Tag Archives: latin american rhetorics

Walter Mignolo—Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking


 In Local Histories/Global Designs:  Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges, and Border Thinking, Mignolo describes the role that colonial difference plays in contemporary conceptions of modernity and the enactment of subaltern knowledges operating on the borders of the current world system.   Mignolo calls this current world system a modern/colonial world system to signify the interdependence of modernity and coloniality, which have always been simultaneously at play.  Coloniality (of power), as Mignolo explains, occurs in and from the borders and from particular, local histories of modernity/coloniality.  It is created by what he calls gnosis knowledge, which is “knowledge from a subaltern perspective…conceived from the exterior borders of the modern/colonial world system”… that strives to a.) “foreground the force and creativity of knowledges subalternized during a long process of colonization”…and b.) counter the hegemonic knowledges that govern Western dominant thought and have been perpetuated through Occidentalism (11-14).   According to Mignolo, border thinking creates macronnarratives, which attempt to offer a new logic, for he feels that critique of western knowledge cannot effectively come from Western thinking.  Although he acknowledges the utility of postmodern theories and deconstrtuuction, he claims these ignore the colonial difference and constitute nothing more than a Eurocentric critique of Eurocentricism. (37-39).   Border thinking, on the other hand, which originates from coloniality not from ancient Greek thought, has epistemic potential to decolonize dominant intellectual thought/knowledge—logo and Eurocentric knowledges.   Border thinking is a complement to deconstruction and postmodern theories.



Border thinking entails a double critique that recovers and materialized subaltern knowledges, which make possible an “other way of thinking” (67). Border thinking not only changes content of conversation but the perspectives and terms through which conversations are had (70).  It disrupts dichotomous concepts which currently orders the world by thinking from dichotomous concepts (85).  It disrupts the epistemic hegemony deriving from post-Enlightenment reasoning that currently drives colonialism (88). 


 Interestingly, Mignolo complains that Occidentalism is of main concern to Latin American subaltern knowledges.  He acknowledges that usefulness of post colonial theory but points out the exclusion of Latin America from that theoretical lens.  Post-occidentalism, then, might better describe border thinking deriving from Latin America.  He wants us to understand “subaltern reason…as a diverse set of theoretical practices emerging from and responding to colonial legacies at the intersection of Euro/American modern history” (95).   He differentiates between postcolonial theories (academic commodities) and postcolonial theorizing (“thinking process in which people living under colonial domination had to enact in order to negotiate their life and subaltern condition”) (100).   “Post colonial theorizing as a particular enactment of the subaltern reason coexists with colonialism itself as a constant move and force toward autonomy and liberation in every order of life, from economics to religion, from language to education, from memories to spatial order, and it is not limited to the academy, even less to the U.S. academy” (100). 








Key concepts and points:


Colonial difference:  space where coloniality of power is enacted; space where subaltern knowledge and where border thinking takes place; space where global designs (globalization) meet local histories and are adapted, adopted, rejected, integrated, or ignored; physical and imaginary location where coloniality of power confronts dichotomous local cosmologies


Homogenous entities such as Latin America, the U.S. France, etc. are part of the “imaginary of the modern/colonial world system. They reveal and they occlude.  They are also the grounding of a system of geopolitical values, of racial configurations, and of hierarchical structures of meaning and knowledge” (170).  Local histories constituted of changing global designs question” all national/colonial forms of indenfication in modern/colonial world system…[ which] contribute to the imaginary and coloniality of power and knowledge implicit in the geopolitical configurations of the world” (171).


Theories travel, are transcultured, and become objects 174.  We need to “think more about when and why a theory that was produced to account for a type of question, problem, and historical situation in a geopolitical and geohistorical location within a local history becomes a global design, is desired and invited to a new locale (183).  Theories are marked with coloniality of power. 


National and cultural identities are just one kind of historical sensibility (192).


Provincializing Europe—Europe’s acquistion of adjective modern for itself….


Creoleness—mode of being, thinking and writing in subaltern language, from subaltern perspective and using and appropriating hegemonic language


Border thinking entails inhabiting language in tension with colonial language (245).  We are the words begiing writing (qtd. on 245).


