Inoue, Asao B. and Mya Poe. “Introduction.” Race and Writing Assessment.

•January 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Inoue, Asao B. and Mya Poe. “Introduction.” Race and Writing Assessment. Eds. Asao B. Inoue and Mya Poe. New York: Peter Lang, 2012.

In this essay, Inoue and Poe lay out the rationale for focusing on race in writing assessment, noting that they’re “starring” race rather than solely focusing on it in relation to gender, class, or other social formations. They begin by defining a few key terms that they’ll use throughout:

  • racial formation (through Omi and Winant) – rather than using the category of “race,” which risks being ahistorical and also essentialist, they focus our attention on racial formations (6) which Omi and Winant have defined (1994, 55-56) as “the sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhibited, transformed, and destroyed.” This allows us to focus on a distinct historical moment and distinct locations in talking about how race comes to mean and matter in a particular institutional context or for particular groups of people.
  • assessment – Following Ruth and Murphy (1988), Inoue and Poe define assessment as any informal or formal moment when “one person seeks and interprets information about another person” and writing assessment is when someone obtains and interprets information “about a students’ abilities in writing” (6).
  • assessment technology – Inoue and Poe follow a number of scholars (I’d heard of O’Neill, Huot, and Inoue, but not of Madaus from 1990 or Madaus and Horn from 2000) in referring to assessment technologies rather than assessments, since assessment encompasses an entire system of environment, agents, and materials that are brought to bear on and inform the process.

After defining terms, Inoue and Poe review the literature on writing assessment and its consequences for students of color, noting that best practices in the field of psychometric testing now call for testing validity that takes into account a test’s uses, social effects, and consequences alongside other more traditional understandings of validity and reliability (7). After reviewing studies that have focused on the effects of assessment on students of color, they note that the 2009 CCCC position statement on writing assessment states that the “best assessment practice respects language variety and diversity” (qtd in Inoue and Poe 9)

Important quotations: 

“Part of what makes racial formations ‘local’ is how those formations are historically situated in particular communities with particular social, political, economic, and cultural histories. What makes racial formation useful for assessment purposes is that it allows researchers to account for race without essentializing racial identity in the conclusions they make about writing assessment outcomes.” (6)

“If racial formations are about the historical and structural forces that organize and represent bodies and their lived experiences, then racism is not about prejudice, personal biases, or intent. Racism is not about blaming or shaming white people. It is about understanding how unequal or unfair outcomes may be structured into our assessment technologies and the interpretations that we make from their outcomes.


McClish, Glen. “Transforming the African Missionary Narrative: Rhetorical Innovation in Martin Delany’s Official Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party.” ASHR, 16: 107-140, 2013.

•November 28, 2013 • Leave a Comment

McClish, Glen. “Transforming the African Missionary Narrative: Rhetorical Innovation in Martin Delany’s Official Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party.” ASHR 16 (Fall 2013): 107-140.

In this article, McClish investigates Delany’s Official Report of the Niger Valley Exploring Party through genre theory and constitutive rhetoric, finding that it transforms the genre of the white missionary narrative in order to serve instrumental goals–1. Have African Americans assume agency by emigrating to Africa, 2. to establish his leadership as the vanguard of the emigration movement–and “a constitutive invitation to adopt a radical pan-Africanism that knits together all people of African descent and develops the ethnic pride and confidence he  belives are central to the success of the emigration movement” (109). McClish first reviews his rhetorical framework through Carolyn Miller, Joshua Gunn, and Chuck Bazerman’s innovations in genre theory, and then adds a constitutive rhetorical lens through James Jasinski, Jasinski/Jennifer Mercieca, and Michael Leff & Ebony Utley. He then establishes the rhetorical context for the report and Delany’s journey, as well as the generic precursors that Delany’s Report subverts. He then breaks his analysis of the 17 section work into three sections, describing first how Delany enhances his ethos through bricolage and a reframing of earlier positions on colonization. Then, McClish describes four major strategies of genre violation that serve Delany’s purposes: 1. He doesn’t do a leg-by-leg adventure description of the journey, and doesn’t exoticize Africans. 2. He emphasizes the ease of getting to Africa and thriving there, rather than the difficulties, by directing readers’ attention to certain features of the trip and deflecting it away from things like his illness he took in Liberia. 3. Highlights his expertise in diplomacy, business, and African conditions. 4. Provides positive accounts of the Africans he meets. In addition, Delany also seeks to answer the earlier missionary zeal of colonization discourse by both secularizing biblical quotations (127) and inverting the importance of proselytizing from its central purpose in other missionary efforts to a secondary concern of his primary goal of commerce and cultural uplift (127-128). McClish closes with an account of Delany’s importance to constitutive rhetoric and furthering Kirt Wilson’s account of mimesis as an African American rhetorical strategy for building power.

