Notes: Josue D. Cisneros, The Border Crossed Us: Rhetorics of Borders, Citizenship, and Latina/o Identity.

Cisneros, Josue D. (2014). The border crossed us: Rhetorics of borders, citizenship, and Latina/o identity. Tuscaloosa, AL: The University of Alabama Press.


Cisneros argues that both registers of borders, the geographic and the civic, have historically defined citizenship in racialized terms, crossing and (re)crossing Latina/o communities. Cineros traces the use of vernacular performances of citizenship and border rhetorics throughout Latina/o rights struggles.

Keywords: rhetoric, social histories, history, borders, Latina/o


“[B]ecause they faced not only institutional barriers but also cultural and historical antagonism and outright persecution, the aliancistas deployed a tactical subjectivity as both citizen-subjects and noncitizen radicals. This border rhetoric oscillated between enacting citizenship through civil rights discourse and reformist appeals and performing a separate identity through ethno-nationalist discourse and radical activism” (p. 78).

“Vernacular enactments of citizenship are always momentary and confluent; vernaculars are neither wholly liberatory nor constraining but enact complex relationships of agency and identity” (p. 106).

“That border rhetorics and particular civic imaginaries are naturalized through rhetoric masks the fact that the border moves and materializes differently across space and time, that the borders of citizenship as they are conceived in any one space and time are unnatural” (p. 147).

“A backlash against identity and identity politics (on the right and the left) contributes to the difficulty of speaking of identity in concrete political terms and occludes the fact that identity is a reality of social location and part of a potential program for liberation and social change” (p. 152).


Cisneros, in many ways, does the kind of social history work that I would like to do. The work that he does highlights the rhetorical performances of Latina/o activists in key moments of Latina/o struggles for basic rights. He writes about how the Latina/o identity is constructed by coloniality  and deployed strategically in these moments he examines. Borders are material/social space of contestability and citizenship is performing belonging within bordered spaces: performing a racialized Latina/o identity in particular ways is performing as well as challenging that bordered space.

So I’m thinking a little about what citizenship means as an archive, as an archive of belonging and an archive of belongings. I’m finding this to be a productive metaphor for me to think through. I’m thinking about Enoch’s (2013) “Releasing Hold: Feminist Historiography Without the Tradition” that suggested inquiry into how the archive does the rhetorical work of remembering, but also the work of forgetting. I’m wondering how this might be useful in thinking about citizenship as being constructed toward particular identity performances even as Cisneros (2014) notes Latina/o identity has been prevented from developing concrete identity terms. This could explain that inability to discuss “identity in concrete political terms” (p. 152).

But I’m also thinking about this in terms of Archive Fever and the anxiety that surrounds this archive. The dust. The dust as these contestations, right? So how is the archive constructed in such a way to mask the rhetorical work of that archive? Of sustaining citizenship. Of collecting dust of the same in the fear of ‘death.’ Borders as the materialization of these anxieties. How might Steedman’s treatment of Michelet’s fever of the dust that kills complicate that? I think she, in seeing everything in the archives as having no beginnings, but seeing them ‘in medias res’, could highlight some of the ways that borders are contested and how citizenship, far from essentialist, is shifting.

But this is just a metaphor to help me process some of this.

There are easy connections to some of the work that I’m doing myself, looking at queer activists between 1987-1990, where I can see similar rhetorical moves being made, where what does it mean to be an American citizen is contested, where there’s a move to develop concrete terms to discuss identity—to perform identity in particular ways to address needs of basic human rights. There are similar differences in performances by activists within ACT UP as performing radical activisms and other LGBTQ activist organizations who wish to perform activist activity framed heavily in ‘civil disobedience’ discourses that heavily appeal to the dominant culture’s sensibilities of what it means to be a citizen.

Notes: Shirley Wilson Logan, Liberating Language: Sites of Rhetorical Education in Nineteenth-Century Black America

Logan, Shirley W. (2008). Liberating language: Sites of rhetorical education in nineteenth-century black America. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.