Border thinking is plurilogical and plurilingual; throught billanguaging, we find and create new forms of logic.


Bilanguaging is a way of life – 264.  It engages needs and desires to eact the politics and ethics of liberation; it is way of life between languages:  a dialogical , ethic, aesthetic, and political process of social transformation rather than energeia emanating froma an isolated speaker (265).


Bilanguaging as a way of iving in languages in a transnational world, as an educational and epistemological project, rests on the critique of reason, of disciplinary structures, and cultures of scholarship complicitous with national and imperial languages ( 273).


Global designs:  transform the structure of the coloniality of power within the imperial conflict and the logic of the modern world system. 



Transdisciplinarity is effective means to decolonize knowledge….



Mignolo—The Idea of Latin America


As Mignolo so clearly explains, this book is an “excavation of the imperial/colonial foundation of the ‘idea’ of Latin America that will help us unravel the geo-politics of knowledge from the perspective of coloniality, the untold and unrecognized historical counterpart of modernity” (xi).   Important to recognize in terms of methodology is the framework in which his scholarship is situated—one Arturo Escobar has called the modernity/coloniality reseach project (xiii).  The following presumptions underlie this framework:

  • There is no modernity without coloniality; coloniality constituted of modernity
  • Modern/colonial world originated in 16th centrury; invention of America is colonial component of modernity
  • Enlightenment and industrial revolution—colonial matrix of power
  • Modernity—name for historical processs in which Europe bean its progress toward global hegemony, which carries dark side of coloniality
  • Capitalism is essence of modernity and darker side of coloniality
  • Capitalism and modernity took on new momentum at end of WWII with rise of US imperial power-xiii


The perspective of coloniality, which is very much influenced by Fanon, is situated within an-other intellectual paradigm based on both geo-political and bio-graphical location.  This intellectual paradigm, a decolonial paradigm, does not negate other knowledges; instead it strives for co-existence among other knowledges without negation—xvii.  It uses dialogue for utopistic aims—critique on past to imagine and construct future possible worlds-xix.  The theory that drives this intellectual paradigm is what Mignolo calls decolonial theory, which can be thought of as a “theory arising from the projects for decolonization of knowledge and being that will lead to the imagining of economy and politics otherwise” (xx).  Mignolo’s book employs and embodies decolonial theory as it attempts to contribute to the “decolonization of knowledge and being; an attempt to rewrite history following an-other logic, and an-other language, an-other thinking” (xx). 


Mignolo explains that the methodology of decolonization entails changing terms of conversation not content, as occurs with border thinking.  Mignolo claims that border thinking is exploding on the scene is south America right now under the title of inter-culturalad, which acknowledges that two cosmologies (indigenous and Western) can operate at once –can co-exist-9.  Again, negation is not goal; coexistence is.  Los Coracoles (Mexican economic and political orgnaziations) and Amawtay Wasi (Ecuadorian university) make use of co-existence and interaction of knowledges to create future possibilities beyond imperial paradigms.  An indigenous ethos is at work in these institutions that draw on multiple languages, memories, knowledges, ways of life, and dignities to create new paradigms of thought!  – 128 


In describing these projects, Mignolo identifies a new logic at work on both state and grassroot level in South America that draws on decolonial theory and are waging an epistemic battle with Western knowledge – 100.  New leaders are arising that draw on an-other logic in their struggle for changing the geography of knowledge and liberation – 100.  As Mignolo explains, this other knowledge requires understanding how knowledge and subjectivity are intertwined with modernity/coloniality – 106.  It also demands changing the terms as Afro-Andeans are doing when they create new theoretical concepts that allow them to conceptualize themselves differently – 112.   Lo propio for instance is a “frame for ‘appropriating’ concepts or ideas and redefining them through the colonial wound” 113. 


Such framing is key to developing new ways of thinking beyond modernity; for as Mignolo says, you “cannot envision alternative to modernity if the principles of knowledge you hold, and the structure of reasoning you follow, are molded by the hegemonic rhetoric of modernity and the hidden logic of coloniality working through it (114).  “An-other thinking requires a change in the terms, content and questions” (114). 