Hesford, Wendy. “Global Turns and Cautions in Rhetoric and Composition Studies.”

•September 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Hesford, Wendy. “Global Turns and Cautions in Rhetoric and Composition Studies.” PMLA 121.3 (2006): 787-801.

In this bibliographic essay that traces the methodological challenges that attend rhetoric and composition’s disciplinary turn toward an interest in the global, Hesford advocates for a revised methodological toolset based in a “comparative-historical frame and a broader understanding of culture, text, context, and the public sphere than what traditional rhetorical and ethnographic criticism provides” (791). In so doing, she reviews existing turns to comp/rhet’s imagined geographies, the increased attention to the possibilities and limits of ethnographic methods in rhetorical scholarship, and recent revision of historiographical frameworks to ultimate argue that the discipline of composition and rhetoric must turn away from attempts to secure its own disciplinary borders or secure placement in the university to build coalitions across the humanities to form “new critical frameworks in light of a changing world” (796). The work here is ultimately not to build better methods in and of themselves, but to do so in order to make humanities criticism useful in tracing the possibilities as well as the “injuries and risks” of this emerging iteration of “global civil society” (797).

In the history section of the essay, Hesford relies on Stephen Mailloux’s concept of rhetorical hermeneutics that positions rhetoric as in interdiscipline uniting the production, circulation, and reception of texts. As Mailloux puts it, rhetorical hermeneutics is “the use of rhetoric to practice theory by doing history” (99, quoted in Hesford on 794). Mailloux’s use of the term is taken from his essay:

“Re-marking Slave Bodies: Rhetoric as Production and Reception.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 35 (2002): 96-119.

Important Quotations:

p. 788:

p. 791, on Public Sphere using GP’s work on Hip Hop as example:

p. 792, on an ethnography that traces circulation and travel between global and local:

p. 792: On Keck and Sikkink’s work:


p. 795: On history and the transnational:

Whelehan, Niall. “Skirmishing, The Irish World, and Empire, 1876-86.” Eire-Ireland 42.1-2 (Spring/Summer 2007), 180-200.

•August 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Whelehan, Niall. “Skirmishing, The Irish World, and Empire, 1876-86.” Eire-Ireland 42.1-2 (Spring/Summer 2007), 180-200.

In this essay, Whelehan examines the rhetorical work The Irish World–specifically Patrick Ford’s editorials and the running world news column “Trans-Atlantic”–and Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa’s work in The Irish World and his United Irishmen performs to legitimatize the turn in militant Irish nationalism toward the guerrilla-warfare tactic they defined as “skirmishing” post the failed rising of 1867. Whelehan notes how the authors question fuzzy definitions between honorable and dishonorable warfare, widely publicizing examples of British Imperial warfare to call into question those distinctions, thereby legitimizing skirmishing as a proper reaction to British imperial violence. These redefinitions set the terms for a shift in Irish political violence, and lay the groundwork for the later tactics Irish militant dynamiters would become infamous for.

Whelehan’s essay notes the links that Ford and “Trans-Atlantic” draw between British imperialism and its resistance in India, Ireland, Sudan, and South Africa, questioning the legitimacy of heretofore unquestioned British exercise of military force as the “resources of civilization” (193), an irony that leads Rossa to name one of his fundraising efforts the “Resources of Civilisation Fund” (194). These rhetorical re-framings faced staunch opposition, not only from mainstream press but from within militant Irish nationalist circles as well. Many “physical force nationalists” only saw honor in official warfare, prompting Ford and Rossa to question those distinctions. Others decried these violent acts in “peacetime,” prompting Ford and Rossa to invoke British imperialism as an ongoing war. After all, Ireland and England are always at war” (The Irish World, 11 March 1876; qtd. in Whelehan 187).

Two things quite pertinent to my project:

1. The Indian Wars in the American West were in full swing at this time, yet these engagements seem to fall outside even Ford’s circumference. Contrasting these rhetorics with Fenian John Finerty’s war correspondence in the Sioux Wars at the same time might be a striking way to see the arbitrary and ultimately violent distinctions that turn on simple frame shifts from Native to Savage, from legitimate freedom fighter in Sudan to legitimate ‘bare life’ impeding ‘progress’ in the Black Hills. How much does this Circumference drawing have to do with identifications with American citizenship?

