Identifying and Mapping Issues, Theories, & Research in Asian/American Rhetoric(s): An Annotated Bibliography

Listening for Legacies, or How I Began to Hear Dorothy Laigo Cordova, the Pinay Behind the Podium Known as FANHS

Posted in Asian American Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Monberg, Terese Guinsatao. “Listening for Legacies, or How I Began to Hear Dorothy Laigo Cordova, the Pinay Behind the Podium Known as FANHS.” Representations: Doing Asian American Rhetoric. LuMing Mao & Morris Young, eds. Utah State P, 2008.

In this chapter, Monberg works “toward a more culturally contingent model of feminist historiography” and develops an “alternative” methodology and theory of listening as a model for Asian American rhetorics as a subject of study. Centering on the case of Dorothy Laigo Cordova and the Filipino American National Historical society (FANHS), Monberg explains that “certain methods of listening–because they are attentive to interdependencies among rhetorical space, memory, and history–are central to the makings of an Asian Pacific American ‘feminist’ rhetoric” (86). Furthermore, she argues that “while most feminist historiographers in rhetoric use the term listening, most forms of listening have largely reseted in seeing… To go beyond what is immediately visible and documented, then, requires what Jacqueline Jones Royster calls ‘a habit of critical questioning, of speculating in order to make visible unnoticed possibilities, to pose and articulate what we see now, what’s missing, and what we might see instead’” (86-7).

Monberg uses the method of oral history interview, and she reflects on this experience to discuss oral history as a site for listening, explaining that oral history methodologies are common in Asian Pacific American studies, but less so among feminist historiographers (90). However, “oral history is not a simple solution for making new forms of rhetoric ‘visible.’ For if a ‘text’ or rhetorical space is meaningful within a larger system of beliefs, then we also need to rethink the interpretive paradigms we use when listening for/to, in this case, a Filipina/o American ‘feminist’ rhetoric” (94). In sum, Monberg concludes that certain culturally contingent rhetorical capacities may remain hidden due to a preference for visible textual evidence, and “Listening is both a method for uncovering and for making an Asian Pacific American rhetoric, which must by necessity ‘explore other modes of retrieving and spacializing [rhetorical] history’” (103).

Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie: The Making of Chinese American Rhetoric

Posted in Asian American Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Mao, LuMing. Reading Chinese Fortune Cookie: The Making of Chinese American Rhetoric. Logan: Utah State UP, 2006.

Defining rhetoric as “the systematic, organized use and study of discourse and discourse strategies in interpersonal, intercultural contexts, reflecting and reinforcing rhetoricians’ own ideology, their own norms of discourse production and discourse consumption, and their ability to persuade, to adjust, and to realign” (13), Mao takes a cross-cultural approach to rhetoric, acknowledging that “The process of differentiation, unfortunately, is never an innocent one: it always embeds a likely risk of differentiating one tradition according to or in relation to the norm of some other tradition” (13), but also explaining that “to study another rhetorical tradition for comparison or for understanding, we must start somewhere. More often than not, we begin with principles or concepts that are most familiar to our own sensibilities and to our own common sense” (89). Drawing on the work of Ien Ang, Mao focuses particularly on the notions of hybridity, “togetherness-in-difference,” and “process of becoming” as central to Asian American rhetoric.

Minor Re/Visions: Asian American Literacy Narratives as a Rhetoric of Citizenship

Posted in Asian American Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Young, Morris. Minor Re/Visions: Asian American Literacy Narratives as a Rhetoric of Citizenship. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2004.

Minor Re/Visions examines the ways literacy and race intersect in American culture, in particular, the ways the perception of a person’s citizenship is overdetermined because of competing ideological constructions about literacy and race. The processes of reading and writing literacy narratives is one means for people of color to develop and articulate their negotiation of citizenship, in particular arguing for ‘cultural citizenship’…which attends ‘not only to dominant exclusions and marginalizations, but also to subordinate aspirations for and definitions of enfranchisement…’” (7) Young considers literacy beyond skills of reading and writing, articulating it as a “power used against others to maintain systems of oppression… Not “inherently ‘good’ or even neutral…, it becomes a set of practices… used by different people for different purposes” (148). These practices are grounded in “‘both behavior and the social and cultural conceptualizations that give meaning to the uses of reading and/or writing’” (10). While literacy is oftentimes taken for granted, it “‘has proven to be a difficult and contentious topic of investigation because its place in American culture has become so complex and conflicted’” (10). (see also pp. 11, 24)

