In this session, we will be discussing the assigned readings for the course, including:
- Wanzer, Decolonizing Imaginaries: Rethinking “the People”
- Guillem, “Sacando la Lengua in Rhetorical Theory and Criticism”
- West, “PISSAR’s Critically Queer and Disabled Politics”
Post-structuralism and Resistance
You have spent five, six, seven hundred years elaborating the symbolism through which Black is a negative factor. Now I don't want another term: I want that term, that negative one, that's the one I want. I want a piece of that action. I want to take it out of the way in which it has been articulated in religious discourse, in ethnographic discourse, in literary discourse, in visual discourse. I want to pluck it out of its articulation and re-articulate it in a new way. - Stuart Hall
"Essential identities" are predicated on, not a precondition for, the successful transformation of social into political capital. Capital and field provide a limited concept of agency by providing a description of the situated struggle or play that bodies may be observed to undertake. If we understand identity as a sign of capital in relation to one or more fields, then the "essentialism" supposedly characterizing naive activists appears to be more like a resistance to ceding a material benefit, a stubborn unwillingness to hand over a hard-won stash of capital. Possessing a form of capital which is signed "identity" is not itself performative: our identity's much-vaunted performativity arose when queerly desiring bodies entered the field in which political subjects are formed and succeeded in bending the rules of the game until "lesbians and gay men" were legible as subject-bodies of civil rights. - Cindy Patton
Resistance through the breaking of ritual is against the law, but support through the breaking of ritual is legitimate. The act or behavior of interrupting, shouting, or moving into spaces closed off for others is irrelevant. It is the message contained or enunciated within that appropriated space that matters. Liberalism depends on the classification of the utterer and the utterance before it can admit of tolerance. Or more specific to this site, the avowedly liberal state can be illiberal when the particular discourse it is privileging is fundamentally illiberal. - Toby Miller
What is post-structuralism?
A response to linguistic structuralism.
- Archaeology, or the evolution of language systems and their dispersion through discourse as the condition of possibility for knowing.
- Genealogy, or the analysis of the “conduct of conduct” as a mode of enabling and constraining (e.g.) discourse, the subject, and space.
- The signifier and affect as that which is “beyond” the signification of a subject.
- The life of the signifier beyond the conscious control of an intending subject.
- Retroactivity (i.e. non-linear temporality) of truth as an organization of knowledge.
- the aporia, the trace, and deconstruction.
- The organization of meaning as contingent on a root structure of imperceptible and inaudible differences (difference/differance)
- The organization of an unbroken text in which signs are divided from other signs;
- undermining of antithetical conceptual oppositions via the trace.
- Poetic meter/Sophistic rhetoric
- Phone (noise/sound)/Logos (the spoken/written word)
What does post-structuralism have to say about resistance?
Michel Foucault: There is no outside to power. Resistance is the folding of an existing conditions of possibility upon itself to generate discourse that cannot be (easily) assimilated into the system.
- At the level of archaeology, resistance operates internally to the representational system that creates knowledge as a discrete form, structure, or organization of discourse.
- At the level of genealogy, resistance operates internally to the representational system of a given apparatus of power.
Jacques Lacan: The unconscious is on the outside. Resistance is “anything that brings the analysis to a halt,” stopping the process of interpretation. For instance, the novel, knot, or quilting point of the dream, which organizes an entire series of representations, and the Real or what is unassimilable to the symbolic order, the uninterpretable signifier that shatters and re-writes the whole.
- At the level of the signifier.
- At the level of the registers of the ucs.
Jacques Derrida: Resistance is both resistance of and resistance to analysis.
- Resistance of analysis is resistance, theorized. For instance, it is what stops analysis and therefore must be analyzed; it is the resistance that is internal to the episteme and/or an apparatus of power.
- Resistance to analysis is the hostility to theory, such as the hostility toward a framework like psychoanalysis, genealogy, or deconstruction. It is a rejection or refusal of analysis, a prohibitive “no!”
Reverse Engineering and Reverse Outlining
Wanzer (Introduction only)
In the late 1960s, a group of young Puerto Ricans in New York City, angered and fed up with what they perceived to be a non-supportive approach to community health, education, and political needs of the Puerto Rican community, took matters into their own hands.
After initiating the process of articulating a space for revolutionary activism in El Barrio through their garbage offensive*a protest organized around increased trash pickups, which realized a short-lived victory *the Lords turned their attention to expanding activities in the community and concretizing what they envisioned in their 13 Point Program and Platform by terms such as ‘‘community control,’’ ‘‘self-determination,’’ and ‘‘liberation.’’
In what follows, I examine one key early instance of popular rhetoric by the Young Lords: the church offensive.
This essay is an attempt to come to terms with the Young Lords’ popular liberation rhetoric spawned during the church offensive.
In making this connection between ideographs and social imaginaries, I read the Young Lords’ rhetoric of ‘‘the people’’ as a radical, decolonial challenge to the modern social imaginary.
This essay develops over three sections.
Guillem (full article)
My proposal for this forum is simple: Rhetoric, Politics & Culture, as a journal that stands against the overwhelming whiteness of the field, should center language as a fundamental axis of power relations, especially in the work that aims to intervene in disciplinary conversations in communication studies.
Maybe lengua would be a better term to capture this tension—hence my title.
Nevertheless, the potential wittiness of it all will probably be lost in this translation, even if I waste part of my precious 3,000 words trying to explain it, which is precisely the point I am trying to make: It is difficult, if not impossible, to be “articulate” in a language that do you not feel as yours, whether that language is English or US academiquese.