2. In D’Arcy, one of his throwaway lines about the wake of the botched Manchester Martyrs rescue, sees the beginnings of a shift from warfare rising to guerrilla-style “skirmishing.” Go back to see where this is.

Enck-Wanzer, Darrel. “Decolonizing Imaginaries: Rethinking “the People” in the Young Lords’ Church Offensive.”

•January 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Enck-Wanzer, Darrel. “Decolonizing Imaginaries: Rethinking “the People” in the Young Lords’ Church Offensive.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 98.1 (2012): 1-23.

In this essay, Enck-Wanzer looks to the embodied, visual, and verbal/textual rhetoric of the Young Lords in their Church offensive as a decolonial rhetoric that reframes the ideograph “the people” from its presumed homogeneity in the modern/coloniality social imaginary of the United States. He begins by connecting the rhetorical concept of the ideograph to the critical social theory concept of the social imaginary (Charles Taylor) that sanctions the norms of stranger relationality (Dilip Gaonkar) in the modern/coloniality sensibility. He then turns to an analysis of the Young Lords’ multiple reframings of “the people” in verbal, textual, visual (pictures) and embodied performative ideographic interventions in particular geography of the Church in the center of East Harlem’s El Barrio, thus delinking the typical “the people” ideograph from the hegemonic individualistic modern/colonial frame of the US. He closes the essay by sketching the importance of the decolonial framework for rhetorical studies, both in Latin@ vernacular rhetorics and in the broader discipline as a whole.

Important Quotations:

Updated Sense of Ideographs:

“Ideographs, then, can be understood as (a) the verbal, visual, and embodied symbolic repertoire that (b) is defined by, and in turn defines, the social imaginary, which (c) facilitates ideologically, historically, and doctrinally constrained modes of stranger relationality.” (6)

“The fundamental linkage between modernity and coloniality–a linkage that is manifest in the social imaginaries that structure society and recursively inform political identity and practices of citizenship–underwrites the vocabulary of ideographs available to would-be agents…In challenging Western-liberal articulations of ‘‘the people’’ through a rhetoric of liberation, however, the Young Lords’ discourse and activism contain ‘‘the de-linking seed’’ that provides ‘‘alternatives TO modernity’’ and the modern social imaginary. ” (6) — Quotes in here are from McGee AND Mignolo

“Such alternatives can coalesce in challenges to ideographs like ‘‘the people,’’ but must also include broader epistemic shifts privileging geopolitical location and the body politics of knowledge in contradistinction to the dominant social imaginary.” (17)


Aune, James Arnt. “Cultures of Discourse: Marxism and Rhetorical Theory.”

•January 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

In this essay, Aune first sketches the, at best, mutual ignoring of each other and, at worst, mutual antagonism of Marxism and Rhetoric. In attempting to bring greater rapprochement, Aune sketches first a short history of Marxism’s broad claims, the difference between scientific and critical Marxism, and the 4 major schools of Marxism that sought to fill in Marx’s lack of politics: Leninism’s vanguard & Rosa Luxembourg’s rising of the masses (both of whom ignore communication problems) and the Frankfurt School & Gramsci’s ideas surrounding hegemony. He then moves on to the three main schools of communication theory that he terms “rhetoric,” “the culture of critical discourse” that has long prevailed in academia, and “the new rhetoric” or “poststructuralism”‘s reduction of everything to a play of signs. After critiquing the “argumentative grammars” that inhere in each of the three schools’ approach to language, he ultimately argues for a revitalization of traditional rhetorical theory informed by Marxist theory and practice, and that doing so “may be of some use in advancing, if not the Revolution, at least a more humane practice of public argument” (549).

He closes with four theses of such a rapprochement, copied verbatim from 549:

1. The Marxist representative anecdote of human beings as producers rather than simply as symbol-users may help correct the “trained incapacity” or “occupational psychosis” of rhetorical theory. By foregrounding the role of labor in constructing our human world, a Marxist approach to communication may help revitalize the criticism of public discourse.

2. By foregrounding class struggle rather than public consensus, a Marxist rhetorical theory may be better able to explain broad historical shifts in rhetorical practice and pedagogy than do existing theoretical alternatives.

3. Traditional rhetoric, in privileging common sense as a starting point for the construction of enthymemes, may provide a needed corrective to Marxism’s tendency to view the common sense of a culture merely as a rationalization of that culture’s relations of domination.