Logan locates means through which nineteenth century black Americans engaged rhetorical education to advance community literacies, political work, and to “negotiate a hostile environment” (p. 3).

Keywords: histories of rhetoric, history, rhetorical education, social history


“I rely primarily upon records left by the learners themselves or, where silent, by those who worked among them, to develop a sense of these internal activities, and upon the histories of plantation missions, for information on externally sponsored activities” (p. 11).

“Yet these facts do not diminish the contribution of literary societies to black rhetorical education, especially when we consider that much good abolitionist work came out of them” (p. 69).

“Rhetorical performances such as these that took place in parlor rooms rather than in more open spaces gave participants the opportunity to hone their rhetorical skills in alternative publics” (p. 89).

“I do not intend to fast-forward into the twenty-first century in search of claims about the implications this study might have for current teaching practices. The times are quite different” (p. 134).


What I see as perhaps most interesting about this text is how history and rhetoric function as epistemological frames for knowing. In most of the texts I’ve encountered so far, I’ve noticed an orientation that asks “what can history do for rhetoric?” In this, we interrogate historical narratives or recover figures in order to impact our understanding of rhetoric—whether through the alteration of canons or challenging assumptions of practices in rhetorical education or rhetorical practice. In Logan’s text, this seems inverted. She seems to be asking through this study what a deep understanding rhetoric, rhetorical education, and rhetorical study can offer history. It seems a powerful move, for one, as it implies a different relationship between the discipline and authority with regard to its methods and subject matter. In addition, this turn allows Logan to interrogate and situate the context and subjects she studies differently. It’s not that such a turn does not benefit our understanding of rhetoric—it does, certainly—but it changes power as I’ve mentioned and allows her to study the rhetorical practices of her subjects as history.

She distances herself from, what I’ve observed as typical practice to make appeals in rhetorical histories to the current practices of rhetorical study and education. She writes, “I do not intend to fast-forward into the twenty-first century in search of claims about the implications this study might have for current teaching practices. The times are quite different” (p. 134). It’s a very different relationship to history than recovering a figure for the purposes adding them to a rhetorical canon that demands that we engage in the work of history for history’s sake—that history is valuable to rhetoric by its own right and that rhetoric is valuable to history by its own right.

I suppose part of what I’m thinking of is repeated phrases from conferences I’ve attended and conversations I’ve heard where rhetoric scholars distance themselves from their methods and carefully position themselves as not a particular methodologist (e.g. “While I would never consider myself an archival specialist…”). Some of this might have to do with hiring practices that surround specialization—identifying oneself as a type of researcher may limit one’s prospects—but also seems to suggest a not wanting to stake claim in methodologies that rhetoric has inherited from history, cultural anthropology, linguistics, or sociology. That the methods are not ours to have, which to some extent they are not. But this seems to call for us to understand our methods as conversation, as a situated practice across disciplinary landscapes, or held in tension with these disciplining forces.

I’m intrigued too by how Logan represents her research subjects. Instead of hyper-synthesizing her research subjects, Logan allows each to stand on their own, woven together by methodological stitching and historical context. Her claims are consequently made looking across assembled individual narratives in situ. This allows for some interesting moves, such as her ability to highlight individual meaning or how individual subjects “recognized their right to themselves” (p. 3).

It’s been helpful to read this alongside thinking through my own project and being attentive to how she represents her work. The text is not meant to be a perfect how-to, and distributes its methodological thought throughout the text, but helpfully, at the start of each section, she discusses what kinds of materials she engages and how she valued or counted those materials. While we don’t get the full method and each detail, this helps her construct how history is framed for her text. Indeed, she also remains explicit about the silences in her research and how she worked around these potential gaps in her work.

Notes: Nicole H. Gray, “Recording the Sounds of ‘Word Burns’: Reproductions of Public Discourse in Abolitionist Journalism”

Gray, Nicole H. (2011). Recording the sounds of ‘word burns’: Reproductions of public discourse in abolitionist journalism. Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 41(4): 363-386.


