Notes: Katja Thieme & Shurli Makmillen, “A Principled Uncertainty: Writing Studies Methods in Contexts of Indigeneity”

Thieme, Katja, & Shurli Makmillen. (2017). A principled uncertainty: Writing studies methods in contexts of indigeneity. College Composition and Communication, 68(3), 466-493.

Summary:

Thieme & Makmillen situate research methods as reproducing disciplinary epistemologies and trouble assumptions of validity and universality by situating research methods as a principled response, drawing on indigenous rhetorics and genre theory.

Keywords: cultural rhetorics, disciplinarity, genre, indigenous rhetorics, methodology, research methods, rhetoric, writing studies

Sources:

Bhattacharya, Kakali. (2007). Consenting to the consent form: What are the fixed and fluid understandings between the researcher and the researched? Qualitative Inquiry, 13(8), 1095–115.

Cole, Daniel. (2011). Writing removal and resistance: Native American rhetoric in the composition classroom. College Composition and Communication, 63(1), 122–44.

Quotations:

“At the heart of critical questions on a method’s transparency and reproducibility are concerns about what it is that is being reproduced if research follows the path of established forms of inquiry” (p. 468).

“References to methods are a shorthand that is similarly indicative of community practices and allegiances. Like genre names, method references focus on central but isolated aspects of a process that involves rich and varying sets of steps and interactions. These shorthands can create a sense of stability and naturalization” (p. 469).

Notes: Ann Cvetkovich, “Reflections: Memoir as Public Feelings Research Method” in Depression: A Public Feeling

Cvetkovich, Ann. (2012). Reflections: Memoir as public feelings research method. in Depression: A public feeling. Durham: Duke University Press.

Summary:

Cvetkovich details memoir as a research method and positions this within academic and therapeutic culture.

Keywords: Depression, Culture, Cultural Studies, Affect, Feminist Rhetorics, Queer, Memoir, Research Methods

Quotations:

“Memoir has been an undeniable force in queer subcultures, where it has been an entry point into the literary public sphere for working-class writers, the backbone of solo performance, and a mainstay for small presses” (74).

“Exemplifying deconstructive principles, academic memoir can expose the material conditions and subject positions that underlie intellectual production” (75).

“The memoir tries to be honest about the ways that activism can sometimes stall out in the routines of daily life, rather than offering revolution as the prescription for change… It suggests that when asking big questions about what gives meaning to our lives, or how art and politics can promote social justice or save the planet, ordinary routines can be a resource” (80).

“The memoir also functions as a research method because it reveals the places where feeling and lived experience collide with academic training and critique” (80).

“Personal narrative can be a forum for the places where ordinary feelings and abstract thinking don’t line up. The impasses of depression and writer’s block can live in those interstices, and alternative forms of writing can spring them loose as foundations for innovative thought” (82).

Notes: Gloria Anzaldúa, “La herencia de Coatlicue” in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Anzaldúa, Gloria (1987). “La herencia de Coatlicue.” In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute.

Summary:

Anzaldúa discusses her psyche’s coping and crossings of/between separations of self and the collective power over the self of each inner self.

Keywords: Culture, Cultural Rhetorics, De/Postcolonial

Quotations:

“There are many defense strategies that the self uses to escape the agony of inadequacy and I have used all of them. I have split from and disowned those parts of myself that others rejected. I have used rage to drive others away and to insulate myself against exposure. I have reciprocated contempt for those who have roused shame in me. I have internalized rage and contempt, one part of the self (the accusatory, persecutory, judgmental) using defense strategies against another part of the self (the object of contempt)” (45).

“The soul uses everything to further its own making” (46).

“Every increment of consciousness, every step forward is a travesía, a crossing. I am again an alien in new territory…. Knowledge makes me more aware, it makes me more conscious. “Knowing” is painful because after “it” happens I can’t stay in the same place and be comfortable. I am no longer the person I was before” (48).

Notes: Gloria Anzaldúa, “Entering the Serpent,” in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Anzaldúa, Gloria (1987). “Entering the Serpent.” In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute.

Summary:

Anzaldúa discusses means by which colonization imposes duality on her culture’s psyche.