Mignolo demonstrates how the Zapatistas draw on decolonial critical theory and make radicals shifts in the geopolitics and body politics of knowledge (115).  One useful strategy they uses is delinking, which believes other ways of knowing are possible and necessary and the best solutions for decolonization 117.  Mignolo also makes clear that bilinigual education is so important because we think from language; therefore, new language affords us access to new logics -118  Mignolo credits Anzaldua for modeling this possibility so perfectly; he claims that while Descarte shifted intellectual paradigm from theological to egological form of knowledge (I think therefore I am), Anzaluda shifted intellectual paradigm from egological to geo-graphical and bio-graphical centered way of thinking-135


Mignolo ends by claiming that border thinking is the catalyst for an “after-America” movement that is eroding ethnic and geographic frontiers. Changing the content won’t do it.  we must form new logics 161






Key Terms:


Colonialism—refers to historical and geographical locations while coloniality refers to underlying matrix of colonial power 69


Coloniality:  attempts to unveil embedded logic that enforces control, domination, and exploitation disguised in the language of salvation, progress, modernization, and being good for everyone- 6.  Logical structure of colonial domination, which helps control and manage entire planet -7  logic of domination in modern/colonial world – 7;


Locus of enunciation—geo-politics of language; place from which knowledge is created and articulated – 8 local historical grounding of knowledge-10 


Occidentalism—from where rest of world is descriped, conceptualized, and ranked – 35  locus of enunciation, not just field of study as Said says, from which orientalism was created -42 


Colonial matrix—1.)economic: of land and control of finance; 2.) political: control of authority; 3. ) civic:  control of gender and sexuality; 4.) epistemic and subjective/personal:  control of knowledge and subjectivity


Geopolitics of epistemology:  uneven distribution of knowledge -44


Americanity—grounded in idea that there isn’t just one history of world; attempt to recover official histories


Historico-structural heterogeneity—historical processes interacting, coexisting – 48 provides theoretical anchor in the perspective of local histories and languages instead of grand narratives;  space made available for multiple and contesting perspectives and historical processes – 49









 “culture” served colonial purpose in classifying alien and inferior cultures- xvii


western hemispher produced wisdom, western Europe produced knowledge  1


border thinking consequence of colonial difference 10


the vital breath of western thought is reason; reason of ‘rectilinear time’ – 51


idea of latin America—it is land rich in raw resources and cheap labor—12


perspective vs. interpretation:  perspective based on locally situated rules and principles of knowledge while interpretation based on common and shared principle of knowledges and rules – 13


decolonial epistemic shifts understanding modernity form perspective of coloniality while postmodernity means understanding   modernity from within modernity itself-34








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Villanueva, Victor “Memoria is a Friend of Ours: On the Discourse of Color”

In this essay, Villanueva interwines poetry, narrative, and memory to disrupt traditional academic conventions where memory  and emotion have no legitimate place.  Academic discourse, according to Villanueva, is too logocentric in its effort to “reach the Aristotelian ideal of being completely logocentric, though it cannot be freed of the ethical appeal to authority” (12).  Villanueva argues that we need to realize that “the personal” does not have to negate the academic desires to be rational and objective; instead the personal can complement the intellect by produting cognition and affect.  The personal, Villanueva says, is intellectual.  Villanueva also wants us to understand the role that narrative plays in the life of one of color to facilitate memory of possibility realized, processes discovered and openings found.  Memoria, which use to be one of the most important canons of rhetorics, has been relegated to the wayside—a prophecy Plato himself foresaw.  Villanueva wants to reinvigorate the role of memory in rhetoric through narrative.  As he writes, “The narrative of people of color jog our memories as a collective in a scattered world and within an ideology that praises individualism.”  For Latino/a(s), language “contains the interconnectedness among identity, memory, and the personal” as evident in the famous Puerto Rican and Cuban saying Te doy un cuento de mi historia—“’I’ll give you my story about my history’:  me, history and memory, and a story” (16).   Therefore, for people of color, as should be true for all of us, “personal discourse, the narrative, the auto/biography, helps in [the effort of intellectual formation], is a necessary adjunct to the academic” (17).   Therefore, we “must invited [Memoria] into our classrooms and into our scholarship” (19).


