Tag Archives: postcolonial

Wang, Bo. “A Survey of Research in Asian Rhetoric”


In order to survey the existing state of research in Asian rhetorics, in this article, Bo Wang interviews top scholars in Asian rhetorics, who have recently begun to study Asian rhetorics on their own terms and in their own contexts and helped to broaden our modern conceptions of rhetoric.  Included in this survey are the opinions of Vernon Johnson (pioneer of Asian rhetoric whose work led to new and more appropriate ways of inquiry), Mary Garrett (studied pathos of early Chinese rhetorical practices through non-western rhetorical lens), XiaMing Li (ethnographic studies of writing in China and U.S. and author of “Good Writing” in Cross-Cultural Context), Xing Lu, (author of Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E.), and LuMing Mao, (rhetorical and linguistic scholar who studies Confucian rhetoric and author of the important work “Reflective Encounters”).  According to Bo, these scholars’ research are “mindful of the logic of Orientalism…stud[y] Asian rhetoric in its own cultural and political contexts,… appropriates Asian rhetoric for Western contexts, and…applies Asian rhetorical traditions to the study of pedagogical issues” (172-3).  This survey reveals that we need: to “rewrite rhetorical theory and explore new research methodologies;” more scholars who have the tools and expertise to study Asian rhetorics in their original contexts and cultures; explore a broader scope of genres from their rhetorical perspective and encourage more interdisciplinary research in this area”  (173). 


Key points made by various scholars:


Xing Lu:


–analytical and definition modes of thinking create obstacles in rendereing a more nuanced and authentic understanding of rhetoric and communication in non-Western cultures.

–we need not search for single definition of Chinese rhetoric or try to find equivalence from the Western terminology


LuMing Mao

–no evolutionary trajectory and no transferrance of Western terminologies uncritically

–futher explore how those rhetorical terms influenced and affected the rhetorical behaviors of their users and how they interacted with each other at different historical moments


XiaMing Lu

–broaden scope of texts to be studied beyond political and philosophical treaties

–eurocentrism still dominates rhetorical studies


Vernon Johnson

–don’t overlook southeast Asia. 

–look at rhetorics of contact between east and west and between asian nations

–analyze impact of mass media on individual asian nations

–explore impact of asian ancient religion and history on contemporary asian rhetoric and communication





















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Wallerstein, Immanuel European Universalism: The Rhetoric of Power


In this tiny but powerful collection of essays adapted from various conference presentations, Wallerstein traces contemporary rhetorics of modernity back to the Sepulveda/Las Casas debate in the 1500s over who has the right to intervene, when, and how in the treatment of Amerindians who were forced to labor in the Spanish system of ecomienda in South America.  As Wallerstein explains, today appeals to European universalism are alive in well the rhetorics of modernity that establishes a right to intervention (including war) in defense of human rights and democracy, its authority as superior civilization based on universal values and truths, and the lack of viable alternative to neoliberal economics. Wallerstein demonstrates that the universal values of civilization, economic growth and development, and/or progress, are passed as natural law today as justifications for impeding on “noncivilized” nations.  These values, however, are not universal; in fact, they bleed of the longstanding justifications to colonize so-called “barbarians.”  For instance, the four justifications of ‘civilized” communities to intervene in “un-civilized” zones are:  barbarity of others, ending practices that violate universal values, defense of innocent among cruelity of others, and the possibility of spreading universal values.  Wallerstein cleverly demonstrates how these justifications were at work in the Sepulveda/Las Casas debate as well as the recent interventions in Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia, etc.  Wallerstein wants his readers to realize that these universal values are nothing more than Eurocentric ethics and values imposed on the world and used to maintain structural power and dominance.  Even the postmodern viewpoint that we should be intellectually and politically tolerant of mulitiple views is an Eurocentric ideal. 


Wallerstein says the ultimate challenge for us is how we can create an alternative framework that allows us not to be orientalist.  “To be non-Orientalist means to accept the continuing tension between the need to universalize our perceptions, analyses, and statements of values and the need to defend their partiucularlist roots against the incursion of the particularist perceptions, analyses, and statements of values coming from others who are claiming they are forwarding universals” (49).    We need to dialogue about our need to universalize the particulars and our need to particularize the universals (49). 