Gray highlights the use of phonography, a speech recording technology in which a writer uses a phonetic alphabet, constructs reports of abolitionist speech events, that the construction of the phonographer as accurate operated as a rhetorical tactic.

Keywords: history, historiography, social histories


“Ultimately, the reader was presented with a text that incorporated a self-verifying apparatus, in that it could represent itself as transparent, objective, a ‘deguerrotype’ of an event, removing the necessity for interpretation, and thereby facilitating informed identification” (p. 384).


Gray’s work with the phonographic reporting to interrogate the role of the phonographer as creator that expands representation to the audience interaction is smart work. Gray traces the phonographic report through its uses with the abolitionist presses and how the phonographer was utilized rhetorically to undermine arguments of pro-slavery presses. Gray notes the way the aurality of the speeches plays a part in constructing the presence of the event itself and creates moments of interpretation for the phonographer representing the noise of the audience members.

It’s helpful to read this, and other examples, before setting out to do social histories work. Getting a sense for what the scope of a social histories project and how others are incorporating the source material into the text. It makes sense, in this case, just how a close of a reading is being performed on the source material, given that Gray is discussing how the phonographers represent the speech event, in which case seeing the source material as best we can helps follow along with her claims.

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.


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


“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).


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: Christina B. Hanhardt, “Safe Space Out of Place”

Hanhardt, Christina B. (2016). Safe space out of place. QED: A Journal of GLBTQ Worldmaking, 3(3), p. 121-125.


Hanhardt traces a dominant narrative within safe space discourses that sees particular subjects as always vulnerable to violence, while reproducing spatially raced and classed hierarchies.

Keywords: Safe Space, Place, LGBTQ, Queer, Culture, History


“These ideas are not new to the response to Pulse, but have provided a long-standing common-sense basis for understanding GLBTQ people as subjects who are always vulnerable to violence and for whom designated spaces might provide protection” (122).

“These convictions are anchored in a deep history of exploitation and survival: GLBTQ people have forged counter-institutions in the context of social exclusion, targeted attacks, and material and ideological structures that install and reward gender and sexual inequality” (122).

“Increased assimilation for a small but dominant segment of GLBTQ people has led some to question the importance of GLBTQ-specific institutions in general” (123).

“As a safe space in need of protection, political responses often leaned on discrete if multiple motives, most of which revolved around the presumed interior life of the actual (or potential future) shooter and called for an expansion of state power. In this way, proposals for more gun control and increased anti-terrorism funding actually had much in common, and arguments that sought to emphasize the fact that the patrons were a majority people of color were still absorbed into a dominant framework of GLBTQ marginality and homophobic violence” (124).

“Of course, the use of the term “safe space” is often more about crafting headlines than making a precise argument, but the idea of safety-in-place is a durable one that, although rooted in real needs, is always bound up in the spatial production of racial and economic hierarchy” (124).

“Thus the effort to put “safe space” out of its familiar place—rhetorical and geographic—ultimately is not about what a single essay (in the mainstream media, or an academic journal) may or may not offer, but is made possible as part of a process—often messy and untidy—in which collective debating and planning might lead us not only to safety but to something or somewhere better that we have not yet known” (125).

Notes: José Muñoz, “Queerness as Horizon: Utopian Hermeneutics in the Face of Gay Pragmatism” in Cruising Utopia: The Then and Now of Queer Futurity

Muñoz, José E. (2009). Queerness as horizon: Utopian hermeneutics in the face of gay pragmatism. in Cruising utopia: The then and there of queer futurity. New York: New York University Press, 19-32.


Muñoz insists on queerness as a not-quite-here and that queerness as utopian and uses this positioning of queer as a means to be beyond the pragmatic and neoliberal.

Keywords: Queer, Queer Theory, Queer Futurity


“This ‘we’ does not speak to a merely identitarian logic but instead to a logic of futurity. The ‘we’ speaks to a ‘we’ that is ‘not yet conscious,’ the future society that is being invoked and addressed at the same moment. The ‘we’ is not content to describe who the collective is but more nearly describes what the collective and the larger social order could be, what it should be… This is to say that the field of utopian possibility is one in which multiple forms of belonging in difference adhere to a belonging in collectivity” (20).

