Notes: Jessica Enoch, “Releasing Hold: Feminist Historiography Without the Tradition”

Enoch, Jessica. (2013). Releasing hold: Feminist historiography without the tradition. In Theorizing histories of rhetoric. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, p. 58-73.

Summary:

Enoch questions the dominant work in feminist rhetorical historiography to reclaim women rhetorical figures or reread canonical texts and instead poses rhetorical approaches that call attention to the rhetorical work of gendering and creating public memories about and for women.

Keywords: feminist rhetorics, historiography, histories of rhetoric, archives, methodology

Quotations:

“Rather than use the archive to recover women, a feminist memory studies approach to the archive prompts scholars to see it as a site that creates and shapes public memory for and about women” (p. 66).

“[T]heir work is predicated on the idea that the process of gendering is deeply rhetorical in that it relies on discursive, material, and embodied articulations and performances that create and disturb gendered distinctions, social categories, and asymmetrical power relationships” (p. 68).

Reflection:

I’m deeply interested in Enoch’s work in articulating the rhetorical work of the archive and of archival scholarship. I can see connections readily available to some of my concerns in approaching an archival project that sits somewhere between queer theoretical work and LGBTQ histories. Particularly in how Enoch discusses how a feminist memory studies approach calls attention to the rhetorical work of remembering women—but also the rhetorical work of forgetting. She discusses the archive itself as something of scholarly inquiry and its sustained (in)attention (p. 66). These seem like promising premises. Enoch poses questions of how historiographic work is done, but also offers theoretical inroads into performing historiographic work (in part by doing a historiography of feminist rhetorical histories).

I’m reminded a bit of Jen Clary-Lemon’s “Museums as Material: Experiential Landscapes and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights“, which perhaps is an extension of some of this conversation, arguing that the museum is itself a textual site performing rhetorical for interrogation. She discusses rhetorical accretion as a means to examine

museum interiors and landscapes as both housing and being different “core texts” that can be seen through a lens of material rhetoric can encourage complex understandings of the layers that are formed from objects, spaces, architecture, and affect from a range of different subject positions, and disturb the bifurcation of inside/outside that emerges from considering museums as object repositories—instead opening these landscapes to see inside and outside as connected in a network of place (para. 6).

Clary-Lemon argues that the networks of accretion in museum spaces are a material part of the rhetorical work that sustains remembering and forgetting. It would pose an interesting question to bring in an approach such as hers to each archive, to ask how “material existence constructs networked meaning out of materials, durability, reproduction, and effects on text and peoples” (para. 30).

Though different approaches, I can see how each is asking for methods that call explicit attention to the rhetorical work of creating, shaping, and sustaining rhetorical memory and forgetting.

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: 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: Heather Horst and Daniel Miller, “Normativity and Materiality: A View From Digital Anthropology”

Horst, Heather & Daniel Miller. (2012). Normativity and materiality: A view from digital anthropology. Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, (145), 103-111.

Summary:

Horst and Miller discuss how digital anthropology requires a reconsideration of how materiality and normativity operate in experiences of digital environments.

Keywords: anthropology, culture, digital rhetoric, materiality, methodology, new materialisms, research methods, technology

Quotations:

“Rather than rendering us less human, less authentic, or more mediated, we argue that attention should turn to the human capacity to create or impose normativity in the face of constant change” (p. 103).

“We therefore suggest that one of the central tenets of digital anthropology is the study of how rapidly things become mundane. What we experience is not a technology, per se, but an immediate culturally inflected genre of usage or practice” (p. 108).

Notes: Pamela VanHaitsma, “Gossip as Rhetorical Methodology for Queer and Feminist Historiography”

Pamela VanHaitsma. (2016). Gossip as rhetorical methodology for queer and feminist historiography. Rhetoric Review. 35(2), 135-147.

Summary:

VanHaitsma, drawing on her previously published work, outlines the queer, feminist rhetorical possibilities of gossip as a methodology for rhetorical historiography. She argues that gossip-as-methodology offers the ability for methodological speculation, access to gossip’s illicit knowing-and-meaning-making, and an insistence on openness with special regard for who is allowed to speak for whom.

Keywords: feminist rhetorics, queer rhetorics, rhetoric, writing studies, methodology, research methods, archives, historiography

Sources:

Kirsch, Gesa E., and Jacqueline Jones Royster. “Feminist Rhetorical Practices: In Search of Excellence.” College Composition and Communication 61.4 (2010): 640–72.

Friedman, Andrea. “The Smearing of Joe McCarthy: The Lavender Scare, Gossip, and Cold War Politics.” American Quarterly 57.4 (2005): 1105–29.

Quotations:

“[G]ossip is a speculative methodology indispensible to feminist and queer ways of relating to the past, but instead of seeking to fix history or queerness, gossip ideally remains open to indefinite suggestion” (136).

“Following feminist scholars, gossip may thus be understood, on the one hand, as a positive rhetorical methodology: as another form of speculation or imagination that is practiced in ways consistent with traditional standards for scholarly rigor, reason and order, and truth claims” (138).

“Working with this understanding of gossip as illicit evidence, scholars of queer rhetoric may treat speculation about the past, much like more traditional archival materials, as grounds on which to develop narratives about non-normative sexual, romantic, and/or erotic practices—while simultaneously underscoring the impossibilities and uncertainties inherent in attempts to know the “truth” of sexuality, identity, and history” (139).