Tag Archives: feminist methodology

Lunsford, Andrea, ed. — Rhetorica Reclaimed,

Rhetorica Reclaimed, Andrea Lunsford, editor (1995)


Aimed to disrupt the “seamless narrative” of the rhetorical tradition and create space for other rhetorics, Rhetorica Reclaimed offers a series of rhetorical studies of women’s rhetorics, which both reread classical texts and recover and theorize a plethora of rhetorical forms, strategies, and goals not previously considered in the rhetorical tradition.   To recover this body of rhetorics, rhetorical scholars take a historical approach to rhetorically analyze a wide variety of women’s rhetorics from antiquity through medieval times to the 20th century.  In their recovery of rhetorics employed by figures such as Aspasia, Diotima, Margery Kempe, Mary Astell, Margaret Fuller, Ida B. Wells and Sojourner Truth, and Julia Kristeva, feminist historiographers also rely heavily on gender analysis, genre analysis and draw on feminist and postcolonial theories.  As these scholars demonstrate, recovery of women’s rhetorics demand a turn toward alternative sites of oral and written persuasion used both in the public and private domain.  The wide range of sites include:  speeches, autobiographies, letters, fragments of classical texts, syllabi and other teaching materials, articles, lectures, scholarly work, and pamphlets.  Common strategies identified in women’s rhetorics across time and cultures include rhetorical strategies such as breaking silence; subverting traditional genres; naming in personal terms or truth telling; employing dialogics, recognizing and using the power of conversation; and valuing collaboration.  As well as diversity in terms of sites and strategies, studies of women’s rhetorics reveal that multiple purposes were achieved in women’s rhetorical practices that include but are not limited to:  empowerment of self and audience, inspiration, motivation, theoretical enlightenment, survival, self-expression, conversation, self-definition, articulation of fears, and promotion of action. 


Included in this anthology is Susan Jarrat and Rory Ong’s article “Rhetoric, Gender and Colonial Ideology,” which along with Cheryl Glenn’s work on Aspasia stimulated a series of debates about truth, evidence, and history.  In Jarrat and Ong’s article, the authors attend to questions of whether or not Aspasia existed, how we can come to know Aspasia, and what kinds of historiographical tasks are required to read Aspasia–as rhetorician–into the rhetorical tradition.  Jarrat and Ong argue that the recovery of Aspasia in classical texts such as Menexenus reveal that Aspasia “marks the intersection of discourses on gender and colonialism, production and reproduction, rhetoric and philosophy[ which] makes her a rich site for interpretative work” (10).  Jarratt and Ong employ their imagination in recovering what roles Aspasia might have played in sophistic rhetorics by analyzing the ways in which Plato gave voice to Aspasia.  It is this use of imagination, perhaps, that lead Gale to raise concerns about historiographical recovery work.  




1 Comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

Glenn, Cheryl — Rhetoric Retold: Regendering the Tradition from Antiquity through the Renaissance

In this important text, Cherly Glenn studies the ways in which women from antiquity through the Renaissance contributed to rhetorical history and theory and performed gender through rhetorical practices.  Questions that arise in this study do not just attend to an identification of rhetorical strategies employed to achieve various rhetorical purposes at particular moments in time, but also what strategies were used to become visible in their particular communities and take an active role in public life.  Thus, this work studies the ways women enacted both resistance and negotiation to break through social and educational boundaries that confined women in silence, chastity, and domestic confinement.  In doing so, Glenn helps break through the silence in our own field that has contributed to a gendered landscape of rhetorical history that excludes the ways in which women across time and culture have employed rhetoric to construct culture.  By remapping rhetorical territory through a gender analysis of women’s rhetorics, Glenn attempts to rewrite rhetorical history, regender rhetorical theory, and remap the rhetorical tradition.  To do so, Glenn models a performative historiography that both looks back to and interrogates the never previously questioned rhetorical scholarship produced in our field. In addition, she recovers new rhetorical practitioners and practices that have been excluded in the rhetorical tradition and thus redraws the traditional boundaries of rhetoric.  Glenn concludes by offering four strategies to continue regendering the rhetorical tradition:  devise new methodologies that allow feminist historiographers to hear the women rhetoricans speak; engage in collaboration; investigate silence as a feminine rhetorical site; and expand our studies beyond famous historical women who have refused to be forgotten and silenced.  Glenn reminds us in her final words that there are endless possibilities to recover women’s rhetorics; we simply need to listen.