“The not-quite-conscious is the realm of potentiality that must be called on, and insisted on, if we are ever to look beyond the pragmatic sphere of the here and now, the hollow nature of the present” (21).

“I suggest that holding queerness in a sort of ontologically humble state, under a conceptual grid in which we do not claim to always already know queerness in the world, potentially staves off the ossifying effects of neoliberal ideology and the degredation of politics brought about by representations of queerness in contemporary culture” (22).

“Indeed, to live inside straight time and ask for, desire, and imagine another time and place is to represent and perform a desire that is both utopian and queer” (26).

“Indeed it is important to complicate queer history and understand it as doing more than the flawed process of merely evidencing. Evidencing protocols often fail to enact real hermeneutical inquiry and instead opt to reinstate that which is known in advance. Thus, practices of knowledge production that are content merely to cull selectively from the past, while striking a pose of positivist undertaking or empirical knowledge retrieval, often nullify the political imagination” (27).

“These ephemeral traces, flickering illuminations from other times and places, are sites that may indeed appear merely romantic, even to themselves. Nonetheless they assist those of us who wish to follow queerness’ promise, its still unrealized potential, to see something else, a component that the German aesthetician would call cultural surplus. I build on this idea to suggest that the surplus is both cultural and affective. More distinctly, I point to a queer feeling of hope in the face of hopeless heteronormative maps of the present where futurity is indeed the province of normative reproduction” (28, original emphasis).


Carolyn Steedman, “Something She Called a Fever: Michelet, Derrida, and Dust”

Steedman, Carolyn. “Something She Called a Fever: Michelet, Derrida, and Dust.” The American Historical Review, vol. 106, American Historical Association, United States, 2001..doi:10.2307/2692943.



Steedman responds to Derrida’s Archive Fever and explores the purposeful consideration and, indeed, fever to archival work, the doubled Everythingness and Nothingness that it considers.

Keywords: Archives, Methodology, Method, History


“Derrida broods on revisionist histories that have been written out of these archives of evil (a shadow of a suggestion here, then, that it is not archives he has in his sights so much as what gets written out of archives: formal, academie history); but he broods as well on never giving up on the hope of getting proof of the past, even though documentary evidence may be locked away and suppressed” (1162).

“But as English-language readers, we are forced to have the fever, and, if we are historians, forced to exasperated expostulation that archives are nothing like this at all” (1163).

“In a parody (but not quite a parody) of empirical doggedness, we might ding to the coattails of one figure of Derrida’s, one image, one literal meaning of “fever” (which wasn’t even a word that was there to start with), and find not only a different kind of sickness but also the magistrate who is actually present in his text, though wrongly named” (1164).

“It remains completely uncertain—it must remain uncertain, that is its point—who or what rises up in this moment. It cannot be determined whether it is the manuscripts or the dead or both who come to life, and take shape and form” (1171).

“The archive that isn’t there in “Archive Fever” is not and never has been the repository of official documents alone. And nothing is there from the beginning. Archives hold no origins, and origins are not what historians search for in them. Rather, they hold everything in medias res, the account caught halfway through, most of it missing, with no end ever in sight. Nothing starts in the Archive, nothing, ever at all, although things certainly end up there” (1175).

“There is everything, or Everything, the great undifferentiated past, all of it, which is not history, but just stuff.” The smallest fragment of its representation (nearly always in some kind of written language) ends up in various kinds of archives and record offices (and also in the vastly expanded data banks that Derrida refers to in “Archive Fever”). From that, you make history, which is never what was there, once upon a time. (There was only stuff, fragments, dust.)” (1176).

“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).

“There is a double nothingness in the writing of history and in the analysis of it: it is about something that never did happen in the way it comes to be represented (the happening exists in the telling or the text), and it is made out of materials that are not there, in an archive or anywhere else” (1179).