4. Uniting Marxism’s traditional concern for economic democracy with rhetoric’s traditional (if at times ambiguous) concern for political democracy may provide a narrative structure for a new politics, one that view revolution as a struggle against racial, sexual, and economic oppression and against the specialized languages of expertise, which have characterized ‘liberal’ reform in this century. Marxism needs to correct rhetoric’s avoidance of the category of labor in the construction of the social world, while rhetoric needs to correct Marxism’s one-sided focus on labor at the expense of other forms of domination.

It seems to me that #3 is definitely the project that McGee began a few years earlier with the ideograph work specifically, since the ideograph is a key departure point for a society’s “common sense.” I like what Wanzer is doing–of course his decolonial delinking project via Mignolo–to expand that ideographical symbolic understanding through the expanded notion of the “social imaginary” via Charles Taylor and Dilip Gaonkar’s rhetorical extension of it.

Great Quotation that gives us Eagleton’s definition of rhetoric:

Rhetoric: “is the process of analyzing the material effects of particular uses of language in particular social conjunctures” (544).

Traditional Rhetoric: “the textual training of the ruling class in the techniques of political hegemony” (p. 101)” (544).

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.

•January 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Revised Edition. London: Verso, 1991.

In this classic book, Anderson works to trace the cultural, political, and technological conditions that gave rise to Nationalism in the late 18th century Europe and continue to make it such a resilient phenomenon today. Eschewing interpretations that it should be lumped in with other political “isms” such as Marxism or Liberalism, Anderson sees it more closely aligned with phenomena like religion and kinship. He begins by defining it as “an imagined political community–and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (6) that has cultural roots in the decline and territorialization of religion and sacred-script, the de-authorizing of monarchical centers as the natural way to organize political relations in space, and the delinking temporally of cosmology and history such that humans could now imagine themselves in a simultaneous, homogenous, calendrical time that connects folks who’ve never met. Such understanding of time, for Anderson, is epitomized in the development of the novel and the newspaper in print capitalism. He goes on to locate the origin of national consciousness at the intersection of capitalism, print, and the fatality of linguistic diversity engendered by the former two. He then traces their origins in practices from the Americas, both Spanish and Anglo, then their adaptations in linguistic nationalisms of Europe, official nationalisms in service of the imperial nation, and post-WWII ex-colonial nationalisms.

In Chapter 3, Anderson discusses the origins of national consciousness in the intersections between capitalism (as a system of production and productive relations), print (as a technology of communication), and what he calls the “fatality of human linguistic diversity” (wherein the myriad of spoken vernaculars was assembled into far fewer print vernaculars beyond the previous Latin hegemony) (43). This interplay led to print languages that, for Anderson, facilitated national consciousness in at least 3 ways:

  • Created a unified mode of communication below Latin and above spoken vernaculars
  • Print capitalism gave a new fixity to language previously unattainable in the era of copied manuscript
  • Created languages-of-power in administrative vernaculars, which Anderson sees as first being a fortuitous alignment of capitalism, technology, and linguistic diversity, only later being manipulated or “exploited in a Machiavellian spirit” (45).

The former types of states, where the majority of the population speaks the official print language, he traces to the first republican nation-states in the Anglo and Spanish Americas (this, of course, ignores insights like Christa Olson’s about the majority of indios in Ecuador), and the latter wherein the majority of the population doesn’t speak or write in the official state language, which he points to ex-colonial states in Africa (46).

In Chapter 4, “Creole Pioneers,” Anderson asks and answers the questions why and how separate nationalisms grew from the Spanish-American Empire’s creole population, and a (nearly) unified nationalism grew in Anglo-American creoles (notwithstanding Canada, which always gets left out!). While Anderson notes the obvious economic factors, as well as the rise of liberalism and Enlightenment notions that challenged the primacy of ancien régimes while paving the way for republicanism in every case except Brazil, he actually credits the circumscribed journeys of accomplishment open to creoles in Spanish-America (if you were born in the colonies, the highest attainment of upward mobility open to you was the particular administrative center to which you were born…following Victor Turner’s theory of the journey, Anderson notes that Madrid thus ceases to be the new Mecca or Rome or Benares and, instead, Quito or Caracas), coupled with early iterations of print-capitalism’s reach through newspapers, as the prime mover for the development of a distinctly national consciousness for these creoles.

In Chapter 5, “Old Languages, New Models,” Anderson turns back to Europe for its burgeoning of nationalisms and nation-state movements from 1820-1920, arguing that struggle over the print vernacular and piracy of the newly minted concept of the “nation”–largely from the USA and France–played hugely decisive roles in these movements. Thus, the literate producers of vernacular language grammars, dictionaries, and literatures–as well as their literate, emerging bourgeoisie reading public–become the prime movers of national movements. In borrowing freely (Anderson’s “piracy”) from the republican models recently minted in the Americas and France, these language workers and proto-nationalist middle-classes also made these populist overtures to create a nation for all to participate, and Anderson says this is largely due to the models provided that solidified a sense of what the “nation” should be.