In Rhetoric Retold, Glenn locates Sappho Aspasia, , Diotima, Hortensia, Fluvian, Julian of Norwhich, Margery Kempe, Margaret More Roper, Anne Askew and Elizabeth I.   While some of these women left written poetry, speeches, letters, and books, some women such as Aspasia, and Diotima exist only in secondary texts written by men. 

Leave a comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

Campbell, Karlyn Kohrs — Man Cannot Speak for Her

Man Cannot Speak for Her  Karlyn Kohrs Campbell


In this seminal text in feminist historiography, Campbell attempts to write the early women’s feminist movement that primary focused on suffrage from the 1830s through the the mid-1920s into rhetorical history.  Working from a definition of rhetoric as the available means symbols can be used to persuade, Campell specifically recovers the rhetorics employed by women rights advocates and suffragists, who also used rhetoric in many cases for abolition and temperance efforts.   While Volume I of Man Cannot Speak for Her anthologizes the rhetorics used in the woman’s suffrage movement, Volume II offers a collection and annotation of the key rhetorical documents from this movement.  Together these offer an incomplete but important effort to recover early feminist rhetoric in the United States and write women into the rhetorical canon.  In addition to revising rhetorical history through these efforts, Campbell also attempts to broaden conceptions of rhetoric itself.  As she notes, many early feminists struggled for the right to speak by subverting concepts of “true womanhood,” venturing onto the public rhetorical platform, “masculanizing” their speech, and defying sexist biological assumptions.  Therefore, early feminist met much resistance and had to use rhetoric creatively to confront this resistance and be heard.  While women such as the Grimke sisters, Elizabeth Cady Canton, and Susan B. Anthony took a more assertive and less “feminine” approach to gain rights for women, social feminists such as Frances Willard took a more traditional “feminine” approach. In addition to difference in approaches, early feminist’s rhetorical style varied as well as their uses of evidence and appeals.  Man Cannnot Speak for Her documents not only these creative, rhetorical  approaches but the tensions inside the suffrage, temperance, and abolition movements that arose as early feminists disagreed on rhetorical strategies, goals, and ideals.  The end product is a useful documentary of the rhetorical diversity used in the struggle for woman’s advancement. 

Leave a comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

Inderpal Grewel and Caren Kaplan — Scattered Hegemonies: Postmodernity and Transnational Feminist Practices


Introduction:  Transnational Feminist Practices and Questions of Postmodernity


thoughts on rhetoric:


the way terms get co-opted constitutes a form of practice, just as the way that they contain possibilities for critical use is also an oppositional practice.  Specific terms lose their political usefulness when they are disciplined by academia or liberal/conservative agendas.


One of main questions their compilation hopes to address is:

How do we understand the production and reception of diverse feminisms within a framework of transnational social/cultural/economic movements? (3)


they claim very often, feminist poststructuralist or psychoanalytic theorists do not utilize a transnational frame or consider colonial discourse or discourses of race.  –3


also claim, some feminst practices continue to use coloinial discourse critiques in order to equate the “colonized” with “woman,” creating essentialist and monolithic categories that suppress issues of diversity, conflict, and multiplicity within categories—3


G and K believe postmodernity is an immensely powerful and useful conception that gives us an opportunity to analyze the way that a culture of modernity is produced in diverse locations and how these cultural productions are circulated, distributed, received, and even commodified (5). 



Interested in rearticulating histories of how people in different locations and circumstances are linked by the spread of and resistance to modern capitalist social formations even as theair experiences of these phenomena are not at all the same or equal.  3









Leave a comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam

Powell, Malea

Powell, Malea.  “Extending the Hand of Empire:  American Indians and the Reform Movement, a Beginning”


