Notes: Don Unger, Fernando Sánchez “Locating Queer Rhetorics: Mapping as an Inventional Method.”

Unger, Don & Fernando Sánchez. (2015). Locating queer rhetorics: Mapping as an inventional method. Computers and Composition, 38, 96-112.


Unger and Sánchez present a mapping of queer rhetorics by looking at where, when, and by whom the work of queer rhetorics is being done. They map this cartography onto previous bibliographic work in queer rhetorics and previous attempts at this kind of mapping done in rhetoric and composition.

Keywords: composition, disciplinarity, geography, graphing, invention, mapping, methodology, queer, queer rhetorics, rhetoric, visual rhetoric, writing studies


Alexander, Jonathan & Faris, Michael J. (2010). Issue brief: Sexuality studies. 

Andrews, John. (2001). Meaning, knowledge, and power in the map philosophy of JB Harley. In Paul Laxton (Ed.), The new nature of maps: Essays in the history of cartography. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 1-32.


“[W]e deal with three factors that might help us understand why certain features carry over from one publication to the other. They are (1) where this work happens, (2) what it deals with, and (3) whose work gets recognized as queer rhetorics” (p. 98).

“In other words, queer rhetorics fosters an unquenchable thirst for social and self critique about the manifestations and exertions of power and (we would add) methods of resistance. On the other hand, queer rhetorics “disrupt[s] and reroute[s] the flows of power, particularly discursive power” (para. 3 of “Introduction”). Queer rhetorics moves beyond reading and seeks to do something, to disrupt, reroute, and even locate. However, we see one important difference between our ideas and Alexander and Rhodes’ definition. The authors distinguish between the rhetorical work aimed at fighting for “the same rights accorded to straights (such as marriage and open military service)” and the rhetorical work questioning “the regimes of normalization through which straights have certain rights and privileges in the first place” (para. 2 of “Introduction”). We do not believe that either work is mutually exclusive, and in fact, the two are inexorably bound by their rhetoricity, that is to say the fight for rights is implicitly a fight for broadening “even to the breaking point, what counts or passes as ‘normal”’ (para. 2 of “Introduction”). For us, approaching queer rhetorics as rhetorical practice means imagining our project as both a struggle for legitimation within the broader discipline of Rhetoric and Composition and a critique of how legitimation happens and whose voices and what places are deemed legitimate” (p. 100).

“This attention to place prompts us to characterize our approach as one of locating queer rhetorics. Our maps represent something decidedly different from a literature review because they start to reveal (but do not represent) the relationships undergirding this work. Visualizing the people and the work involved in publications and dissertations helps us begin to ask questions about the relationships that make such work possible and allows us to think of them as some of the infrastructural mechanisms that shape queer rhetorics as an area of inquiry. In reframing our approach in this way, our attempt to locate queer rhetorics is revealed as being too big. It’s too much for any map or combination of maps to address. One map, or even a series of maps, can’t possibly represent all the influences involved in all the publications and dissertations we include. However, only after making and reading these maps did we realize the enormity of the task we’d set out to accomplish. For us then, the act of locating relies on a recursive combination of these two tasks, making and reading maps. To address how these tasks overlap, we look at how some Rhetoric and Composition scholars employ mapping, and we begin this discussion by trying to limit what we mean by locating” (p. 102).

“In one sense, maps occupy the space between the representational and the real. In another sense, they challenge both concepts as ways of approaching locations. This in-betweenness speaks to the rhetoricity of maps and the spatial metaphors that emerge from them. Not only do they provide means for describing spaces, but they allow map makers, users, and discussions related to maps to do something in the world. Still, they do so by imposing limits on what gets represented. It falls on the map makers, then, to communicate the process of creating maps. Discussing mapping as a method for invention allows audiences to become active participants in the process of location” (p. 103-104).

Questions and Reflection:

What does this mean for queer rhetorics as a sort of emerging disciplinary identity, especially as a field that resists some of the conservative ideas that often go into the creation of, reproducibility of, and perhaps iterability of such an identity as identifiable? What does this mean for the types of mentorship available for such a field? How can we trace this onto who we let into the field? Where are the boundaries for the work of queer rhetorics and how might these boundaries push against existing notions of disciplinarity within rhetoric and composition, but, also, how might the boundaries of queer rhetorics specifically get taken up into other fields of rhetoric and composition, like TPC?

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