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

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.