In his preface to this edited collection, Gilyard explains his intention for this collection was to explore “how ethnic rhetorics might function as generative sites of difference, how they intersect with social movements, how they might shape composition instruction, and how they should related to presentations of the rhetorical tradition” (v). Ethnic rhetoric is rhetoric with ethnic inflections, which creates a study of the way “verbal forms and discursive strategies [are] unique or characteristic of particular ethnic assemblages” (v). More precisely, he is interested in mapping the “distinctive forms of discourse generated by ethnic groups—and the knowledge encoded in those forms—that can be preserved, retrieved, revitalized, and efficiently used in progressive social, political, and educational campaigns” (vi).
He leans on Joseph Hraba’s definition of ethnic groups—“self-conscious collectivities of people, who on the basis of a common origin or separate subculture, maintain a distinction between themselves and others” (qtd on vi). He reminds us the ethinicity is a social and political process full of intent to construct identity, authorship, and significance (vii). Gilyard advocates for what he calls critical ethnicity—search for the elements in various ethnic narratives that have the most political potential in a push for a more humane society….it is a project of examiniation, but also one of reclamation, and reflects the idea that the most generative ethnic activity…is the building outward from subcultural understandings” (ix).