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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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Mignolo, Walter “Globalization, Civilization Processes, and the Relocation of Languages and Cultures”

In this article, Mignolo explores the complicities of languages, literatures, and the culture of scholarship in the civilizing process, modernity, and globalization, all of which have contributed to the expansion of the “Western world-system” in part by denying the denial of coevalness.  Mignolo reminds us that dominant languages and scholarship came from the same countries that produced and perpetuated the civilizing mission of “third world” countries and thus English is the colonial language in which the “domain of knowledge, intellectual production, and cultures of scholarship” arose.  In the current stage of globalization, however, “the ‘natural’ link between languages and nations, languages and national memories, languages and national literature…is creating the condition for and enacting the relocation of languages and the fracture of cultures” (43).  In addition, cultures of scholarship are being relocated and a “border gnoseology is emerging at the intersection of Western epistemology and non-Western knowledge, characterized as ‘wisdom’ by the former” (43).  In Latin American, for instance, the politics of language and education is being heavily influenced by a growing indigenous culture of scholarship made possible in part by both technological globalization and transnational alliances but mostly by a growing body of organic intellectuals who sparked a rise of Amerindian social movements by appropriating “theoretical practices and elaborated projects, engulfing and superseding the discourse of the civilizing mission and its theoretical foundations (44-5).   What has emerged in these borderlands, Mignolo points out, is a new consciousness, a” border gnosis,” that denies the denial of barbarism and coevalness. As he explains:

the forces of ’barbarian’ theorizing and rationality” integrat[es] and supersed[es] the restrictive logic behind the idea of ‘civilization’ by giving rise to what the civilizing mission suppressed:  the self-appropriation of all the good qualities that were denied the barbarians.  ‘Border gnoseology’ (rather than epistemology) in all its complexity (geocultural, sexual, racial, national, diasporic, exilic, etc.) is a new way of thinking that emerges from the sensibilities and conditions of everyday life created by colonial legacies and economic globalization” (46). 

In this sense, “barbarian theorizing” as it “redress[es] and implement[s] long-lasting forces, sensibilities, and rationalities repressed by the one-sided ideology of the civilizing mission/process” does not so much “oppose ’civilian’ (in the double meaning of civilization and citizenship) ‘theorizing’” but displace it and depart from it (49).


At the end of his article, Mignolo points out that theorizing from the border is made possible by being both trained in “civilizing theorizing” and living and experiencing in subaltern communities.  In addition, he emphasizes that “barbarian theorizing” ‘from/of the “third world” is for and benefits the whole world, not just the “third world” (51).

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“Beyond Dichotomies” Walter Mignolo and Freya Schiwy

Concerned with reshaping the hierchical and contradictory dichotomies that permeate the modern/colonial world, in “Beyond Dichotomies,” Walter Mignolo and Freya Schiwy explain and demonstrate how “translation” has the possibility to imagine new futures, beyond dichotomies, in which the colonial world’s epistemic potential is valued and recognized.  Translation, according to M and S, is more than just translating one language into another.  It is a geopolitical configuration that both embodies history and the subjectivity of its speakers, and for this reason, is simultaneously an act of transculturation.    Transculturation, rather than simply being a centrepital force that unites national identity, is also centrifugal force that creates colonial difference and heirchical dichotomies.  M and S advocate for a ‘change in directionality in the work of translation and transculturation that could help in thinking and moving beyond dichotomies, ethically and politically” (252).


            M and S explain that after 1500, with emergence of moden/colonial world, translation contributed to the construction of hierarchical dichotomies imposing certain rules and directionalities of transculturalation.  Translation contributed to building of colonial difference between Western European languages (languages of science and knowledge and the locus of enunciation) and the rest of the language on the planet (languages of culture, religion, and locus of enunciated).  Western logic conceives of differences in terms of hierarchical dichotomies that began in Renaissance and continue today.  “Translation was indeed the place where the coloniality of power articulated the colonial difference in the modern/colonial world” (254). 


