Monday, November 29, 2010

Rhetoric, Women, Authority

Jane S. Sutton, The House of My Sojourn: Rhetoric, Women, and the Question of Authority (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2010).

from the publisher:

Employing the trope of architecture, Jane Sutton envisions the relationship between women and rhetoric as a house: a structure erected in ancient Greece by men that, historically, has made room for women but has also denied them the authority and agency to speak from within. Sutton’s central argument is that all attempts to include women in rhetoric exclude them from meaningful authority in due course, and this exclusion has been built into the foundations of rhetoric.

Drawing on personal experience, the spatial tropes of ancient Greek architecture, and the study of women who attained significant places in the house of rhetoric, Sutton highlights a number of decisive turns where women were able to increase their rhetorical access but were not able to achieve full authority, among them the work of Frances Wright, Lucy Stone, and suffragists Mott, Anthony, and Stanton; a visit to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where the busts that became the Portrait Monument were displayed in the Woman’s Building (a sideshow, in essence); and a study of working-class women employed as telephone operators in New York in 1919.

With all the undeniable successes—socially, politically, and financially— of modern women, it appears that women are now populating the house of rhetoric as never before. But getting in the house and having public authority once inside are not the same thing. Sutton argues that women “can only act as far as the house permits.” Sojourn calls for a fundamental change in the very foundations of rhetoric.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

In Buddha's Company

Richard A. Ruth, In Buddha's Company: Thai Soldiers in the Vietnam War (Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 2010).

from the publisher:

“From 1965 to 1972 Thailand sent nearly 38,000 military personnel to fight in the Vietnam War. Based on interviews with rank and file volunteers, who saw themselves as Buddhist warriors, this book is the first serious study of Thailand’s involvement in the war. Richard Ruth challenges the stereotypes and lazy generalizations about this forgotten episode of the war, and he offers fresh and compelling arguments to explain how this episode has contributed to the militarism in Thailand’s modern history.” —Craig J. Reynolds, Australian National University

“The Vietnam War has generated a vast literature, but Richard Ruth has succeeded in producing a wholly original study of interest both to military historians and Southeast Asia specialists. Ruth displays a deep understanding of and sensitivity toward Thai culture and reveals much about how the Thai soldiers—most of them from poor families in upcountry areas—viewed and interacted with the Americans who trained and sponsored them, the rural residents of South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong enemy. His work sheds new light on Thailand’s involvement in the Vietnam War and on non-elite Thai culture in the mid-twentieth century.” —E. Bruce Reynolds, San Jose State University

“Breaking with the standard American-centric portrayal of Thai soldiers as Washington’s ‘mercenaries’ in the Vietnam War, Ruth provides Thailand and Thai combatants with agency. What makes this study particularly original is Ruth’s account of how that agency manifested itself ‘down below’ in South Vietnam—and back in Thailand.” —Christopher Goscha, Université du Québec à Montréal

In Buddha’s Company explores a previously neglected aspect of the Vietnam War: the experiences of the Thai troops who served there and the attitudes and beliefs that motivated them to volunteer. Thailand sent nearly 40,000 volunteer soldiers to South Vietnam to serve alongside the Free World Forces in the conflict, but unlike the other foreign participants, the Thais came armed with historical and cultural knowledge of the region. Blending the methodologies of cultural and military history, Richard Ruth examines the individual experiences of Thai volunteers in their wartime encounters with American allies, South Vietnamese civilians, and Viet Cong enemies. Ruth shows how the Thais were transformed by living amongst the modern goods and war machinery of the Americans and by traversing the jungles and plantations haunted by indigenous spirits. At the same time, Ruth argues, Thailand’s ruling institutions used the image of volunteers to advance their respective agendas, especially those related to anticommunist authoritarianism.

Drawing on numerous interviews with Thai veterans and archival material from Thailand and the United States, Ruth focuses on the cultural exchanges that occurred between Thai troops and their allies and enemies, presenting a Southeast Asian view of a conflict that has traditionally been studied as a Cold War event dominated by an American political agenda. The resulting study considers such diverse topics as comparative Buddhisms, alternative modernities, consumerism, celebrity, official memories vs. personal recollections, and the value of local knowledge in foreign wars. The war’s effects within Thailand itself are closely considered, demonstrating that the war against communism in Vietnam, as articulated by Thai leaders, was a popular cause among nearly all segments of the population. Furthermore, Ruth challenges previous assertions that Thailand’s forces were merely “America’s mercenaries” by presenting the multiple, overlapping motivations for volunteering offered by the soldiers themselves.

In Buddha’s Company makes clear that many Thais sought direct involvement in the Vietnam War and that their participation had profound and lasting effects on the country’s political and military institutions, royal affairs, popular culture, and international relations. As one of only a handful of academic histories of Thailand in the 1960s, it provides a crucial link between the keystone studies of the Phibun-Sarit years (1946–1963) and those examining the turbulent 1970s.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Scanning John Boehner

Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, on Republican triumphalism:
The Republicans may help Obama if they act so vindictive, entitled and puffed up that they turn off the voters who just anointed them.

Sarah Palin’s fans have hijacked what is supposed to be a fun talent contest, “Dancing With the Stars,” and turned it into an annoying straw vote for the Palin family. And on Friday, as Americans were rebelling against groping airport pat-downs, the soon-to-be speaker of the House, who was supposed to travel like real Americans, put himself above the madding crowd.

The Times’s Jeff Zeleny was on the scene and reported that John Boehner did not wait in line or go through security: he “was escorted around the metal detectors and body scanners, and taken directly to the gate.”

So much for Reagan’s trust but verify. Now we’ve got distrust and vilify. . . .

