Tag Archives: Native American Rhetorics

American Indian Rhetorics of Survivance: Word Medicine, Word Magic Edited by Ernest Stromberg

In his introduction to this collection, Stromberg offers rich insight into American Indian rhetorics, beginning with the point that the exclusion of American Indians voices and practices from the Western rhetorical tradition is part of what Stephen Riggins calls the longstanding “rhetoric of othering” within our field (3).  This collection, demonstrates, however, that American Indians do have a rhetorical history, which when directed at a white audience, often involve “bridging communication divisions while maintaining an insistence on difference” (3).  In most of these insistences, Stromberg reminds us, American Indians must face the rhetorical task of “discovering and applying another’s “available means of persuasion” (3).  For this collection, Stromberg defines rhetoric as the “use of language or other forms of symbolic action to produce texts (in the broadest possible sense) that affect changes in attitudes, beliefs, or actions of the audience” (4).  He draws on Bitzer to describe the rhetorics of contact, which American Indians have been enacting since the Europeans arrived on U.S. soil, as “an unending chain of rhetorical situations, replete with ‘exigence, audience, [and often overwhelming] constraints’” (5).  Much of this process has also involved revising, replacing, or tearing down the terministic screens through which whites have viewed and communicated with American Indians.  Although American Indians certainly have rich and complex rhetorical traditions enacted within their own cultures surrounding ceremony and internal decision-making processes, the majority of this collection focus on post-contact rhetorical acts used to bridge communication between American Indians and European and American colonizers (5).  These acts demonstrate an acute awareness of audience, appropriation of language, style, and beliefs on American Indian rhetor’s part.  As Stromberg eloquently puts it, “this study confirms the truism that in situations of extreme opposition, the oppressed of necessity know more of the oppressor’s ways than the oppressors understand the ways of those whom they oppress” (6). In essence, both the American Indian rhetors who are being written about and the rhetors producing this scholarship provide evidence that American Indians “demonstrate not only a mastery of the available Western means of persuasion, they also enlarge conceptions of rhetoric itself” (7).  It is through this demonstration that this collection contributes to the Native intellectual tradition that Robert Allen Warrior advocates we begin to understand.


Craig Womack and Elizabeth Cook-Lynn make it clear that part of the American Indian intellectual, rhetorical tradition is literature, which often functions rhetorically to aid Native communities in their defense of sovereignty.  Jace Weaver identifies such rhetoric—rhetorics committed to Native community—as “communitist” (qtd. on 7).  Recognizing contemporary literature as important rhetorical acts gives presence and acknowledgement to American Indian rhetorics, for which Scott Lyon advocates and is in desperate need thanks to text such as George Kennedy’s Comparative Rhetorics, which reinscribes the “vanishing Indian” narrative. 


This text is organized in three sections, the first of which is devoted to uncovering the effective rhetorical strategy of appropriation. Matthew Dennis, for instance, demonstrates how as an Indian rhetor, Seneca leader Red Jacket appropriates elements of Christian discourse, sentimentalism, and nationalism to make sophisticated arguments on behalf of Seneca sovereign rights when white America itself was groping with an emerging sense of national identity.  Patricia Bizzell, on the other hand, demonstrates how Pequot author and Methodist minister William Apes appropriates the rhetorical elements of the “American jeremiad” to invoke “the audience’s cherished values and prophes[y] dire consequences for the [white, Puritan, American] community if these values are not served” (36).  The appropriation of this genre’s elements is an example of what Powell call’s the rhetoric of ‘survivance.’  Another instance of American Indian rhetoric that uses appropriation as a rhetorical strategy is Elias Boudinot’s editorials in the Cherokee Phoenix, which appropriates democratic discourse from the Constitution to argue against the removal of Cherokees from their land. 


In the second section of this text called “Rhetorical Self-Refashioning”—a term borrowed from James Clifford’s concept of ethnographic self-fashioning—rhetorical scholars recover the autobiographies of Indian rhetors to demonstrate how storytelling and construction of self act rhetorically to help Indian rhetors obtain assistance and right for their own peoples.  Powell shows, for instance, how reform movement advocate Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins employs tactics of representation and tropes and figures of “savagery” and “civilization” to authenticate and authorize her self as a civilized Indian woman in order to establish a credible ethos in the eyes of her audience and help make connections with them in order to persuade them of reform (80).  Ernest Stromberg himself discusses how native writers Francis LaFlesche and Zitkala-Sa use narrative to confront the dominant assimiliation discourses of their time that claim American Indians need “civilizing,” which entails  a process, in their eyes, of cultural abandonment.  Stromberg shows how through the use of identification and appeals to sentimentality in  their narratives, LaFlesche and Zitkala develop consubstantiality of Indian peoples or in other words develop a share commonality of humanity with white audience. Yet, through irony, these native writers simultaneously critique and persuade their audience of the injustices of Indian education (108).  Lastly, in this section, Janna Knittel, demonstrates how in his life story Prison Writings:  My Life is My Sundance, political prisoner Leonard Peltier employs historical parallels (Native issues to holocaust and Vietnam)  metaphorical references (sundance) and features of oral storytelling (repition) to advocate for his own freedom and articulate native spirituality. 