COLONIALITY OF POWER–kind of power exercised in the classification of people and cultures and in the historical and colonial dichotomies implied in such classifications” (255).


            The Zapatistas, according to M and S, changed directionality of transculturation and offered a new theory of translation/transculturation at end of 20th c.  Rather than translate local language into colonist’s language and both construct and erase colonial difference at the same time, the Zapatistas emphasized colonial difference and employed gender as a means of “epistemic and political intervention” (256).  The Zapatistas enacted a double move of translation/transculturation of Marxism into Ameri-Indian cosmology and vice versa in response to hegemonic neoliberalist discourse.  As an example, M and S show how members of the Zapatistas’ (EZLN) intentionally create fractures in translations from local to colonist’s language in order to highlight dimensions of colonial difference.  M and S also demonstrate how intentionally intertwined grammar, cosmology, and language are, which keeps it from being able to be mastered and controlled by “one type of correlation between language, worldviews, knowledge, and wisdom” (257).   M and S “locate translation and transculturation within the overall frame of the colonial difference in the modern/colonial world system, as a process grounded in an ethno-racial, gendered, and epistemological foundation” (255).


            M and S remind us that “colonial difference articulates the external borders of the modern/colonial world system, not its internal-imperial conflicts” (258).  “We are no longer facing the question of ‘the West and the rest,’ but ‘the rest in the West” –a reinscription of colonial difference  (258). Intervention of colonial difference from subaltern perspective helps to dissolve dichotomies “because multiple others challenge the center and critically engage with each other on its interior and exterior borders” (258). Legitimizing cosmologies, language, and knowledges of “non-western” cultures reinstates the logic of dichotomies in the act of criticizing their content” (260). 


“DIVERSALITY–“the conscious harmonization of preserved diversities.


            Example of transculturation:  EZLN’s appropriaton of “democracy,” which in their language means “ruling at the same time as obeying,” into Amerindian languages/cosmologies yet is expressed in Spanish.  This doublemove is an act of political intervention because Z. “are no longer translating Ameriindian languages to Spanish concepts and systems of understanding.  Rather, an Amerindian understanding is rendered in Spanish syntax, becoming transformed in the process and not entirely losing its difference from Western understanding.  In the other direction, from the Spanish/Western language to Amerindian languages, Spanish/Western thinking is transformed, its words inserted and interpreted on the grounds of Amerindian cosmologies” (263).


“Choque” or clash –when two cultures come together in and produce a space of contact and conflict where translation takes place (263).


Translation becomes re-education. The result is an epistemological revolution. rhetoricians need to be re-educated, re-modeled…re-configured… “in the modern world, grammatical treatisies based on alphabetic literary and the expansion of Western Christianity… proliferate.  As self-contained entities, they are placed in dichotomous relations that are not equal or even complementary to each other but defined heirchichally by the geopolitical location of the language as nation” (267).


Spanish language from end of 18th century on was language of consumption of knowledge rather than for knowledge production sustained transnationally. 


Transculturation is at work in the social life of things, and it works in both directions.  It trans-lates objects that transform modes of being and thinking, which at the same time transform the “original” uses and life of the object (268).


Zapatista’s theoretical revolution stems from a colonial difference emerging as the locus of epistemological border thinking, which demands the remapping of translation/transculturation (270). 


Border thinking is “double consciousness from a subaltern perspective in confrontation with hegemony” (272).   Ambiguity develops in what Anzaludua calls a mestizaconsciousness, which needs to and can “‘reinterpret’ history, using new symbols to…call on traditions to and other ways of knowing in order to inscribe them in the present and thus transform and the dominant and hegemonic epistemic space (272).


By “translating/transculturating Western language into Amerindian knowledge and enunciating it back in Spanish to a global audience,  [t]hey are profoundly undoing the binaries at the base of their subalternity, creating border-spaces for translation/transculturation from the epistemic potential of the colonial difference” (274).


Translation is “trans-languaging”–a form of border thinking, opening up new epistemic avenues beyond the complicity between national languages and cultures of scholarship established in the modern/colonial world system and in which the “modern” concept of translation was articulated (277). Beyond dichotomies is an-other logic, not only a reconfiguration of the content” (279).


Tansculturation can best be described as a social conflict between languages and cosmologies in geemonic and subaltern positions, respectively” (266).

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One more thought about the CODEX

One other thought I had. I was facinated and entertained with Gomez-Pena’s collapsing of the binary that constructs global social space between first and third worlds. Remapping global social space into the “conceptual archipelago” of the first world, the “geo-political Limbo” of the second world, the “ex-underdeveloped” third world, the conceptual meeting place of indigenous and deterritorialized peoples in the fourth world, the virtual, institutional, capitalist, corporate, and political space of the fifth world is a trickster move that is effective for deconstructing our colonizing mindset. I am intrigued by the landscape of the fourth world and wonder if recovering “fourth world rhetorics” has potential for cross-cultural rhetorical studies.

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“Codex Scripts of Resistance: From Columbus to the Border Patrol” Damian Baca


In “Codex Scripts of Resistance: From Columbus to Border Control,” Damian Baca (Yeah CCR!) rocks the C & R Ranch with a compelling rhetorical analysis of Mestiz@ rhetorics of resistance and challenges us to reconceptualize our ethnocentric, alphacentric, hegemonic views and pedagogies of rhetoric and writing. Baca, more specifically, analyzes the pictographic rhetorics of the 2000 Codex Espangliensis: From Columbus to the Border Patrol and demonstrates an emerging rhetoric at work in the form of dialectical oppositions and reversals. These distinct rhetorical strategies, which fuse and embellish traditional methods of Mesoamerican pictography into Anglo-European inscription practices, “revise and displace the dominant historical narrative of cultural assimilation through continuous symbolic play with pairs, doubles, corresponding expressions and twins” (105). In addition, the Codex Espangliensis critiques Spanish colonization of the Americas, North American economic and cultural imperialism, the Northern Free Trade Agreement, in particular, and globalization’s impact on immigration, language, and popular culture (106).

Baca begins with a broad description of the Codex Espangliensis, and then quickly delves into the history of the Mesoamerican codex, which Baca describes as “semasiographic, a configuration of permanently recorded marks that signify thought, ideas, and imagery rather than visible speech” (111). Baca explains that Mesoamerican codices were denigrated and demonized during Spanish colonization. Replacing the Mesoamerican codices were colonial codices, which intended to colonize Mexican minds and reconstruct and reorganize Mesoamerican memory (118). These codices, even if crafted by Aztecs themselves, presented a historical narrative from the dominant Spanish perspective through illustrations set beside “the Spanish-Iberian alphabet and an alphabetized Nahuatl, the new prevailing tools of literacy and civilization in the borderlands” (119). Mesoamerican pictographic traditions did not disappear altogether, however; Baca explains that Mesoamerican rhetorics persisted in non-codex genres such as scrolls, lienzos, and techialoyan, otherwise known as “landbooks” (119) (See images below).

As a new era of economic and cultural imperialism and globalization arose in the 20th century, Chicano murals became a popular form of rhetorical resistance to contemporary injustices. Artists such as Diego Rivera and Alfaro Siqueiros employed ancient Aztec writing practices with new Marxist ideals, yet much art produced at this time was interpreted as separate from “true” Anglo-European concepts of writing (120). Baca makes clear, however, that Mesoamerican pictography has maintained a pronounced presence until the present day even if Anglo-European biases toward Mexican writing still persist, Aztec pictographic rhetoric is absent from contemporary conceptions of rhetoric, and Mesoamerican pictographic texts have been reduced to “quaint artifacts of an apparently extinct culture” (122).

Fortunately, Baca explains, anthropologists, archeologists, and art historians are working to revise conceptions of Mesoamerican codex writing. Two of the most important scholars engaged in this work are Elizabeth Boon Hill and Miguel Leon-Portilla. While Hill argues that Mesoamerican pictographs need to be interpreted as independent writing systems, Leon-Portilla “presents evidence for an Aztec pictographic rhetorical tradition and compares several alphabetic and pictographic versions of indigenous texts to show how ‘an authentic thread of the Mesoamerican cultural weaving’ can be reached” (124). In addition, Leon-Portilla working with Ines Hernandez-Avila demonstrates that Mesoamerican rhetorical manifestations of dual expressions and symbolic oppositions exist in contemporary writing practices, which they identify as “Yancuic Tlahtolli” (125). In this chapter, Baca analyzes these dual expressions and symbolic oppositions and interprets them as rhetorical strategies of resistance, which work against “a backdrop of colonial subjugation and resistances in the Americas…[and] revise the dominant narrative of assimilation” (125).

Baca begins the focus of his analysis on the exhibit The Chicano Codex: Encountering Art of the Americas, which Baca claims “illustrates syncretic rhetorical processes that express and enact commentary about these conventions and the hierarchical tensions between notation/illustration, writing/art, and temporal distinctions between sixteenth century Christianization and twentieth century global capitalism” (126). Baca draws on the artist Cherrie Moraga to describe the exhibit as a “anti-colonial map,” moving backward and forward in time between Mesoamerica and contemporary Mestiz@ codices to “advance a rhetorical process of reactivation and variation” (127). Baca uses the remapping as a framework to analyze the Codex Espangliensis, which he claims is “perhaps the most revisionist codex ever assembled and one that directly addresses colonial narratives of assimilation” (127).

The Codex Espangliensis is the product of a collaborative effort between lithographer Enrique Chagoya, performance artist and cultural critic Guillermo Gómez Peña and Felicia Rice, a book artist. Rather than summarize Baca’s rich rhetorical analysis of the Codex Espangliensis, I excerpt a number of compelling analytical insights that Baca presents throughout this section. (See the images from Codex Espangliensis in blog entry below.)

The manuscript conveys a tale of civilizing missions, colonial conquests, and rhetorical heterogeneity using Spanglish, Mesoamerican pictography, twentieth century Mexican iconography, and transnational corporate imagery to weave yet another mythic retelling of history (128-9).

The reversal of Europe and Mesoamerica in the Codex Espangliensis’ remapping of world history works to dislodge the integrity of Christianization and the dogma of European assimilation as they have operated in the past and continue today. Moreover, this retelling constructs a new perspective of global history that emerges from the lived experiences of the México/United States border (129).

Between the borders of Latin America and Anglo America, between a so-called developing nation and monopolizing capitalism, between the Aztec and the European, the Codex Espangliensis critiques across both real and imagined boundaries of a brutal, globalized world (129).

Because narrative and logical order are ultimately not fixed in the text, each folio or screen simultaneously functions as a potential beginning, middle, or end. Multiple reading orders represent an anti-colonial collage, a set of variations around themes of colonialism and civilizing missions. Fundamental Aristotelian laws of aesthetic invention and organization that demand a linear beginning, middle and end are therefore called into question. The material practice of reading the Codex requires a complex visual dance, forward and back, sometimes circular, other times broken (130).

Metiz@ rhetorics: “the available means of identification that are mediated at the intersection of knowledge constructed by the dominance of Western colonialism on the one hand, and on the other hand, knowledge emerging from anti-colonial perspectives in the borderlands” (131).

Rhetorical Strategies Identified in the Codex Rhetorics –

Intermediation: “satirical fusion of two language systems that, when intertwined, supports no intelligible meaning in either tongue” Ex.) Espangliensis

Difrasismo — Combining of different terms to convey new ideas and abstractions; ex.) Yancuic Tlahtolli

Syncretic play with pairs, doubles, corresponding expressions, and twins — repetitive invocation of dualism which is a “metaphorical communicative device central to Mesoamerican cosmology” (135). Baca explains that syncretic movement in the Codex, which relies greatly on juxtaposition of text and image, past and present, necessitates new ways of reading and knowing that “’invent between’” syncretic visions and revisions of geographical colonialism and economic imperialism” (130).

Symbolic oppositions and reversals – “Gómez-Peña’s symbolic reversals and expressions across borders subvert the hierarchies of power between opposites. By inventing between cultural paradigms, codex rhetorics enact possibilities beyond them” (140).