Rhetoric of the Asian American Self: Influences of Region and Social Class on Autobiographical Writing

Posted in Asian American Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Tasaka, Robyn. “Rhetoric of the Asian American Self: Influences of Region and Social Class on Autobiographical Writing.” Representations: Doing Asian American Rhetoric. LuMing Mao & Morris Young, eds. Utah State UP, 2008.

Tasaka examines “how region as well as social class affect students’ conceptions of themselves as Asian American and thus the ways in which they inscribe their racial and/or ethnic backgrounds in autobiographical writing assignments.” To provide context, she describes Hawai‘i’s historical and current racial environment, focusing specifically on Hawai‘i’s plantation history and English Standard education systems, before providing numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau to represent the current ethnic makeup of Hawai‘i, as well as statistics on the roster of the Hawai‘i State Legislature to illustrate the political presence of the various ethnicities. After briefly referencing scholarship on social class as it factors into student writing, Tasaka analyzes autobiographical writing by three students from the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa through the frameworks of double-consciousness, guided tour of culture, and social statement.  She supplements this analysis with interviews with the students.

The purpose of this piece as I understand it is to enact revisionist history by re-evaluating certain accepted notions of what it means to be Asian American: Asian American identity interacts closely with social and political status so that to talk about race or ethnic identity in isolation is ultimately reductive and problematic. Tasaka does rhetorical work that endorses a more complex understanding of Asian Americans than has been available in the existing literature, thereby re-interpreting the past to help us to better understand our present and future.

Representations: Doing Asian American Rhetoric

Posted in Asian American Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Mao, LuMing and Morris Young, eds. Representations: Doing Asian American Rhetoric. Logan: Utah State UP, 2008.

Mao and Young “define Asian American rhetoric as the systematic, effective use and development by Asian Americans of symbolic resources, including this new American language, in social, cultural, and political contexts” (3). The use of the singular Asian American rhetoric–rather than rhetorics or rhetoric(s)–is a purposeful one according to Mao and Young, who assert that any kind of “ethnic rhetoric” is already necessarily plural, “infused with competing voices, internal contradictions, and shifting alliances at every given discursive moment.” Moreover, however, this use of the singular “rhetoric” is “an example of what Gayatri Spivak calls a ‘strategic use of positive essentialism.’” To elaborate, “Asian American rhetoric” is named as such “to contest and complicate the dominance of European American rhetoric or even the broader definition of the Rhetorical Tradition” by articulating the complexity and multiplicity of “rhetoric” (9). This tension between singular and plural is a theme that guides how the essays are divided. Furthermore, the selection and arrangement of these essays implicitly illuminate a methodology for research on Asian American rhetoric.

The first section, “Performing Asian American Rhetoric in Context,” “highlights the tension or contradictions between the desire to claim a sense of unity or homogeneity for Asian Americans” by centering on Asian American discursive practices in a number of contexts, communities, and places to gain a better understanding of “how Asian Americans invent, remember, and recover certain discursive practices to enact different forms of Asian American rhetoric” (15). The second section, “‘Translating’ and ‘Transforming’ Asian American Identities” focuses on the “issue of representation and resistance, or, more specifically, toward how Asian Americans use rhetoric to combat misrepresentations and stereotypes and to develop representations for their very own that are directly based upon their own experiences as Other and upon their own struggles for political, racial, and linguistic justice” (16). The approaches presented in this collection are particularly useful for how they at times take a longitudinal view of culture, examining immigrant/multi-generational populations and how factors of nationalism and generation influence what Asian/American rhetorics looks like: always moving, a “rhetoric of becoming.” Additionally, the various essays provide a robust collection of ideas and theories about Asian American rhetoric, pertinent to material rhetorics and rhetorical space; movement and transnationalism; memory and agency; methodologies, rhetorical listening, and oral history; the intersections of subjectivities, revisionist histories, and popular culture; and new media.