In the third section,  authors reveals the role that autobiography and storytelling play in American Indian rhetorics.  Holly Baumgartner, for instance,  analyzes autobiographies across time and tribal cultures through the conceptual lens of Baktin’s heteroglossia to show how cultural appropriation and code switching played major rhetorical roles in individual autobiographies that had commmunitist objectives.  Baumgarter notes, for instance, how Charles Eastmen code switched and used autobiography as a site of rhetorical resistance.  Baumgarter also makes clear that autobiographies are sites of negotiating various identities created by forced assimilation.  Autobiographies, according to Baumgarter, were intended to generate a response; they served as an opportunity to reconstruct their lives and thus signified a coming to consciousness that was necessary for de-assimiliation ( 141).   Karen Redfield, on the other hand, looks at the role of storytelling in Native newspapers and television shows, which she claims functions similarly to oral storytellers.  She reminds us that “radio and television stations, movies, and newspapers are all forms of contemporary Native communication that exemplifies ‘internal rhetoric’” (157).  Internal rhetoric, she argues, is contemporary resistance enacted to a great degree through stories told for their own people  and through parody (159).  Redfield concludes by stating three reasons for why non-Indian researchers and teachers need to be aware of American Indian rhetorics:  a.) to facilitate success of American Indian students in college; b.) we have much to learn about rhetoric from American Indian rhetors; and c.) because we are living in a constant contact zone, studying American Indian rhetorics can lead to deeper cultural understanding (162). 


In the final section of this book, authorize theorize American Indian rhetorics to show how American Indians rewrite history through fiction and trickster stories, disrupt Cartesian understandings of the world, fight for self-determination, and self-definition. 




Leave a comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

Yagleski, Robert “A Rhetoric of Contact: Tecumseh and the Native American Confederacy”


In this essay (1995), Yagleski draws on the work of Mary Louise Pratt to define rhetoric as a “site of contact and social struggle between Native Americans and white Americans iin the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries” (66).  As a specific site of contact and social struggle, Yagleski explores the rhetoric used by Tecumseh in which, as a self-proclaimed representative of all native peoples rather than his Shawnee tribe, he attempts to unite Native Americans in opposition to colonial expansionism as he simultaneously rebukes a signed treaty giving Native American land in central Indiana to the U.S. government.  Yalgleski argues that this particular site is important for understanding “new” rhetorical strategies used to preserve native cultures and ways of life in the face of white colonialism, which differ from traditional uses of oratory and public discourse enacted within Native societies (65).  To highlight this difference, Yagleski explores traditional forms of rhetoric used with various native cultures to show that oral rhetoric played in integral role in the social and political lives of Native Americans and “reflected their particular social, cultural, political and historical circumstances” (69).  Yagleski argues that the rhetorical strategies used in council meetings within tribal communities “differed from the ways in which whites negotiated” (70) and that the new rhetorical strategies used in points of contact with whites reflected Native leaders’ rhetorical awareness to deal effectively with their white audience.  As an example, Yagleksi identifies two connected rhetorical strategies used by Tecumseh that are “new” rather than traditional:  adopting a nativist ethos to argue for racial unity and  adopting the ethos of  native leader representing all native communities, both of which grew out “the emerging new sense of Native American idenitity that Dowd labels polygenesis” (74).   This new rhetoric, Yagleski argues, “represents a point of contact between two cultures with different political systems and differing conceptions of cultural identity (74).  It served as a tool for cultural and political survival and evolved as a result of contact with whites; therefore, it represents that rhetorics of contact that Pratt claims we ought to be investigating.