Why is this a necessary, or even novel, move, you might ask?
Rhetoricians, and especially racialized rhetoricians, have indeed significantly pushed in the last decades toward a critique of the assumptions that inform the unquestioned reproduction of oppressive norms.
However, this scholarship has seldomly included a sustained interrogation of dominant assumptions about language(s), and how they shape contemporary rhetorical theory and criticism as it intersects with communication studies.
US-based rhetorical theory and criticism, when contributing to the overall US-centric project of communication studies, has thus not done much to decenter (standard) English and its accompanying logics in our scholarly practices.
Barring some notable exceptions, rhetorical scholarship in US communication departments remains strikingly delimited in Anglo-centric terms.
This journal’s fundamental aim, to disrupt the overwhelmingly white structure of the (US) academy, goes hand in hand with our survival as a discipline, so that no one can ever ask “What is the point of rhetorical studies?” again—not in terms of so-called “engagement,” but in terms of relevance.
Critical scholars in cognate disciplines have long acknowledged that “the systematicy of language is just an illusion, a regulated process of repetition in discourse, a product of a series of performative acts.”
Thus, in rhetorical scholarship and beyond, these “metadiscursive regimes” or invented ideas about “language” have historically facilitated the further marginalization and reification of certain groups as “deficient” in the name of constructs such as “literacy,” “bilingualism,” “emergent speaker,” or “culture.”
As a discipline, and regardless of the paradigm informing our research, we have thus been complicit in reifying, and even glorifying, the invented construct that is “language.”
Alright, maybe those counterarguments were not so brief after all. But I hope that the imperative (to borrow from Lisa Flores) to address how the production of “languages” is rhetorical, both in our academic and everyday practices, will be evident by now.
In order to advance this venture, we may be well-served by putting rhetorics of immigration, racism, discrimination, or neocolonialism, as well as related theoretical and analytical tools such as (de)coloniality, racial rhetorical criticism, vernacular frameworks, or bodily and spatial politics in a more continuous dialogue with language ideologies.
I look forward to seeing many of these questions addressed in the pages of this journal, and I hope that they will be addressed in many different lenguas.
West (Part 1: “The Rhetoricity of Place, Space, and Identity”)
In the context of this essay, the concepts ‘‘space’’ and ‘‘place’’ are informed by Michel de Certeau’s simple yet provocative maxim: ‘‘space is a practiced place.’’
Of course, public bathrooms are used for a number of purposes unintended by their owners.
As should be clear, the concomitant construction of identity and space is inherently communicative, and it deserves further theorization.
Certeau’s perspective assists us in understanding Shome’s attention to the contextualized agentic effectivities of space and identity.
With that said, the regulation of place presents formidable obstacles to practices of resistance, and critical attention must be paid to the contextualized nature of this dialectic.
Cultural geographer David Sibley locates the limits of desanctification in micropolitical and biopolitical exercises of power.
Anxieties about public bathrooms are heightened by the fact that, in using the bathroom, we perform a private act in a public place with strangers.
Of course, women’s and men’s restrooms are policed in similar yet different ways.
Taken together, the works of the preceding theorists are useful heuristics for understanding the spatio-temporal modalities of power as well as the need to focus on the actions of specific bodies in particular spaces.
West (Part 2: “PISSAR Patrols and Politics”)
The students and staff that formed PISSAR [People in Search of Safe and Accessible Restrooms] met at the 2003 University of California Students of Color Conference hosted on the University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus.
PISSAR soon discovered that another campus group with a blunt name meant to call attention to bodily functions was similarly interested in bathroom politics.
PISSAR’s actions invite further investigation given their practice of radical democratic politics concerned with bodies and identities in space.
Consubstantial Spaces of Shame. PISSAR’s members negotiated three interdependent levels of shame.
First, they had to overcome the shame associated with the assertion that public bathrooms are a politically important issue.
On a more personal level, PISSAR members dealt with a second source of shame when they confronted their feelings about their own bodies.
The disabled members similarly negotiated their identities over and against the corporeal normativities and the discursive propriety associated with public bathrooms.
Finally, the members had a third level of shame to deal with in relation to the mutual articulation of their struggles.
These internalized and projected discourses of shame produced division, yet they also contained the seeds of identification through the rhetorical construction of consubstantiality.
Critical Queerness and Disability. According to the members of PISSAR, the act of coming together in the campus bathrooms and ‘‘repeatedly talking openly about people’s need for a safe space to pee helps us break through some of the embodied shame and recognize our common needs.’’
Likewise, after the trans members of the group worked together with their disabled colleagues, they understood the spatial dynamics of campus bathrooms in a way that fostered connections between them.
In this way, PISSAR, unlike many LGBT and queer advocates before them, effectively addressed both the shame and stigma directed at their bodies to bolster their coalition.
By articulating their coalitional work in the particular space of campus bathrooms, PISSAR avoided the potential pitfalls associated with single-issue identity politics, namely allowing the differences between similarly situated individuals to overwhelm their synergistic merger.
PISSAR, a self-described ‘‘coalition group of disability and genderqueer activists,’’ may be best understood then as the fusion of critically queer and disabled politics.
Of course, assigning temporal and spatial fluidity and contingency to queerness is not meant to render it a completely empty signifier.
In this particular case, PISSAR’s attention to the material effectivities of the spatial normativities that failed to account for disabled and gender-transgressive bodies provided the inventional resources necessary to animate a critically queer and disabled politics.
The PISSAR patrols provide a potent rejoinder to those who dismiss queer and disability studies’ potential for praxis.