He also exlains that capitalistic modernity is contingent on three elements of what he calls cultural-intellectual scaffolding:  combination of universalistic norms and racist-sexist practices; a centrist neoliberal geoculture; and epistemic knowledge that divides the world into the civilized and non-civilized-54.  Scientific universalism is, in Wallerstein’s eyes, the last and most powerful European universalism alive and well in the Western university system today.  Yet even scientific universalism is in crises today. 


So in sum:  three great European universalisms:  right of those to intervene based on ownership of universal values (moral justification to dominate); Orientalism (intellectual justification to dominate) ; scientific universalism (ideological justification to dominate).


Wallerstein says our biggest challenge is how to move beyond Eurpean universalism—to a “’universal universalism,’ which refuses essentialist characterizations of social reality, historicizes both the universal and the particular, reunifies the so-called scientific and humanistic into a single epistemology, and persmits us to look with a highly clinical and quite skeptical eyes at all justificantions for ‘intervention’ by the powerful against the weak” (79).  As intellectuals, we must operate at analyst in search of truth, moral person in search of good and beauty, and political persona seeking to unify good and beautiful (80).  The key question we must ask ourselves is how we can use our knowledge and expertise in the transitional phases we find ourselves (82).  We need to hystoricize by placing object of study in larger context/historical construct as he did with the contemporary rhetorics of power (82).  

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


Introduction:  Transnational Feminist Practices and Questions of Postmodernity


thoughts on rhetoric:


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


One of main questions their compilation hopes to address is:

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


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


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


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



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









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Frantz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth (1963)

In the Wretched of the Earth, Fanon eloquently and powerfully voices revolutionary theory, psychological insights, and paths to liberation from the perspective of the colonized Other.  As part of the Algerian Nationalist Movement, Fanon offers an intimate explanation of the colonized psyche to the powerful extent that Jean-Paul Sarte says of Fanon:  [T]he Third World finds itself and speaks to itself through his voice (10).  

As Fanon explains, “The status of ‘native’ is a nervous condition introduced and maintained by the settler among colonized people with their consent” (20).  In saying so, he holds the natives responsible for their own liberation, which can only be achieved through community organization to topple the prevailing power structures.  As Fanon writes, “The immobility to which the native decides to put an end to the history of colonization—the history of pillage—and to bring into existence the history of the nation—the history of decolonization” (51).  Decolonization sometimes entails organized violence in Fanon’s eyes; for “colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties.  It is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence” (61).  Fanon does not condone violence based on revenge or racial hatred; but organized violence constructed by a revolutionary parties educated leaders can be effective (147). 


 Fanon believes that revolutionary parties must be organized around nation, not race or culture, because “every culture is first and foremost national” (216).  He does not believe in a black culture, for instance, because the political, economic, and social conditions for black peoples all over the world are not the same.  Fanon also says that once a culture has been colonized there is no reverting back to previous cultural traditions, for that would be going against the current of history and opposing the people themselves who constitute that culture (224).  Reclaiming national culture is the answer he feels; for “it is the fight for national existence which sets culture moving and opens to it the doors of creation” (244).  Through the development of national consciousness, through the struggle for libertion, through what I call rhetorics of decolonization, culture is born afresh…


Interestingly, Fanon describes the role of national arts in the struggle for liberation.  He explains that literature, drama, epics, stories, contribute to the national movement for freedom.  The literary arts, which he calls literature for combat, I might call rhetorics for combat, as they “call on whole people to fight for their existence as a nation….[I]t molds the national consciousness, giving it form and contours and flinging open before it new and boundless horizons….[I]t assumes responsibility…and it is the will to liberty expressed in terms of time and space” (240).  Fanon claims songs also contribute to this movement as well as handicrafts, ceramics, and pottery, which “begin to reach out” (241).  In making  contributions to the national effort, “the artist invites participation in an organized movement” (242).   While formalism drops out, colors which previously conformed to rules of harmony, begin to increase in numbers and intensity “by the repercussion of the rising revolution” (242).  Jazz, as Cornel West claims, is living evidence of this revolutionary movement in the southern U.S.  The purpose of these arts is “no longer than of univocation but rather of the assembling of the people, a summoning together to awaken the native’s sensibility and to make unreal and inacceptable the contemplative attitude, or the acceptance of defeat” (243).  Continuing, Fanon explains, “[t]he native rebuilds his perceptions because he renews the purpose and dynamism of the craftsman, of dancing and music, and of literature and the oral tradition” (244). 