Through these rhetorical strategies, “The Codex warns of…a shift in diction from geographical colonialism to cultural imperialism, from Cortéz to Free Trade, from Columbus to the Border Patrol, a shift that maintains power structures through a thinly veiled rhetoric of popular culture and advertising. Critically reading such colonial power also provokes a global border consciousness, a strategic departure from the site-specific concept of the México/United States borderlands” (140).

Baca concludes his chapter by discussing how Mesoamerican pictography and Mexican iconography are valuable methods of inscription that disrupt the hegemonic view that Western literacy and alphabetic and syllabic systems are the apex of written communication. Drawing on semiotics, Baca challenges readers to expand their conceptions of “graphic interactions,” conceive of Mesoamerican pictographs as parallel and equally valuable systems of writing, and begin focusing on the significant role illustration and image play within language. One of Baca’s most important points is that “If, rather than theorizing rhetoric and writing based on the pedagogically vanguard “Composing-East-to-West” trajectory, specialists instead accept Mestiz@ codices as starting points, we are then left with expressions better suited to emerging non-Western rhetorics as well as current material realities in America and beyond” (143). Ultimately, this realization will help us confront the problematic tendency to link literacy with alphabetic writing–a deeply embedded notion that limits our understanding of “co-evolutionary or parallel histories of writing and rhetoric in the Americas” (144).


I really appreciate the work Baca has done here and the space he carves out for scholars like me who want to conduct similar scholarship. My interest in non-discursive and material rhetorics stems from the same desire he has to expand our conceptions of rhetoric and broaden our understanding of how ancient and contemporary “non-western” cultures use symbols to communicate persuasively. As Baca points out, at the moment, we have such a narrow conception of how inscription behaves rhetorically outside traditional Greco-Roman conceptions of rhetoric. His work is among many contemporary scholars attempting to broaden our perceptions; I hope his book is well received in the field.

I am very interested in the rhetorical strategies Baca identifies at work in the Codex, specifically how image-text works in the Codex to challenge the binary of word/image in our culture and in our field. Baca’s use of the word “inscription” is a clever means to encompass the full range of symbols used in the codices for rhetorical means. I was particularly fascinated with the juxtapositions between Mesomerican pictography, twentieth century Mexican iconography, and transnational corporate imagery and appreciate the humor in the codex’s satirical nature. (Lord of Cross-Cultural Misunderstanding especially cracks me up but strikes a disturbing chord as well.)

I am very curious about the similar rhetorical strategies I see at work between Latina/o rhetorics and Native American rhetorics. The use of difrasmismo, for instance, which Baca discusses, is a rhetorical strategy Powell employs in her discussion of survivance (survival plus resistance) and that Cobb uses in her discussion of communitist texts (community plus activism or activist). I notice that Baca describes the rhetorical strategies at work in the Codex as “tactics,” a concept Powell also employs. I wonder too if the Codex and the exhibit act as forms of communitism for the artists—a wondering that assumes that all art is cathartic in some way.

I admire the way the artists that Baca represents (Montoya, Moraga, Chagoya, Gomez Pena and Rice) enact a rhetorics of sovereignty and appreciate Baca’s challenge for us to honor those rhetorics in our pedagogies and our worldviews of rhetoric. I hear Baca asking for us to listen in similar ways as Powell, Lyons, and Bruegemann.

I want to know where and when this project began, how it evolved, and what Baca’s research process was? What were his major exams in (don’t laugh cohort!)? What figures, texts, theories, etc. do I need to draw on to understand the connections between globalization and rhetoric in global contexts?

I am interested in the fact that Baca doesn’t attempt to demonstrate how Mestiz@ rhetorics share features of traditional Greco-Roman rhetoric nor attempt to explain these rhetorical practices with reference to Western rhetorical theorists. I am curious to know if he makes connections across cultures and draws on Western rhetorical theorists at some point in his book. I imagine his answer will be no since he is determined for readers to see these ancient and contemporary rhetorical practices in their own right and not to conflate this form of writing with Western forms. Yet I wonder if he deems it valuable to make cross connections both in terms of practices and theories.

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