In this essay, Powell describes the discursive interactions of Susan LaFleche Picotte and the Women’s National Indian Association (WNIA).  In exploring this rhetorical relationship, Powell attempts to reveal the complex relationships between Indian reformers and Indians in the late 19th century.  As Powell explains, the Ponca Tours in which this interaction took place is an important rhetorical moment in the Indian Reform Movement because it was at this moment that “the Indian” moved onto the public arena of Indian reform.  Powell claims that “like the slave testimonies of the abolition movement, ‘real’ Indian voices lent credence and urgency to reformist arguments and put a human face, one that could thus be made to be an object of pity and censure, on government policy decisions” (39).  New reform organization that worked in conjunction with Indian voices attempted to reform government policies and “bring Indians into the bosum of the republic through private property, education, and Christian conversion” (39).  Powell describes the work of Helen Hunt Jackson who in the Century uses sentimental outrage and persuasive style to narrate past injustices against Indians.  Powell also describes the work of women working for the WNIA who appealed to Christian consciences to argue for native rights of citizenship and property ownership. Finally, Powell turns to the rhetoric of Susan LaFleche Picotte, who married her native desires with the objectives of WNIA to create a series of effective reform pamphlets.  Powell’s ultimate objective here is to uncover the rhetoric of Christian parenting and civic morality adopted by the WNIA to advocate for Indian reform.  Yet more so, as she deems the WNIA as an extended hand of empire more than act of effective resistance, she wants to situate Picotte’s work among other Indian activists such as Winnemucca Hopkins and Eastmen, who made possible “survivance” by using “reform to strengthen communities, to build pan-Indian awareness, and, of course, to survive…and to resist that extended hand of empire” (45).


“Down by the River, or How Susan La Flesche Picotte Can Teach Us about Alliance as a Practice of Survivance” 


Published in College English, “Down by the River” aims to demonstrate how composition and rhetoric scholars can learn from the alliance and adaptation tactics used by Susan La Fleshch to enact survivance during the Indian Reform Movement. Powell prefaces these lessons by reminding composition and rhetoric scholars that we must do more than simply include the rhetorics of American Indians in our efforts to expand the rhetorical canon.  We must also take American Indians seriously, consider their work to be critically important, and listen to the lessons they have to offer.  In order to make this happen, Powell claims, we need to “undo what Jacqueline Jones Royster and Jean C.  Williams call ‘primacy’—the status given to ‘official’ (that is: dominant) viewpoints (580).  According to them, ‘the privilege of primacy […] sets in motion a struggle’ between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ disciplinary narratives (580)” (41).   Yet, arguing that this current struggle is trapped in dichotomy of dominant/oppressed, center/margins, colonizer/colonized, Powell also argues that we need to create a new language, “one that doesn’t force us to see one another as competitors.  We need a language that allows us to imagine respectful and reciprocal relationships that acknowledge the degree to which we need one another (have needed one another) in order to survive and flourish.  We need, I would argue, an alliance based on the shared assumption that ‘surviving genocide and advocating sovereignty and survival’ has been a focus for many people now on this contintent for several centuries and, as such, should also be at the center of our scholarly and pedagogical practices enacted in the United States (Womack 7) (41). We need to be allies, Powell argues, and in order to be allies, “ we have to listen to one another, and we have to believe” (44).  


 As Powell also describes in “Extending the Hand of Empire” but in less detail than she sketches here, LaFlesche models a means of alliance that rhetoric and comp scholars can learn from.  What Powell really wants us to see is LaFlesche’s “sense of equal and shared responsibility” to both the WNIA and her own native community in Omaha.  As LaFlesche models, we can adapt to different beliefs, different practices and be willing to accept that there are more than one kind of rhetoric used to confront problems.  “If we engage in this work, as Susan La Flesche did, in order to work for our people, our community, our discipline, then maybe we should begin our negotiations toward alliance with a wholesale and meaningful questioning of the criteria by which we ‘judge’ on another’s contributions to that community as significant, rather than simply assuming the same long-practiced and dominant critical, theoretical, and pedagogical frameworks” (57).  We need to not just add onto rhetorical history by including the work of others but realize that work as always been part of that history.  We can learn to disruptive tactics from each other….

Leave a comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

Gloria Anzaldua Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

In a radical genre she calls autohistoria, which offers an innovative way to write history, Gloria Anzaldua presents a non-linear history of both the geographical and psychological landscapes of Borderlands.  Anzulda’s autohistoria is a genre of mixed media—personal narrative, testimonio, factual accounts, cuento, and poetry—that refutes stasis just as the Borderlands from which Anzaldua comes.  According to Anzaldua, the Border is a “third country” whose history as been told on Anglocentric terms, which she attempts to disrupt through feminist analysis and issues.  As one of many subaltern Indian women of the Americas working hard to overcome the traditions of silence, Anzaludua  attempts to recover the female historical presence by restorying Border history and rewriting the stories of Malinali, la Llorona and the Virgen de Guadalupe.  As Sonia Saldivar-Hull writes in the introduction to La Frontera, Anzaldua’s recovery project “leads to the political, feminist, social awareness Anzaldua calls New Mestiza Consiousness” (8).  As Anzaldua explains it, this consciousness entails  a “shift out of habitual formations: form convergent thnking, analytical reasoning that tends to use rationality to move toward a single goal (a Western mode), to divergent thinking, characterized by movement away from set patterns and goals toward a more whole perspective, on ethat includes rather than excludes” (101). 


