This Bridge Called my Back, “(a title which in itself highlights the physical presence of the third-world woman’s body), …many Chicanas, and other minority women, come to voice through a “theory in the flesh,” which means that “the physical realities of [their] lives-[their] skin color, the land or concrete [they] grew up on, [their] sexual longings-all fuse to create a politic oborn out of necessity” (“Entering” 23).  As Enoch claims so clearly, “the “politic born out of necessity” that the women in the Madrigal case voice illustrates one recurrence in a long history of Chicana feminist rhetoric that rails against the violent, life-threatening, and physical transgressions upon the Chicana body.”

Recovery of these women’s voices is not enough in Enoch’s eyes, however. She wants to see how they are discounted as well and thus reveals how in the Judge’s concluding remarks which sided with UCLA medical center, the judge relied on a rhetoric of normalization, which essentially argued that because these women were abnormal –chicana and Spanish speaking—they did not need accomodations.  Thus, Enoch forms two historiographic moves.  As she explains: “By contextualizing the Chicanas’ testimonies, I investigate how forces of oppression and suppression functioned inside the courtroom. My analysis of Curtis’ response shows how powerful discourses use particular rhetorical strategies to interpret and then re-write women’s stories so that they work towards much different ends. When feminist historians make this methodological turn and examine how the audience in a rhetorical situation responds to and retells women’s rhetorics, they reveal the specific ways dominant and official discourses often discount and silence women’s words.” 


Also, as she explains, “By contextualizing women’s rhetorics to investigate the ways powerful audiences interpret and revise them, historians intensify the critical work of feminist history. Through this practice, they not only acknowledge the fact that women spoke and identify the constraints they overcame, but they also examine the specific methods that silenced women’s voices at particular times and places. Such a historiographic practice highlights the ways feminist historiography does indeed enact a “commitment to the future of women,” as it sharpens the awareness of present-day feminists, enabling them to identify, expose, and resist the intricate and subtle rhetorical strategies used to discount women’s claims-especially marginalized women’s claims (Glenn 174).


Yet still Enoch’s work does not stop there.  As she says, “Scholars can continue their historical pursuit by asking, what else happened to women’s rhetorics? By asking this question, feminist scholars can begin to understand how women’s words were remembered and retold in different rhetorical situations and how they achieved different rhetorical effects. This particular historiographic practice grounds itself in the idea that just because a rhetoric has been silenced in one venue does not mean it is gone forever.”  For instance, as Enoch shows, the cases’ rhetoric survived in the article written by the women’s lawyer as she used the Madrigal case to signify the sterilization as being emblematic of many women’s experiences in and outside the Chicana community.  Other activists retold the Madrigal cases as well to build a coalition against sterilization abuse. therefore, even though the women’s rhetorics did not achieve intended results, they lived on to have significant rhetorical power.  Enoch calls this method of studying the ongoing rhetorical effects of the Madrigal case “historiographic tracking.”   Questions at hand to perform historiographic tracking are simple really:  “What else happened to

this rhetoric?  Who else was listening?  Who might have retold these stories and to whom?” And to what effect?


So overall, four methods:


  1. Recovery women’s voice
  2.  situating them within a tradition (enables us to see how women’s rhetorics change)
  3. Contextualizing in rhetorical situation; investigate women’s words in use and powerful rhetorics aims to dismiss, ignore, disempower those rhetorics
  4. Historiographic tracing—expand boundaries of rhetorical situation



  1. examining our own prejudices; re-thinking disciplinary stories
  2. reconsider historiographic methods


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