On the whole, Anderson’s account in Chapter 5 resonates generally with different eras of Irish Nationalism: the Young Ireland movement of the 1840’s was certainly the educated intelligentsia, and they made overtures to “the people” even though, as Brown puts it, they didn’t “know” the people. And the later movement of 1890s-1921, led by the cultural nationalisms of Yeats and a revived interest in both folklore and Gaelic, was also highly influenced by the women and men of letters. Yet, in Anderson’s only two mentions of Ireland in this chapter, both are puzzling: On 78, he claims that “the English elbowed Gaelic out of Ireland” as part of “a process which, at least in the beginning, was largely unplanned.” In a footnote he mentions the “military subjugation of the Gaeltacht,” but doesn’t note the systematic banning of Gaelic language instruction in schools, for instance, that might give someone pause in thinking the “process” “unplanned.” In a later section, while noting that the participation of the masses had much to do with their relationship to the “missionaries of nationalism,” he claims that “one might point to Ireland, where a Catholic priesthood drawn from the peasantry and close to it played a vital mediating role” (80). But these broad strokes beg for more detailed exposition, as the priests weren’t always the willing accessories to the often Protestant middle-class “missionaries of Nationalism.” In the Fenian era and prior, for instance, they often played a more obstructive role than a facilitative one. Quibbling yes, and especially given the scope of Anderson’s project, but also annoying (so I had to mention them).

Some of this can be accounted for by the next chapter (Ch. 6), wherein Anderson discusses the rise of official nationalisms–defined as the willed merger of nation and dynastic empire (86)–in lockstep with imperialism. To sketch the continuities of this ideology, itself made possible by and in reaction to the popular linguistic-nationalisms of the last chapter, he turns to comparisons among early Russian, English (in the Indian context and not the Irish), and Japanese official nationalisms, all of which turn to state policy to compel their colonial subjects to become more like the metropole. But, just like Spanish creoles in the Americas, these colonially-produced subjects can never rise above the administrative centers they came from. Anderson states,

“The reason for all this was not simply racism; it was also the fact that at the core of the empires nations too were emerging–Hungarian, English, and Japanese. And these nations were also instinctively resistant to ‘foreign’ rule” (111).

Yet, this logic seems to forget the very continuity of this feature to the earlier Spanish and English iterations of imperialism in the Americas. It seems that official nationalism becomes a strategy to contain or eradicate the threat of the colonial other–by assimilation or eradication. Anderson needs  more postcolonial theory, methinks.

In Chapter 7, “The Last Wave,” he traces the rise post-WWII of what I would call postcolonial nation-states, and their genesis in the leadership of “lonely, bilingual intelligentsias unattached to sturdy local bourgeoisies” (140) that were educated in the “Russified” educational systems meant to produce large cadres of bilingual folks to administer the growing colonial state. As always, he notes that the territories of these future imagined communities are coterminous with the administrative centers of the colonial map that marked the apex of travel for these metropole-educated natives. So, the very education meant to produce willing servants of colonial empire also gave folks access to nationalist ideologies and histories that they would ultimately seek to wield against their oppressors.

In Chapter 8, “Patriotism and Racism,” Anderson returns to the primacy of language in facilitating national feeling, and also seeks to disprove that racism arises out of nationalism. To the contrary, Anderson rightly asserts, it arises out of class relations. Though he goes into other examples to prove his case, one need not go beyond the North American colonies, where laws against white-black miscegenation far pre-date nationalism but are meant to keep lower classes from banding together in solidarity.

In Ch. 9, “The Angel of History” we have the original conclusion reiterating the imagined quality of the nation, the spread and imminent pirate-ability of the phenomenon to new contexts through the facilitation of print capitalism and–later–colonial education systems, and the stubborn ways in which today’s revolutionary inherits the mantle of the old regimes and ends up wielding much similar tools of “official nationalisms” to bolster their version of the state.

In Ch. 10, “Census, Map, and Museum,” Anderson revises his argument from Ch. 7 about the rise of post-colonial nationalisms as direct descendants from European official nationalisms. He adds a sense of the local colonial state’s contribution through the interweaving technologies of census, map, and museum, both technologizing space and history in service of the officially imagined nation.

In Ch. 11