Anzaluda’s multilingual methodology invokes what Mignolo calls “border thinking,” which embodies a double consciousness and employing multi-languaging to think from the border and offer a new epistemology.   As Anzaldua describes it, border thinking creates a new mythos—“a change in the way we perceive reality, the way we see ourselves, and the ways we behave” (102).  In essence, from the border, Anzaldua is creating another culture altogether, “ a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connect us to each other and to the planet” (103).  The first step in “the Mestiza way” is taking inventory of our own selves that have been constructed by traceless historical processes.  Then, we must put history “though a sieve, winnow out the lies, looks at the forces that we as a race, as women, have been part of” (104).  This process causes “conscious ruptures with all oppressive traditions of all cultures and religions.  She [then] communicates that rupture, documents the struggle, and reinterprets history, and using new symbols, she shapes new myths” (104).  Deconstruct in order to construct…


Part of this methodology that is so effective is the personal accounts that Anzaldua offers to describe the psyche of those on the border.  She explains, for instance, that she bought into Western claims that Indians are incapable of rationale thought and higher consciousness (59).  She admonishes Western intellectual thought for turning Indians into objects of study and making it shameful to speak their own language and trust their own ways of knowing–all of which are at the roots of violence.   She explains that ethnic identity is wrapped up in language; thus, those on the border attempt to create a language in which “they can create their own identity to, one capable of communicating the realities and values true to themselves—a language with terms that are neither espanol ni ingles, but both.  We speak a patois, a forked tongue, a variation of two language” (76). 


In attempt to explain the psyche of those on the border, Anzaldua explains that many on the border develop la facultad—“the capacity to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities to see the deep structure below the surface.  It is an instant “sensing,” a quick perception arrived at without conscious reasoning.  It is an acute awareness mediated by the part of the psyche that does not speak, that communicates in images and symbols which are the faces of feelings, that is behind which feelings reside/hide”  (60).  


Anzaldua also explains how important the role of art in Indian ways of life.  As she explains, art was not separated from daily life. “The writer, as shape-changer, is a nahual, a shaman” (88).   She deems her own writing as an art—an object, “an assemblage,  a montage, a beaded wrok with several leitomotifs and with a central core, now appearing, now disappearing in a crazy dance” (88).  She also considers her “stories” as “acts, encapsulated in time, ‘enacted’ everytime they are spoken aloud or read silently. [She] like[s] to think of them as performances and not as inert and ‘dead’ objects (as the aesthetic of Western culture think of art works).  Instead, the work has an identity; it is ‘who’ or a ‘what’ and contains the presences of persons, that is, incarnations of gods or ancestors or natural and cosmic powers.  The work manifests the same needs as a person, it needs to be ‘fed,’ la tengo que banar y vestir” (89).


Anzaldua argues that “western cultures behave differently toward works of art than do tribal cultures” (89).  “Ethnocentricism,” she claims, “is the tyranny of Western aesthetics” (90).  Western culture kills/conquers the power of art; it counts art as a “’dead thing’ separate from nature” (90).  “Lets stop importing Greek myths and the Western Cartesian split point of view,” she argues, “and root ourselves in the mythological soil and soul of this continent.  White America has only attended to the body of the earth in order to exploit it, never to succor it or to be nurtured by it.  [W]hites could allow themselves t shared and exchange and learn from us in a respectful way” (90). 


She explains the importance of images in Indian ways of knowing:  “An image is a bridge between evoked emotion and conscious knowledge; words are the cables that hold up the bridge.  Images are more direct, more immediate than words, and closer to the unconscious.  Picture language precedes thinking in words; the metaphorical mind precedes analytical consciousness” (90).


Anzaldua explains that her process of writing entails “picking out images from [her] soul’s eye, fishing forth the right words to recreate the images” (93).  Why is a reimaging of reality in our consciousness so important:  “nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads” (109).


Key Concepts:


Borderland—vague and undertrmined placed created by the emotional residue of an unnatural border -25


Mexican—used to describe race and ancestry

Mestizo—used to affirm both Indian and Spanish ancestry

Chicano-used to signal political awareness of people born and raised in U.S.





Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

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

Leave a comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam