Notes: Linda Ferreira-Buckley, “Archivists with an Attitude: Rescuing the Archives from Foucault”

Ferreira-Buckley, Linda. (1999). Archivists with an attitude: Rescuing the archives from Foucault. NCTE 61(5), 577-583.

Summary:

Ferreira-Buckley argues that rhetoric and composition, having a deep history of training in theories of history writing from literature, lacks training as a discipline in the standard methods of historians. Ferreira-Buckley contends that rhetoric and compostion needs to develop standard and deep practices with the archives in order to address this.

Keywords: archives, disciplinarity, histories of rhetoric, methodology

Quotations:

“I want to insist that traditional methodology, far from being incompatible with a progressive politics, is in fact the best agent of change” (582).

“Theoretical sophistication does not obviate the need for practical training. We lack the tools of the historians’ trade; familiar with only the most obvious granting agencies, we cannot secure the money needed to carry out research agendas that are both deep and broad” (582).

Reflection:

This strikes me as a text that is calling for the discipline to define its expertise, or shore it up, as much as it is calling for a deeper understanding of archival practices. She opens pointing to what may be a deep rift in rhetoric and composition/writing studies’s history: its connection and histories with literature. And later in the text brings up issues of funding research enterprises, which seems a symptom of that rift.

At the same time, the point that the discipline needs to take seriously the practices of the methodologies it takes up is one that needs making and reminding. The call is important to attend to methods carefully, to instruct in them carefully, and to represent them thoroughly.

I find it, perhaps, especially compelling that she writes, “I believe fully the truism that even historians who deny theory operate nonetheless from a theory” (p. 577). Though, I suppose that’s on my mind after my reading of Gaillet’s text. Ultimately, it is important here though to note that she discusses practice in a way that is not separable from the theories that operate within it, but that one nonetheless needs to develop an understanding of practice as a part of that. I’m not sure if it is because the time since then, or my own disposition, but all of this seems—is nonissue or obvious the right word?

I come to a sticking point around the emphasis of ‘traditional methodologies.’ Traditional methodologies, I have no doubt, can be agents of change—and by all means should—but I’m dubious of the suggestion that the privileged methods are the means, in the name of expertise, should be naturalized or given the superlative of ‘best’ in her concluding paragraph. For one, it seems arhetorical: best for who, in what context, to what ends—one’s methodology need not stop at one’s theory, but in the interpolation between one’s theory and one’s methods, which will occur in particular contexts.

And, perhaps simply: research is messy. Becky Rickly writes in “Making Sense of Making Knowledge” of the need for “our field become a little more comfortable with what Law refers to as the ‘messiness’ of research” (p. 266). Rickly argues that “we need to situate our methods (and our application/analysis) so that they help us understand more complicated research scenarios and questions” (p. 262). And histories and archival works are certainly messy, certainly complicated, and need methods to be situated as such.

While I understand the need for expertise as well, I’m not sure that it needs uncritically reinforced. Disciplinarity disciplines at the same time as it offers material conditions that allow for meaning making, such as funding, graduate programs, and tenure lines. Jack Halberstam writes in The Queer Art of Failure:

Being taken seriously means missing out on the chance to be frivolous, promiscuous, and irrelevant. The desire to be taken seriously is precisely what compels people to follow the tried and true paths of knowledge production around which I would like to map a few detours. Indeed terms like serious and rigorous tend to be code words, in academia as well as other contexts, for disciplinary correctness; they signal a form of training and learning that confirms what is already known according to approved methods of knowing, but they do not allow for visionary insights or flights of fancy (p. 6)

I mention this because it interrogates the assumption that the traditional modes of doing knowledge production are the best means of doing so, in some sense by asking the questions “best for who?” and also by asking “what is meant by best?”

Developing practical knowledge is important, but that practice is always situated and a rhetorical education of methods needs the work of situating to be explicit and as much a part of the research design as any other part of a method.