To be a European man is to be an accmplice of colonialism, since all Europeans benefit by colonial exploitation (25).


And when one day our human kind becomes full-grown, it will not define itself as the sum total of the whole world’s inhabitants, but as the infinite unity of their mutual needs- 27


For a colonized people, the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land:  the land which will bring them bread, and above all, dignity – 44.


The native can see clearly and immediately if decolonization has come to pass or not, for his minimum demands are simply that the last shall be first –46  The native is an oppressed person whose permanent dream is the be the prosecuter – 53


Enemy is created by myth – 56


Each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it -206.



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Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture—Chapter 1 “The Postcolonial and the Postmodern”


Bhaba combines interdisciplinary theories into one dense package.  Modernity=order, progress, central meaning, linearity.  Postmodernism=art and lit. movement, no central meaning; everything is text with no single interpretation; everything is text; neo-Marxism drives postmodern theory=agency less important because individ. is always constituted with institutional indocrination and culture always speak through us and ideology is interpolated in us; death of the author; we are discourse; Deconstruction= no center, no meaning, no hierarchy; in different versions of postmodernity, agency is marginalized and thus marginalize agencies were oppressed.  Some modernists recognize dominant and marginal cultures but talk about marginal cultures in discourse of victimhood; dichotomy and binary results and no agency is given to marginal agent.   Talk in power relations and deny subaltern agents productive role. 


How does marginal culture survive???????


Bhaba says agency is important and asks whose voice is talking.  He proposes that we reconfigure discourse of cultural difference because discourse of victimhood is unuseful.  Remember Mignolo’s notion of coevalness.  Enlightment first denied coevalness.  Now technology denies the denial of coevalness.   Technology allows simultaneous study.  Bhaba says coevalness is not enough.  We must reconceive history, as well as time, and cultural signs.  He reminds us that “culture as a strategy of survival is both transnational and translational” (247).  Transnational because contemporary postcolonial discourses are rooted in histories of cultural displacement; translational because spatial histories of displacement complicate our understanding of how culture signifies and what is signified by culture (247).  Cultural translation becomes a “complex form of signification,” which a postcolonial perspective can help decipher because it resists binary structures of opposition, holistic forms of social explanation, and “forces a recognition of the more complex cultural and political boundaries that exist on the cusp of these often opposed political spheres” –the hybrid location of culture (248). 


In this chapter, Bhabha explores the role of the postcolonial perspective in postmodern discourse, critical theory, and historiography and calls for “a radical revision of the social temporality in which emergent histories may be written, the rearticulation of the ‘sign’ in which cultural identities may be inscribed” (246).   Bhabi challenges us to consider hybrid locations of cultural value embedded in historical traditions of cultural contingency and textual indeterminacy, which give agency to the subaltern subject, which if understood would “transform our understanding of the narrative of modernity and the ‘values of progress’” (249).  No longer can we take a unified sense of culture community for granted, a people from various cultures “produce incompatible systems of signification and engage distinct forms of social subjectivity” (252).  Bhabi calls for us to step outside the “sentence” or discourse of victimhood when we discuss marginal communities.  He calls for a epistemological focus of culture to a focus of culture as enunciation, which is a “more dialogical process that attempts to track displacements and realignments that are the effects of cultural antagonisms and articulations—subverting the rationale of the hegemonic moment and relocating alternative, hybrid sites of cultural negotiation”—his ultimate objective being a “process by which objectified others may be turned into subjects of their history and experience” (255).   According to Bhaba, what is created in the enunciative present is ambivalence, which opens up “new forms of identification that may confuse the continuity of historical temporalities, confound the ordering of cultural symbols, traumatize tradition” (257).  We must move “beyond theory,” claims Bhaba, to “create space for the contingent, indeterminate articulation of social ‘experience’ that is particulary important for envisaging emergent cultural identities” (257).  After all, it is “a representation of social experience as the contingency of history—the indeterminacy that makes subversion and revision possible” (257).

