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Global Rhetoric and the Practice of Transnational Literacies


Western States Rhetoric and Literacy Studies. October 19-20, 2012

Globalization studies is gradually coming to recognize that “urgent global questions” are “rhetorically situated” (Bahri 524) and to see that situatedness as complicated by transnational circulation and performance. These recognitions are prompting new questions about “technological, political, and education-institutional” processes (McLaughlin 119), the nature of global publics, and the methods needed to study these effectively. When the rhetoric of mobility is privileged over that of meaning, how can mobility be read and what happens to more traditional questions such as the following: What imagery, metaphors, and rhetoric characterize the transnational? What relation do these bear to national and global imaginaries? What cultural work do they do? What kind of literacies do they promote? What kind of illiteracies do they produce and what kind do they condone? For example, how does one address Dana A. Williams and Marissa K. Lopez’s concern about “the various ways ethnic literatures are rendered “illiterate” or unreadable” (357)? Other writers express concern about the ways in which they are commodified within the global marketplace (Lai; Martin-Lucas). These questions are now prompting others. At a time when it seems that neoliberal globalization is creating what Spivak describes as “a time and place that has privatized the imagination and pitted it against the political” (37-38), how can we follow her lead in keeping “responsibility alive in the reading and teaching of the textual” (101-102)? How does one study the role of global interconnectedness and movement in transforming how literacy is understood and how rhetoric travels? Addressing the concerns of feminists with transnational rhetorical processes, Rebecca Dingo argues that studying the rhetoric of global institutions, conferences, and their public pronouncements is important but not enough; critics must also “examine how rhetorics travel” from their initial sites of enunciation and how they are changed in the course of their travel (2). Dingo’s concern is with how global rhetoric gets translated into public policy practice in global, national, and local sites. Comparative literary scholars are joining postcolonial writers to ask “What happens when texts move into new contexts, taken up by audiences beyond the imagination of their producers, emerging from radically different social and discursive spaces?” (Edwards 454). How does the need to attend to such circulations influence textual analysis, teaching practices, and the role of academics in the world? This paper will chart a path through these debates by introducing the work of the SSHRC-funded partnership development project: “Brazil/Canada Knowledge Exchange: developing transnational literacies,” with the goal of contextualizing some of these questions for discussion throughout the next few days of the conference.

Works Cited

Bahri, Deepika. “Response: A World of Difference.” College English 70. 5 (2008): 522-528.

Dingo, Rebecca. Networking Arguments: Rhetoric, Transnational Feminism, and Public Policy Writing. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012.

Edwards, Brian T. “Logics and Contexts of Circulation.” In Behdad, Ali and Dominic Thomas, eds. A Companion to Comparative Literature. Oxford: Blackwell, 2011. 454-472.

Lai, Larissa. “Brand Canada: Oppositional Politics, Global Flows, and A People to Come.” In Sturgess, Charlotte and Martin Kuester, eds. Reading(s) from a Distance: European Perspectives on Canadian Women’s Writing. Augsburg: Studies in Anglophone Literatures and Culture (SALC) vol. 2; Vissner-Verlag, 2008. 23-32.

Martin-Lucas, Belen. “‘Grammars of Exchange’: The ‘Oriental woman’ in the Global Market.” In Kim, Christine, Sophie McCall, and Melina Baum-Siner, eds. Cultural Grammars of Nation, Diaspora, and Indigeneity in Canada. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2012. 83-96

McLaughlin, Neil. “Global Public Intellectuals, Autonomy, and Culture: Reflections Inspired by the Death of Edward Said.” In Rethmann, Petra, Imre Szeman, and William D. Coleman eds. Cultural Autonomy: Frictions and Connections. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2010. 111-131.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Death of a Discipline. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Williams, Dana A. and Marissa K. Lopez. “More Than a Fever: Toward a Theory of the Ethnic Archive.” PMLA 127, 2 2012: 357-359.

Online advance draft pdf

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