Notes: Lynée Lewis Gaillet, “Archival Survival: Navigating Historical Research”

Gaillet, Lynée L. (2010). Archival survival: Navigating historical research. In Ramsey, Alexis E.,  Wendy B. Sharer, Barbara L’Eplattenier, and Lisa S. Mastrangelo (Eds.), Working in the archives: Practical research methods for rhetoric and composition, 28-38. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Summary:

Gaillet offers practical considerations of archival research in response to, and as a part of a collection edited by, L’Eplattenier’s concerns about the lack of practice-oriented texts for novice and experienced archival researchers. Gaillet addresses means of preparing, accessing, and coming to working with archival materials, as well as how to put these materials within the context of one’s research. Gaillet positions archival work both within the work of histories as a function of rhetoric and composition/writing studies.

Keywords: archives, historiography, histories of rhetoric, methodology

Quotations:

“Recovery and revision historiographical theory in rhet/comp argues that the researcher becomes a part of the project—a participant whose ethos is evident in his or her research” (p. 36).

Reflection:

I suppose one thing I’m thinking of, reading this, is how practical does something need to be to be practical? Gaillet mentions many factors that bind archival work to be project or archive-determined/specific, but offers a great deal of thoughtful considerations for working with archives. Is this text putting forth the phronesis or the techne of working with archives? What is this article doing with doing in archives? I’m wanting something here that I’m not so sure that I can put my finger on precisely. I suppose what I’m wanting is something to anchor the advice offered: to walk through an archival project with her, for this to put together its archival reflections in experiencing and learning from the work, or to construct the methods section that L’Eplattenier’s earlier article calls for. I suppose this is somewhat of a minor thing in the grand scheme, because the text offers a fantastic way to consider many of the considerations of doing archival work. But if the method is contingent upon access to the archive, or if the means of coding and organizing data are always difficult for researchers to consider, or if one’s ethos is indeed evident and participant within the research, seeing that, or in some sense doing that alongside her, situates the advice and could provide entry points into other considerations/issues/hooks in archival work.

I’m also thinking of the work that Jody Shipka has recently started asking what an archive is and who gets to determine what counts as an archive. I realize that these questions are beyond the scope of this particular piece, but they come to mind as I’m reading this, particularly when I’m thinking about her discussion of accessing an archive, the materiality of archives, and how one’s ethos participates and is evident in archival research. And if I hold these questions against Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes’s “Queer Rhetoric and the Pleasures of the Archive” and Techne: Queer Meditations on Writing the Self“, or Sara Ahmed’s Willful Subjects, the questions become richer for me to think about and perhaps even more vexing. Admed writes about tracing the figure of the willful child as she appears, willfully resisting her being contained in many ways: her work is in creating this archive for the willful child, or allowing her to figure herself in something we might call an archive (if the point is that the part might not want to reproduce the whole, than an archive of willfulness might not be an archive at all). Rhodes and Alexander write in “Queer rhetoric and the Pleasures of the Archive”:

“Once queer subjects begin to speak…” With what do they speak? … in the tongue we find a robust metonym of our struggle, our critique, our possibility. The queer tongue, long denied its utterances, long disciplined by legislation and normalization, long in the making of critique and the construction of queer identities, of queer particularities, of queer taste. The tongue contains our histories, and our possibilities. We have variously been tongue tied and twisted. We have bitten our tongues, but also gestured tongue-in-cheek through camp, spoken in the tongues of innuendo and insinuation, longed for a mother tongue, a tongue untied, and found just as often the tongue bath, the deep-throated kissing that articulates the desires of the body in its annunciation of alternatives to your lives, your limited languages. We are these tongues, so many tongues, speaking, depressed, suppressed, repressed, but still expressed in the plays of power that twist and bite, but also lick and delight. We reserve our right to be mouthy, to spit, to eat fire, to do things that we are not supposed to do with our mouths and tongues.