Keywords: Culture, Cultural Rhetorics, De/Postcolonial

Quotations:

“I know things older than Freud, older than gender. She—that’s how I think of la Víbora, Snake Woman. Like the ancient Olmecs, I know the Earth is a coiled Serpent” (26).

“I allowed white rationality to tell me that the existence of the “other world” was mere pagan superstition. I accepted their reality, the “official” reality of the rational, reasoning mode which is connected with external reality, the upper world, and is considered the most developed consciousness—the consciousness of duality” (37).

“In trying to become “objective,” Western culture made “objects” of things and people when it distanced itself from them, thereby losing “touch” with them. This dichotomy is the root of all violence” (37).

La facultad is the capacity to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities, to see the deep structure below the surface. It is an instant “sensing,” a quick perception arrived at without conscious reasoning. It is an acute awareness mediated by the part of the psyche that does not speak, that communicates in images and symbols which are the faces of feelings, that is, behind which feelings reside/hide” (38).

“Fear develops the proximity sense aspects of la facultad. But there is a deeper sensing that is another aspect of this faculty. It is anything that breaks into one’s everyday mode of perception, that causes a break in one’s defenses and resistance, anything that takes one from one’s habitual grounding, causes the depths to open up, causes a shift in perception. This shift in perception deepens the way we see concrete objects and people; the senses become so acute and piercing that we can see through things, view events in depth, a piercing that reaches the underworld (the realm of the soul). As we plunge vertically, the break, with its accompanying new seeing, makes us pay attention to the soul, and we are thus carried into awareness—an experiencing of soul (Self)” (39).

“We lose something in this mode of initiation, something is taken from us: our innocence, our unknowing ways, our safe and easy ignorance” (39).

Notes: Gloria Anzaldúa, “Movimientos de rebeldía y las culturas que traicionan” in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Anzaldúa, Gloria (1987). “Movimientos de rebeldía y las culturas que traicionan.” In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute.

Summary:

Anzaldúa writes gets at defining culture and the limitations imposed on the self.

Keywords: Cultural Rhetorics, Culture, Decolonial/Postcolonial, Queer, Feminist Rhetorics, Minority Rhetorics, Critical Race Theory

Quotes:

“There is a rebel in me—the Shadow-Beast. It is a part of me that refuses to take orders from outside authorities. It refuses to take orders from my conscious will, it threatens the sovereignty of my rulership. It is that part of me that hates constraints of any kind, even those self-imposed. At the least hint of limitations on my time or space by others, it kicks out with both feet. Bolts” (16).

“Culture forms our beliefs. We perceive the version of reality that it communicates. Dominant paradigms, predefined concepts that exist as unquestionable, unchangeable, are transmitted to us through culture” (16).

“Deviance is whatever is condemned by the community. Most societies try to get rid of their deviants…. The queer are the mirror reflecting the heterosexual tribe’s fear: being different, being other and therefore lesser, therefore sub-human, inhuman, non-human” (18).

“The world is not a safe place to live in…. The ability to respond is what is meant by responsibility, yet our cultures take away our ability to act—shackle us in the name of protection” (20-21).

Notes: Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

Anzaldúa, Gloria (1987). “The Homland, Aztlán/El otro México.” In Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute.

Summary:

Anzaldúa introduces the idea of borderlands and discusses her experience of living along the Texas-Mexico border, historicizing her experience within cultural contexts.

Keywords: Cultural Rhetorics, Culture, Decolonial/Postcolonial

Quotes:

“But the skin of the earth is seamless.
The sea cannot be fenced,
el mar does not stop at borders.
To show the white man what she thought of his
arrogance,
Yemaya blew that wire fence down” (3).

“This land was Mexican once,
was Indian always
and is.
And   will be again” (3).

“Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them…. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary”

“[Borderlands are] a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants” (3).

 

Contact(ed) Ethos

In day three of the two week graduate assistant instructor training, we talked a lot about teaching personas and how we come to these personas. We riffed on Malea Powell’s  “Learning (Teaching) to Teach (Learn)” and her CCCC address in which she asked us to consider all our relations. A gesture toward collective. A gesture toward a complexity that surrounds, fills, informs, and constitutes performances of the layers of ethos that spread across subjects, where there may have only been one visible subject. A question that may appear simple: are we not the sums of our relations?