Key quotes:


Pratt:  argues that when describing “speech of ‘dominated’ groups has been portrayed by linguistic scholars,” many scholars “conceive of such groups as ‘separate speech communities with their own boundaries, sovereignty, fraternity, and authenticity’ (56) [and] mispresent the speech of these groups so that ‘social difference is seen as constituted by distance and separation rather than by ongoing contact and structured relations in a shard social space.  Language is seen as a nexus of social identity, but not as a site of social struggle or a producer of social relations” (56).  Pratt further argues that “such a limited perspective ‘ignores the extent to which dominant and dominated groups are not comprehensible apart from each other, wot which their speech practices are organized to enact their difference and their hierarchy’” (59). “ In place of  ‘linguistic of community,’ Pratt proposes a ‘linguistics that decenter[s] community, that place[s] at is centre the operation of language across  lines of social difference, a linguistics that [is] focues on modes and zones of contact between dominant and dominated groups (all of this qtd on 66). 


Critique:  talks of Native Americans in past tense; also what is negative implication of  focusing on rhetorics of contact?  Does that contribute to the denial of coevalness???

Leave a comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

Stromberg, Ernest — Introduction to “Rhetoric and American Indians”

Introduction to “Rhetoric  and American Indians”  Ernest Stromberg


Ernest Stromberg begins his introduction to “Rhetoric and American Indians” with an explanation of why the concept of American Indian Rhetorics is so complicated.  Not only is the term rhetoric a contested term with multiple meanings, so is “Indian.” In fact, he points out how Vizenor claims that “Indian” is nothing more than a trope invented by colonizers, which has made the word/concept/representation of Indians nothing but a simulacrum. Stromberg claims that the very limitations of rhetoric is one of the issues addressed in this collection.  He claims that in order to understand American Indian rhetorics, we must expand our conception of rhetoric. Thed efinition of rhetoric at the foundation of this collection is “the use of language or other forms of symbolic action to produce texts (in the broadest possible sense) that affect changes in attitudes, beliefs, and actions of an audience” (4). In this sense, Stromberg claims, American Indian rhetoric is an art of persuasion but it also an art of espistemic because it uses language to alter the way we understand the world. One really interesting point that Stromberg raises is that American Indian speakers are in the constant process of “discovering and applying another’s ‘available means of persuasion’ (4). Stromberg notes that for much of American Indian History, the exigency of American Indian rhetoric has been the need to establish their equal humanity with Europeans to an audience that deems themselves superior to American Indians(5). This collection, in part, demonstrates how post-contact American Indian rhetorics have bridge communication gap by appropriating the language, styles, and beliefs of white audiences in order to establish consubstantiality (6). Stromberg claims this collection also aims to make the contemporary Indian presence known–a move necessary to alter the perpetuated notion that the Indian has vanished….

Leave a comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

“Rhetorics of Survivance: How American Indians Use Writing” Malea Powell


Malea Powell begins this article by articulating the transformative potential of stories to construct “new histories and theories” in our discipline, which in adhering to The Rhetorical Tradition maintains a Western Eurocentric perspective and contributes, perhaps unknowingly, to the US imperial process. Powell draws on Vizenor to explain that the contemporary American Indian “situation” should be thought of in “paracolonial” terms, “ a colonialism beyond colonialism, multiple, contradictory, and with all the attendant complications of internal, neo-and post-colonialism” (399).  As part of the anti-paracolonial project, Powell listens to the language of survivance (survival + resistance) used by Winnemuca and Eastman to reimagine, and refigure the “Indian.”  Powell argues that their language use “transforms their object-status within colonial discourse into a subject status, a presence instead of an absence” (400).   To support this argument, Powell teases the ironic manners Winnemucca and Eastman use to imagine a new “Indian” in their rhetoric of Native resistance and survival—a rhetoric that uses tactics to “insinuate” themselves into the hegemonic systems in which they were caught (405).  She demonstrates how Winnemucca and Eastman use  their writing to create texts that reproduce commonly held beliefs about Indians in order to create a new kind of “Indian-ness.”  While Winnemmucca uses this “Indian-ness” to create difference in arguments for policy changes that benefit of the Norhern Paiutes, Eastman uses “Indian-ness” to create difference in arguments for the synthesis of Euroamerican and Native cultural values (405).  In demonstrating these deliberate uses of language, Powell aims to demonstrate how American Indians have used the same policies and beliefs about “the Indian” intended to “remove, reserve, assimiliate, acculturate, abrogate, and un-see” American Indians as tools through which to reconceive American Indian history, to reimagine Indian-ness, to create and re-create American Indian presence in this country (428).   In Audre Lorde’s words, Powell shows how the master’s tools can dismantle the master’s house or at least make laudable efforts in the attempt.  Powell’s hope is that rhetoric and composition scholars can learn from Winnemucca and Eastman.  We can “reimagine ourselves, our pedagogies, our scholarship, our discipline in relation to a long and sordid history of American imperialism” (428). 