What might be an archive of tongues or that are (em)bodied, or archives of activity, that are distributed, that move (to follow Morris’s “Archival Queer”). I ask these not as criticisms, but just as things that I’m thinking about. Personally, I’m wanting to look at the late 80’s and early 90’s LGBT activism, to listen to queerness inventing (itself, possibilities, criticisms, futures, lives), how these activists used their tongues and their (em)bodied action to inscribe and be inscribed, to trace a queer rhetorical history in the face of its silencing and the violences against using their bodies.

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I need to ask these methodological questions before I come to the steps that Gaillet might put forward. How and what I approach as an archive participates in the histories that come from that research, holds some bodies and voices—Rhodes and Alexander ask “With what do they speak?”—and silences others: this is a question of access, but it is also a question of the work of the archive as much as it is a question of archival work.

I suppose this long aside is just to say that I want a discussion of practice or of doing to attend to the complexities of the work. Such a thing need not be overwhelmingly theoretical, but these things are always operating together: to not address the underlying thought or experience of working in the archive leaves its essential questions. But again, the text is a wonderful foundation, I don’t mean this to be at all a criticism. Thinking alongside the text and having questions about archival work is heavily framing my reading of it.

Notes: Barbara E. L’Eplattenier, “An Argument for Archival Research Methods: Thinking Beyond Methodology”

L’Eplattenier, Barbara E. (2009). An argument for archival research methods: Thinking beyond methodology. College English, 72(1), p. 67-79.

Summary:

L’Eplattenier is responding in the text to the need for the discipline of rhetoric and composition/writing studies to develop practical understandings of how to do archival work. L’Eplattenier notes that the methods employed may often be too specific toward particular projects and archives, but encourages thoughtfully articulating thorough methods sections to create incremental disciplinary understandings of archival work that may allow for more generalizing.

Keywords: Archives, historiography, histories of rhetoric, methodology

Quotations:

“Finally, because archival historical work is often so unique—each archive, each situation, each study is different, with different resources, different access, different constraints—generalizing about archival work can be difficult, especially for the individual researcher” (p. 68).

“A good methods section, however we construct it, offers us details regarding the circumstances of the research and pulls back the curtain on work done. It lets us see the man behind the curtain, so to speak. It is a pedagogical model to show our students—a way to familiarize ourselves with how to ‘do’ histories” (p. 72).

Reflection:

As terms that often become vexed, fraught, or problematically reduced, I appreciated L’Eplattenier giving a clear differentiation between method and methodology. She writes, “Just as methodology allows us to theorize the goals of our research, methods allow us to contextualize the research process or the researched subject and materials” (p. 69). I was reminded of something that Derek said after our think-tank session at Cs this passed year on the middle ground between method and methodology, when he said, “Something we call methodology might travel by the name of theory. Something we call method might travel by the name of practice.” It seems important to L’Eplattenier’s central concern in the piece to do some of this differentiation. The importance of this differentiation allows for research to be engaged with by not only novices, but other audiences with each project more fully.

Her discussion of the work that a methods section does seems important across research methods, as they allow for interrogation of the work and allow for a conversation about how knowledge is produced disciplinarily. She writes,

An actual methods section shows us the cracks, fissures, and gaps to allow us to see the construction. It allows us to more clearly point out our blind spots, our areas we didn’t realize we could research, our awareness of the fragmentary nature of archival work. If all histories are constructions, then a methods section allows us to see the building blocks of that construction. We can see which section of the foundation is strong or weak, where we can build a wing, where we can add a door (p. 74).

This in some ways reminds me a bit of a hauntology that leaves a certain openness for others to enter into and the work that hauntology does to interrogate histories as constructed, but on a different scale and talking about a different relationship. Rather than discussing the relationship between researcher and subject, L’Eplattenier discusses the relationship between the researcher, audience, and future researchers.