We took a moment to make representations of some of our relations—those who we carried with us, who were never far, who were inflected in our ways of thinking. On white sheets of paper with an outline of a gingerbread person, we filled in stylized representations of those who were (not?) already there. They were collected and taped to the chalk board at the front of the room, just behind where our WPA, Derek Mueller, facilitates this workshop—now standing among the visible, no longer absent, presences.

That space is a powerful space to sit and listen to and feel the silences, the apparitions, the sense of self.

Drawing heavily from postmodern theory, the queer theory traditions that I’ve read readily discuss the fragmented self, or the instability of the “I”. This tradition has widely informed my understanding and use of ethos. While talking about our ethical responsibility to one another, Judith Butler perhaps frames this best when she says, “The “I” that I am is nothing without the “you” that you are.” Which is to say that I can only come to know my self and the boundaries of self once I recognize a boundary of other. Butler may not necessarily be talking about questions of ethos, but certainly troubles any stable same-self and places self as interrelated.

To return to the activity in this training, to have attention called to the hazy boarders of self, other, and relationship presents a necessary vulnerability and intimacy. This activity requires a sort of felt sense of who is near and around me as well as acknowledges a certain amount of slippages between where I end and another begins. For me, it was a moment of feeling, perhaps for the first time in this way, ethos as contact(ed). Rather than dissolve the self or the rhetor, feeling the touch of another as constitutive is to take seriously social responsiveness and self-positioning.

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Later in the session we discussed part of the textbook that graduate assistants in EMU’s FYWP use to teach, Understanding Rhetoric. In this discussion, we talked about the third issue, “Writing Identities.” In this issue, there is an illustration of a mirror, cracked into four pieces, with four fragments of a face split across the mirror. In this illustration, selecting performances of self becomes central and visible. We adapted some of this illustration to talk about our performances as instructors. For an activity, we had four boxes in which we had to draw representations of three aspects of our self that we could perform proudly or easily in front of a class and one that we were nervous about.

While digressing from the prompt stylistically, I remember being immediately struck with the idea of Pop Art in the Warhol sense. I hastily sketched out four iterations of me with the same structure in each frame and trying to use bright colors, made-negative imaging, and simple alterations to convey, if not separate performances of self, points of slipping.

It was an endeavor that I see as inextricably linked to the first activity, perhaps drawing on Ben Rafoth’s IWCA address, which discusses Warhol, in that he suggests Warhol’s moves demand different questions “Who do we not see, even when they are present? In other words, drawing out the human potential in a writing center requires social understanding to bring about agency” (22). Rafoth suggests that Warhol’s paintings ask who the subject is by enacting his images’ multiplicity through their iterative yet fragmented nature.  It seems as though these images convey at once singularity and multiplicity: the unified image is gained through contacts of the self.

If we were to explore ethos as contact(ed), what does that even mean or look like? How does that map on pedagogically? What would it mean to enact a pedagogy of contact—that embraces the vulnerability and intimacy at the hazy, messy slippages between self and selves? I’m not sure. I am still trying to listen and feel. Nor am I necessarily convinced that the rough, drafty space of this blog is the right venue for a deeper exploration.

An contact(ed) ethos may necessarily be responsive to the others present, absent or not, and feel them touching back. Understanding ethos that way means being adaptive and ethically and etheticly responding.

A Brief Listing of Citations

Banks, William P. “The Values of Queer Jacketing: What Happens When Student Writers Go Gay?” MEAT Journal 1.2 (Winter 2005–06)

Butler, Judith (2015). “The Ethics and Politics of Nonviolence.” Presented at Oakland University.

— (2009). Frames of War: When is Life Grievable. New York: Verso.

Powell, Malea (2012). 2012 CCCC chair’s letter. College Composition and Communication, 64(2), 423-431.

Malea Powell (2006). “Learning (Teaching) to Teach (Learn)” in Peter Vandenberg, Sue Hum, and Jennifer Clary-Lemon (eds.) Relations, Locations, Positions: Composition Theory for Writing Teachers. Urbana Free Library: 571-580.

Rafoth, Ben (2016). “Faces, Factories, and Warhols: A r(Evolutionary) Future for Writing Centers” The Writing Center Journal 35.2, 17-29.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky (1990). Epistemology of the Closet. Berkeley: University of California Press.