Questions and Thoughts:


This text raises so many thought-provoking points that I have chosen to present this week on Native American Rhetorics in our class.  Thus rather than share all my thoughts here, I will raise just a couple of questions.


In this article, Powell creates exigency for revisionary work in our discipline.  The work of “reimagining ourselves”—reflecting, rethinking, revisting, and revising the stories that create who we are—is not only important but necessary if we want to combat American Imperialsim. Articulated in this light, Powell makes revisionary work a responsibility that we cannot ignore.  She also makes rhetorical and comp scholars complicit in the ongoing American Imperial project and urges us to begin listening not only to how American Indians have used writing in the past but also to listen to how scholarship both within and outside our field has used and continues to use writing for imperialist endeavors.

What risks does Powell take in articulating this political exigency for revisonary scholarship?  In terms of her own rhetoric, how does Powell’s political stance strengthen or weaken her recovery of Winnemucca and Eastman’s rhetoric?  Drawing on a question I asked last week, what do we learn from Powell about the role argument plays in social history? 



I am very interested in the distinction Powell emphasizes between strategies and tactics.  How useful to do you find this distinction?  What are the ways that Winnemucca’s rhetorical tactics parallel and diverge from the feminist rhetorical traditions we have been learning about?  Would you categorize Eastman’s rhetorical style within the feminist rhetorical tradition?  Why or why not?

































Leave a comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography exam

“Rhetorical Sovereignty” Scott Lyons


Lyons begins his powerful essay “Rhetorical Sovereignty” with the profound claim that writing has played a major role in eradicating tribal identities and cultures and replacing them with the cultural values and beliefs of white civilization.  Because of the “duplicitous interrelationships between writing, violence, and colonization during the nineteenth century,” a distrust of the written word in English still persists.  Lyons asks then, “What do Indians want from writing?” Lyon’s answer is rhetorical sovereignty –“the inherent right and ability of peoples to determine their own communicative needs and desires in this pursuit, to decide for themselves the goals, modes, styles, and languages of public discourse” (449).  Rhetorical sovereignty, of course, demands a radical thinking of how writing is taught at levels of public education; it also demands a commitment to listening and learning from the writing of our students.


Lyons starts off the bulk of his argument by historicizing the concept of sovereignty, explaining its shifting definitions over time and culture. Today, the term is generally understood as the right of people to conduct its own affairs, including making and enforcing laws.  Sovereignty also supposedly signifies a nation’s political legitimacy and ensures international recognition, and national self-determination. Lyons then launches into a brief history of the contested, contradictory process of sovereignty between the US government and American Indian tribes, noting that between 1778 and 1868, the U.S. signed an ratified around 367 treaties with Indian nations, all of which “presumed a sense of sovereignty on the part of Indian groups” (451).  As is well documented now in the records of historic court cases, Native sovereignty as initially conceived was short lived because of what Lyons identifies as the U.S. government’s rhetorical imperialism, which reflects the American imperialist notion of recognition- from- above. Rhetorical imperialism allows the dominant powers to control the debate and, in this case, establishes the U.S. government as a political parent of over Indian nations.  Soon, “nation” was replaced by tribes, a rhetorical move that preceded the end to treaty making in the U.S., after which “treaties” became called mere “agreements” (452-3).


Lyons is quick to point out that Native sovereignty did not end.  “Varying and constantly shifting degrees of sovereignty” still exist (453) and the contemporary rhetorical battles over sovereignty constitute what Lyons calls the “colonized scene of writing:  a site of contact-zone rhetoric in its fullest sense” (453). The ensuing rhetorics of sovereignty employed by both Indian and non-Indian people reflect a clash of “ideological conflations and intertwinings of motives, beliefs, and assumptions” that make consensus difficult (453).  Much of this clash revolves around different perceptions of what “nation” entails.  While Americans in the US of enlightenment conceived of nation as a public run by the nation-state, American Indians conceived nations as representing themselves as a “people”–” a group of human beings united together by history, language, culture, or some combination therein–a community joined for common purpose:  the survival and flourishing of the people itself” (454). According to Lyons, the nation-state does not make political decisions in Indian nations; nations are made by the nation-people and adhere to the logic of the nation-people.  Reason was not contingent on individualism or the right to privacy; instead, reason was deployed for betterment of the people.