            Moving “beyond theory” of binaries, victimhood, centrality, etc. will help us understand how this location of culture is a means of historical agency that sits among another subversive strategies such as mimicry, hybridity, sly civility, to produce subaltern agency that “negotiates its own authority” (265).  Although it may come across as social contradiction or antagonism, the “problematic of contingency strategically” in fact “ allows for a spatial contiguity…to be (re)articulated in the moment of indeterminacy,” which allows agent to “emerge into the social realm of discourse” (268 and 271).  As Hannah Arendt reminds us, this indeterminacy is created in part because the subaltern agent is always a site of tension between the who of the individual self and the what of the subjective realm (271).  Yet, this tension is productive; “it is the contingency that constitutes individuation—in the return of the subject as agent—that protects the interest of the intersubjective realm” (272).  As Bhaba explains, this site produces “a process of reinscription and negotiation—the insertion or intervention of something that takes on new meaning—[which] happens in the temporal break in-between the sign, deprived of subjectivity, in the realm of the intersubjective realm” (274).  What ultimately emerges is the “process of agency both as a historical development and as the narrative agency of historical discourse” (275).  This process can be articulated as a moment of revision in which the subaltern agent enacts (re)orders symbols in order to appropriate signs originally deprived of the subject in order to create subjectivity aiming at rediscovering truth—an this process is a theoretical form of political agency (275 and 278).   This form of political agency, what Das calls a historiography of the subaltern, is made possible by the strategic use of ambivalence and the historical use of historical contingency and makes possible the interrogation of modernity (278) .

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Appadurai, Arjun “Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization,”

In “Modernity at Large:  Cultural Dimensions of Globalization,” Arjun Appadurai argues that intellectuals in the academy need to begin thinking postnationally about contemporary national crises–a claim that ultimately stimulates questions about the future of patriotism.  Appadurai’s thesis rests on the claim that study of discourse in the Western academy is divorced from other institutional forms while the study of literary discourses is divorced from the discourse of other social organizations such as armies, corporations, bureaucracies, etc. (159).  Appadurai calls for a journey to the space of postcolony, which in America is “marked by whiteness but marked too by its uneasy engagement with diasporic people, mobile technologies, and queer nationalities” (159).


Appurudai suggest that we need to study the organizations, movements, ideologies, and networks which comprise postnational social formations.  We need to begin studying the permanent frameworks such as refugee camps that emerge in the postnational order of the world. We need to study the local but with the awareness that the local is the global.  We can’t view local as static, homogeneous; it is always changing, interacting, creating new global realities.  Nation is unstable entity.  where it was once formed by identity, ethnicity, race; today, nation is an interaction of flows of values, cultures, movements, facilitated by different medias and technologies.  Nation is hence unstable.


Cultures and nations today is always an interaction of local and global; a collective of cross-cultural relations.  Comparative rhetoric is impossible because there is no static entities to compare.   


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Dirlik, Arif. Global Modernity: Modernity in the Age of Capitalism

In the introduction, Dirlik positions globalization as an ongoing discourse and process that produces a state of global modernity, which in essence is nothing short of modernity gone global and modern day colonialism that reeks of the colonial, economically, politically, socially, and culturally.  Dirlik claims our main challenge is to “achieve a globality beyond the colonial” and thus devotes his book to identifying the visible contradictions in contemporary global modernity” so that we may reinvision a new future (7 and 8).  For a while decolonization of the material and culture world was thought to have ended colonialism, but in effect, nation states of free states, centralize their power and minorities, women, indigenous within nations begin to feel excluded from nation state.  Nationstates were becoming weaker is some minds because  of globalization and multinational companies became in power but also nationstates became oppressive to own people.


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