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The Rest of the World: Recognizing Non-Western Rhetorical Traditions

Workshop Leaders:

Arabella Lyon, University of Buffalo, SUNY
Lu Ming Mao, Miami University

In 1932, I. A. Richards endeavored to understand the Confucian scholar Mencius (372-389 B.C.E.). Frustrated in his translation attempts, he asked, “Can we make it (translation) more than a mirror of our minds, or are we inevitably in this undertaking trying to be on both sides of the looking-glass at once?” How do we include non-Western traditions of political discourses in rhetorical education without making them an extension of what we already know? That is, how can we represent the other so that the other does not lose her own otherness or such representation does not turn out to be only “useful” to or a mirror image of the West? More importantly, what are the politics of representation and the ethics of methodology in articulating other traditions?

Comparative rhetoric, through its very method, generates binary oppositions and hierarchies, under-acknowledged trajectories that exceed any simple appropriation done in picking the criteria of comparison. This workshop focuses on the politics of representation through the art of recontextualization and methods of developing the rhetorical vocabularies of specific cultures in their own discursive fields in ways that represent the culture in its own terms. Cultures constitute and are constituted by their rhetorical heritage, and rather than approach cultural rhetoric through rhetoric, we will approach rhetoric through its culture, using the words and practices within the culture, fully recognizing different rhetorical actions, relationships, and identities.

This workshop interrogates and develop ways to move beyond the binary of the West and the Rest as it works to articulate robust cultural rhetorics, their multiplicities, and their interconnectivities. A major focus will be developing culturally specific vocabularies and their corresponding discursive fields that reflect communication practices in non-western traditions. As we develop new vocabularies, we will work toward compiling either a dictionary or a thesaurus, each approach revealing our theories of cultural rhetoric. In addition to assigned readings, our own research questions and writing will determine the workshop’s direction. Workshop participants are encouraged to submit a brief writing sample identifying their project. We will be working with each other’s writings in hope of advancing our own work as well as the breadth of rhetoric itself.

Direct questions to Arabella Lyon, alyon@buffalo.edu.


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