Lyons claims that Natives do not think of sovereignty solely as the “self-governance” western governmental systems think of.  Rather sovereignty is a twin pillar: “the power to self-govern and the affirmation of peoplehood” (456).  This twin pillar guides the new rhetorics of sovereignty.  Lyons represents new rhetorics of sovereignty through the rhetorical positions of Deloria, Warrior and Cook-Lynn, each of who advocate action at the community level and for individual American Indians to rebuild through association of tribal identity, culture, and power in connection to land.  This rhetoric is very different from mainstream multiculturalism; “Mainstream multiculturalism is not sovereignty per se because it abstracts its sense of culture from the people and the land” (457).  Nor does it focus on self-governance.


Worried he has digressed a bit too far, Lyons then moves to discussion of what it means for students to have rhetorical sovereignty in the classroom. Lyons claims that American Indians deserve to have “some say in the nature of their textual representations”  (459).  At the present, Lyons, claims rhetorical sovereignty is impeded by the “presentation of Indian stereotypes, cultural appropriation, and a virtual absence of discourse on sovereignty and the status of the Indian nations”–a form of rhetorical imperialism at work in our classrooms (459). Lyons cites Kennedy’s Comparative Rhetorics as a prime example of well-intentioned yet problematic examples of rhetorical imperialism.  He charges Kennedy’s book for presenting an evolutionary study of language, which positions Indians below the apex of Greeks and Romans. but also with omitting representations of 19th century American Indian writing (459). This omission, based supposedly on stereotypes of Indian as oral creature and savage, might conclude reader to think “a writing Indian is no Indian at all” (459).  Lastly, Lyons charges Kennedy with erasing “real Indians” and making ” a connecting link” between rhetoric of animals and oral humans, which Lyons claims would lead reader to compare American Indians to animals. Locating Indians early on in the “Chain of Speaking” is dehumanizing and “suggests that today’s Indian people’s are probably not real anymore” (460).  It also reifies the oral-literate binary, which Bruce Ballinger also reifies in his article “Methods of Memory:  On Native American Storytelling.” Lyons charges Ballinger with appropriating the “Indian way” of remembering in order to help the non-Indian’s quest to “Know Thyself.”  although Ballinger appropriates Indian “methods” in order to improve student writing, he does so by committing cultural imperialism.  What he needs to be doing if he is really an ally is discussing issues facing Indian people today, but “nobody wants to appropriate stuff like that” (461).


Lyons argues for a social justice pedagogy that compels us to talk about cultural injustices that American Indians face.  He argues that indigenous rights are worth talking about for American Indians are beacons of hope and inspiration in the fight against global injustices and environmental destruction.  Admitting that comp and rhetoric scholars cannot save the world, Lyons argues that we can at least play a meaningful role in fighting American imperialism and other injustices. One way we can enact social justice in the classroom is to avoid some of the mistakes that have been made in the past in terms of rhetorical imperialism.  We can also commit to rhetorical sovereignty and alter our pedagogical practices, radically if necessary, to enact post/anti-colonial pedagogy. Lyons offers several pedagogical possibilities: presenting and teaching from retrials concerning Indian sovereignty as examples of rhetorical sovereignty; working with students to rhetorically analyze the use of metaphors in the Indian Nations At Risk Task Force treaty, which advocates True native education. We need, in other words, to prioritize the study of American Indian rhetoric, especially the treaties and federal Indian laws, the ideologies of Indianness and Manifest Destiny–all of which demands that students examine their own relationship to Indian sovereignty and makes them more aware of the peoples who live on this land. 


These rhetorics should not be taught in isolation but alongside other cultural rhetorics of oppressed populations.  History and writing instruction need to be situated in context of American rhetorical struggles (465). Lyons suggests we situate our work with rhetorics of sovereignty in local contexts as much as possible-work that ethnographers and service learning theorists are taking up in community-based pedagogies. Drawing on Susan Wells work that theorizes how writing instruction can be geared toward “public literate action.” Lyons suggests that because sovereignty is a “public pursuit of recognition,” we should teach American Indian rhetorics, such as the Chippewa Treaty in Minnesota and/or the federal Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s disrecognition of the Washington Redskins trademark, which demonstrate successes in the American Indian pursuit of soveriengty.


Lyons concludes his article by admitting that he asks a lot of teachers because what he is asking is for us to “think carefully about their positions, locations, and alignments: the differences and connections between sovereignty and solidarity” (467).    

Leave a comment

Filed under cultural rhetorics exam, historiography 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

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