Queer Chrono(choro)logy

Where is queer rhetorics? And when is it? When and where does it sit within a graduate program and how is it sponsored explicitly or implicitly? Ultimately, the unevenness in accessing queer perspectives, theoretical orientations, and work within rhetoric studies may come from unevenness in locating or identifying (with) queerness in rhetoric studies. As Cox and Faris (2015) note, “Rhetoric studies seemed incredibly straight. And, in many ways, it still does. Graduate students are often encouraged to study heteronormative theory and, we might say, are trained to identify with it” (para. 5). Further, I would like to suggest that training oneself to identify with particular approaches is to also take up a particular disciplinary orientation.

An orientation, being a spatial term as Ahmed (2006) reminds, involves how one understands themselves in space and what futures become available along the trajectories of those orientations. To be trained to identify with heteronormative theory, then, is to be trained to understand the space of the field heteronormatively and to take up the available heteronormative actions and actionable heteronormative futures. Put differently, accessing queer rhetorics alone may not do the orienting work that heteronormative texts are given through their spaces of explicit sponsorship.

As a queer chrono(choro)logy, what I offer here are a series of visualizations that draw on bibliographic work. These visualizations are an initial gesture toward an emplacement of queer rhetorics: that is, queer rhetorics’ being in space and in time. I’ve attempted to create visuals that attend to the emerging shapes and movement of the discipline in ways that are interactive and display the dynamic relationship between spatio-temporal orientations. Modeled after many of my own introductions to rhetoric studies in graduate education, this project aims at creating tools to assist in identifying the spatiality, temporality, orientations, and trajectories of queer rhetorics.

Visualizing Disciplinary Trajectories and Emplacement

The chart below draws from Cox and Faris’s (2015) annotated bibliography of queer rhetorics and follows their coding patterns and instances for the annotated articles. For the years 2015-2017, I’ve drawn from the CCCC Queer Caucus bibliography that maintains an updated list of queer rhetorics publications and attempted to follow the same kinds of markings from the annotated bibliography. What this is, then, is a distant reading of queer rhetorics over time, a tracking of disciplinary momentum, and way of noticing patterns in queer rhetorics from a different perspective.

This chart is a Google Motion Chart, displaying frequency of tag or keywords over time. I would invite you to click the play and watch the movement indicating keyword frequency as well as playing with the different variables available through this chart. In the upper, right-hand of the chart, you can choose to see the data displayed in an animated scatter by year, an animated bar chart by year, or a static line-chart. You can also tag keywords you would like to follow over time by selecting from the tick-box menu on the right-hand side. You may also choose to change the appearance of data by size and color, or the scale of data by toggling between line (lin) and logarithm (log). The logarithm view, I find, makes it easier to see the movement of low-frequency data.

I first came across this kind of data visualization in Derek Mueller’s introduction to graduate writing studies course, when he showed a Google Motion Chart of keywords in CCC. His motion chart served as a different way to orient new-comers to the field of writing studies. Similarly, this visualization is an initial effort to visualize queer rhetorics in time and to visualize it as in-motion as well as its contacts with other rhetorical timelines through keywords. This small visualization of the data is meant to compliment other, existing visualizations, such as Unger and Sánchez (2015) work in mapping and Faris (2017) citation network visualizations as an inventional method that not only accounts for the spatiality that other spatial metaphors allow for, but to consider also the trajectories and orientations the field takes us. This attends to the chronological force and orientations of queer rhetorics.

As Unger and Sánchez (2015) point out, disciplines have often relied on spatial metaphors to gain legitimacy. Unger and Sánchez (2015) use this to develop a disciplinary landscape, drawing on the ProQuest database of queer rhetorics theses and dissertations as well as Faris and Alexander’s (2010) previous bibliography of queer rhetorics. What I offer here is a map of author-institutions reflected in Cox and Faris’s (2015) citations, complimentary to earlier mappings. Likewise, this is an initial effort toward an emplaced disciplinary network of queer rhetorics, modeled after Mueller’s (2017) work emplacing writing studies across the US-Canadian border. I developed this map through exploratory searches for each author, attempting to locate institutions, which shows an institutional bias on my part that is represented in the map below. Likewise, it is worth noting that I was not able to easily locate several of the authors. But what is here attends to, at least insofar as it can, the spatial realities of queer rhetorics. This, I hope, shows a distant spatiality, the ways that queer rhetorics exists in space and has space, and is within space.

The interactive map below shows the authors cited in Cox and Faris’s (2015) annotated bibliography as well as those cited in the CCCC queer caucus citations from years 2015-2017. Each point has been color coded by year of most recent publication, as shown in the key below the map to act as a sort of heat map of queer rhetorics activity. There are clusters at certain universities that may require scaling in toward that university to clearly see each node. If you click on any given node, you should see displayed the author’s name, current university, and a list of each work cited in the two source-bibliographies.

Red 2013-2017 | Orange 2008-2012 | Yellow 2003-2007 | Green 1998-2002 | Dark Green 1993-1997 | Blue 1988-1992 | Dark Blue 1983-1987 | Purple 1978-1982 | Dark Purple 1973-1977

Of course, the map above displays a certain time-placed perspective of disciplinary activity that is date stamped at the time of its creation. New layers could be added at any point to show disciplinary movement over time. While this map displays disciplinary activity and where that activity is showing, it also shows disciplinary inactivity. 

The image below displays what might be a summary view of an antimap operating in the map above: the ‘queer deserts’. This map was generated by coding the states in which queer activity is not. Each state was coded for three criteria: 1) The state has no queer data to visualize, 2) The state has fewer than two cited queer rhetoricians working within a university in that state, and 3) there is at least one text cited that was published between 2008-2017 associated with a cited author within that state. The states in green display states in which none of the following are true. The palest red displays a state in which one of the above criteria is true. The mid-red state displays a state in which two of the above criteria are true. The deepest red states refer to states in which all of the above criteria are true.

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These visualizations have sought to emplace queer rhetorics, to show where it is, but to complicate this by showing to that being in place is a happening. The where of queer rhetorics is a when-where. To see this is to help make these visualizations dynamic and resist the flatness of zoning that might relegate queerness’s belonging and to visualize the relationship and friction between two orienting forces in the making, shaping, and being of a discipline: time and space. These not only shape disciplinary activity, but shape in relation to, defined equally by what is held within those shapes as what is defined as outside the shapes. We might ask if or why certain regions house disciplinary activity while others may be inhospitable. We might notice gap-years of queer rhetorics (such as 1982-1988). These would be prompting questions that might show us how external and internal assemblages and activities have oriented the discipline’s spatio-temporal trajectories over the past 44 years. Understanding this, even through simple visualizations can offer insights as well as opportunities to create sites of intervention for the discipline—possibilities for reorientation or to complicate the orientations and trajectories of larger disciplinary networks.


Works Cited

Ahmed, Sara. (2006). Queer phenomenology: Objects, orientations, others. Durham: Duke University Press.

Cox, Matthew B. & Michael Faris. (2015). An annotated bibliography of LGBTQ rhetorics. Present Tense, 4(2).

Mueller, Derek. (2017). Emplaced disciplinary networks from middle altitude. In Derek Mueller, Andrea Williams, Louise Wetherbee Phelps, & Jennifer Clary-Lemon. Cross-border networks in writing studies. Parlor Press.

Unger, Don & Fernando Sánchez. (2015). Locating queer rhetorics: Mapping as an inventional method. Computers and Composition: An International Journal for Teachers of Writing, 38, 96-112.