Provenance also seems like a compelling means to discuss the representation of evidence that speaks to the work of doing history. She writes, “By positioning the transcript with other documents and stating the difficulties with it, we did not accidentally misrepresent it or what we learned from it” (p. 73). This speaks to some of the ways that research design can be accomplished, but also makes as visible as one perhaps can the means by which a history is constructed.

Notes: Herbert W. Simons, “Requirements, Problems, and Strategies: A Theory of Persuasion for Social Movements”

Simons, Herbert W. (2001). Requirements, problems, and strategies: A theory of persuasion for social movements. In Morris Charles E. and Stephen H. Brown (eds.), Readings on the Rhetoric of Social Protest (p. 35-45). State College, PA: Strata Publishing, inc.

Summary:

Giving a general theory of the rhetorics of social movements, Simons draws on sociological theory to offer a way into social movements’ rhetorical considerations. The outlines Simons provides offer ways of delineating exigencies, practices, and issues the leadership of social movements often deal with.

Keywords: activism, advocacy, social movements, protest, sociology

Quotations:

“Designed for microscopic analysis of particular speeches, the standard tools of rhetorical criticism are ill suited for unraveling the complexity of discourse in social movements or for capturing its grand flow” (p. 35).

Reflection:

This text could have served me well in developing a foundational understanding of the intersections of rhetoric and activism early on, and Simons’s search for theory and strategies reminds me of the Beautiful Trouble. And I think I see this text as asking for new methods for investigating rhetorics of social movements, but these methods seem to be searching for something whose claims from inquiry are generalizing and universalizing. Though maybe that is the disposition of a rhetorical criticism instead of other methodological frames that subvert these totalizing gestures.

I suppose I am a bit hung up on the enumeration strategies the text employs in creating this heuristic (in a static sense instead of an inventional one). While my own experiences in activism and advocacy work align with much of Simons’s descriptions, I can’t help but find the taxonimizing and leadership-centric approach binarizing and reductive.

I felt this most when reading the section on rhetorical strategies (p. 40-43), where the text identifies ‘militants,’ ‘moderates,’ and ‘intermediates’ as the types of strategies employed as though each were options in responding to the same exigency. Material conditions, access, privilege, lived experiences all shape the available means that shape strategies deployed. It seems there’s far more nuance in what shapes a social movement’s actions than the text addresses, in addition to these three being identified as the kinds of strategies.

Notes: Michelle Ballif, “Historiography as Hauntology: Paranormal Investigations into the History of Rhetoric”

Ballif, Michelle. (2013). Historiography as hauntology: Paranormal investigations into the history of rhetoric. In Ballif, Michelle (ed.), Theorizing histories of rhetoric (p. 139-153). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.

Summary:

Ballif articulates hauntology as a historiography methodology which resists ontologizing or epistemologizing historical narratives in favor of contending with the radical singularity of events, whose excesses extend beyond ‘knowing.’ Hauntology signals a kind of rhetorical listening that unsettles static notions of addressor and addressee that occupy central positions in rhetorical theory, (dis)placing both.

Keywords: historiography, hauntology, histories of rhetoric, Derrida, methodology

Quotations:

“The ethical obligation to listen to these unfamiliars is not motivated by a desire to render them (finally) familiar, which—againis an attempt to bury the remains (finally), but rather to render ourselves unfamiliar (as scholars and as a discipline)” (p. 140).

“To write as if a listener is to listen precisely to that which is excluded, to that which our modes of understanding have excluded, to that which—therefore—lies at the threshold of our understanding. And there, at that (non)place, at that border or threshold, the uncanny manifests itself in a continuous ‘unsettling (of itself)'” (p. 152-153).

Reflection:

I’m thinking a lot about Steedman’s “Something She Called a Fever: Michelet, Derrida, and Dust,” in which she takes up some of the central claims of decentering time in historiography and archival methods. The archive, for Steedman, has no beginning and cannot have a beginning—each document is captured “in medias res” with so much beyond or absent from the archive that claims at closure of time become fraught (1175). She writes:

Contemplating Everything, the historian must start somewhere, but starting is a different thing from originating, or even from beginning. And while there is closure in historical writing, and historians do bring their arguments and books to a conclusion, there is no End—cannot be an End, for we are still in it, the great, slow-moving Everything (1177).

I’m thinking too of Rickert’s work in Ambient Rhetoric on chora—which, at once, refers toward invention or origination but also toward its own receding from that invention (62-63). The radical singularity of an event toward some of this: by placing the addressor as somehow central toward rhetorical action—and in this case, representing histories of rhetoric—invents, and withdraws the work of its invention, origination and imposes linearity of time. A hauntology unsettles this and muddles the addressivity of speakers and events.

Queer rhetorics seems to, if tacitly, work toward such hauntology—if nothing else than by understanding queerness as historically being that which haunts heterosexual presents/presence (a la Foucault History of Sexuality and Sedgwick Epistemology of the Closet). Morris’s “Archival Queer” and Alexander and Rhodes’s “Queer Rhetorics and the Pleasures of the Archive” talk about queer archives as restlessly moving and pushing against boundedness of heterosexual spatiotemporalities in ways that seem attentive to this radical singularity and the both absence and presence of excesses in such work.

What I especially find interesting is the disciplinarity focus of hauntology. Hauntology resists modes of knowing and others the researcher and the field. This ethical gesture of listening acknowledges our unknowing and resists the creation of grand narratives—it seems especially interesting to be thinking of this so close to the celebration of CCR’s 20th anniversary as a program and hearing the narratives created, documented, and told at that celebration.

Notes: Lauren M. Bowen, “The Limits of Hacking Composition Pedagogy”

Bowen, Lauren M. (2017). The limits of hacking composition pedagogy. Computers and Composition, 43, 2017, 1-14.

Summary:

Bowen traces and analyzes hacking as a concept and as a metaphor adopted by compositionists, critiquing the use of hacking as a pedagogical metaphor for writing.

Keywords: composition, hacking, pedagogy, rhetoric, writing studies

Sources:

Richardson, Timothy. (2014). The authenticity of what’s next. Enculturation, 17.

Yergeau, Melanie, Elizabeth Brewer, Stephanie Kirschbaum, Sushil K. Oswal, Margaret Price, Cynthia L. Self, et al. (2013). Multimodality in motion: Disability and kairotic spaces. Kairos, 18(1).

Quotations:

“An analogous pedagogical model would also be built on the unsubstantiated assumptions that classrooms—and hackerspaces—already host diverse populations and that adopting a merit-based system ensures that learning happens outside of institutionalized systems of oppression” (p. 9).

 

Notes: James Rushing Daniel, “The Event that We Are: Ontology, Rhetorical Agency, and Alain Badiou”

Daniel, James Rushing. (2016). The event that we are: Ontology, rhetorical agency, and Alain Badiou. Philosophy & Rhetoric, 49(3), 254–276.

Summary:

Daniel offers Badiou’s concept of the event to rethink the discipline’s considerations of relativism and flat ontologies.

Keywords: agency, materiality, ontology, rhetoric, rhetorical theory

Quotations:

“While these approaches suggest that agency is not a linear means of enacting change but rather a distributed, emergent process, they nevertheless retain the notion of responsibility and with it the value of human choice. Many following object-oriented, materialist, or ecological models are accordingly caught in such a bind, espousing a model of agency that minimizes the role of the human subject and yet attributes to the human subject a unique significance” (p. 256-57).

“Badiou is not concerned with the consequentiality of things but rather with sets, discrete groupings of mathematical objects that concern spheres of human existence Badiou terms ‘situations’ or ‘worlds.’ Unlike the materialist approaches of contemporary rhetoric that seek to understand the role of objects within a flat ontological system, Badiou’s perspective allows for the consideration of the composition of discrete spheres of ontological being and the ways in which such spheres are disrupted and transformed by events” (p. 259).