Maureen Dowd, "Nuking the White House," New York Times, 21 November 2010.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The New Daisy Ad

See the New York Times story here.

[thanks to Daisy Benson for pointing out this story]

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gettysburg - November 19, 1863

President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address at the battlefield site in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863.

Here, from the Library of Congress, is a transcription of the address in the version printed at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln photograph from the Library of Congress.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Street Meeting, San Francisco

Dorothea Lange, "Street Meeting. San Francisco." August 1936. FSA / OWI photograph collection, Library of Congress. LC-USF34- 009727-D

Preaching to the Crowd

Dorothea Lange, "Preaching to the Crowd," San Francisco, California, April 1939. Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information. Library of Congress LC-USF34- 019256-C

I am in San Francisco this week for a conference, and took a few moments in the hotel to browse through the online collection of FSA-OWI photographs at the Library of Congress, a national treasure.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reagan at Westminster

Robert C. Rowland and John M. Jones, Reagan at Westminster: Foreshadowing the End of the Cold War (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2010).

from the publisher:

"President Ronald Reagan’s famous address to the Houses of Parliament is now considered—in its spirit if not in its actual words—to be the initial enunciation of his “Evil Empire” stance. In this important volume by two experienced rhetorical scholars, Robert C. Rowland and John M. Jones offer a historical-descriptive treatment that includes both rhetorical analysis and a narrative of the drafting of the speech. They consider Reagan’s focus on “ultimate definition,” “dialectical engagement,” and other rhetorical tools in crafting and presenting the momentous address. They also note the irony of Reagan’s use of Leon Trotsky’s phrase “ash-heap of history” to predict the demise of Communism.
"Rowland and Jones present three reasons for the importance of this speech. First, it offers new insights into President Reagan himself, through a view of his role in the drafting of the speech as well as the ideas it contains. Second, the speech is an act of rhetorical history, and its analysis helps recover a significant rhetorical artifact. Finally, the address ultimately expresses a rhetorical framework for the Cold War that systematically subverted the narrative, ideology, and values of Marxism.

"Although initial response to the speech was tepid, Reagan considered it one of his most important addresses, and the hindsight afforded by the fall of Communism a decade later lends validation to that view, the authors suggest. Reagan at Westminster: Foreshadowing the End of the Cold War will highly commend itself to students and scholars of rhetoric, the Presidency, and political communication."

Media after Katrina

Diane Negra, ed., Old and New Media after Katrina (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

from the publisher:

Five years after Hurricane Katrina, this thoughtful collection of essays reflects on the relationship between the disaster and a range of media forms. The assessments here reveal how mainstream and independent media have responded (sometimes innovatively, sometimes conservatively) to the political and social ruptures “Katrina” has come to represent. The contributors explore how Hurricane Katrina is positioned at the intersection of numerous early twenty-first century crisis narratives centralizing uncertainties about race, class, region, government and public safety. Looking closely at the organization of public memory of Katrina, this collection provides a timely and intellectually fruitful assessment of the complex ways in which media forms and national events are hopelessly entangled.

Digital Media in the Iran Presidential Uprising

Yahya R. Kamalipour, ed., Media, Power, and Politics in the Digital Age: The 2009 Presidential Election Uprising in Iran (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 2010).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Conflict of Interest in University Research

The American Association of University Professors journal Academe is out, with a new special issue on conflict of interest and corporate influence in university research. See, for instance:

Ben Santer answered his doorbell one evening to find a dead rat on his doorstep. He looked up and saw a man driving away, shouting obscenities out the car window. It would be one thing if this were an isolated incident. But Santer had been harassed before. A groundbreaking climate scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, he was a lead author of the 1995 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which for the first time attributed global warming to human activity. Santer’s research had earned him high esteem from scientists and contempt from those who did not accept his conclusions.

The funders of climate-change skepticism are engaged in a full-throttle effort to sow seeds of doubt among the public and policy makers, much as tobacco companies did decades ago. Without science on their side, these groups seek to manufacture controversy by attacking scientists conducting important research. . . .

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Economic Recovery Debate

The economic debate.

James K. Galbraith:
"The original sin of Obama's presidency was to assign economic policy to a closed circle of bank-friendly economists and Bush carryovers. Larry Summers. Timothy Geithner. Ben Bernanke. These men had no personal commitment to the goal of an early recovery, no stake in the Democratic Party, no interest in the larger success of Barack Obama. Their primary goal, instead, was and remains to protect their own past decisions and their own professional futures."

James K. Galbraith, "Obama's Problem Simply Defined: It Was the Banks," Huffington Post, 5 November 2010.

Paul Krugman:

"Mr. Obama’s problem wasn’t lack of focus; it was lack of audacity. At the start of his administration he settled for an economic plan that was far too weak. He compounded this original sin both by pretending that everything was on track and by adopting the rhetoric of his enemies."

Paul Krugman, "The Focus Hocus-Pocus," New York Times, 4 November 2010.

They could both be right. And if they are, and if the new majority in the House of Representatives manages to end spending that could stimulate the economy, while at the same time increasing the debt by extending tax cuts for the richest Americans, where does that leave us, economically and politically? If the economists are right that more, not less, stimulus was and is needed, why has it been so hard for the argument to win over the American electorate? Is it simply "if there's less for the other guy, there will be more for me" thinking?

A National Digital Library?

Robert Darnton, "Can We Create a National Digital Library?" New York Review of Books, 28 October 2010.

Can we create a National Digital Library? . . . We can equip the smallest junior college in Alabama and the remotest high school in North Dakota with the greatest library the world has ever known. We can open that library to the rest of the world, exercising a kind of “soft power” that will increase respect for the United States worldwide. By creating a National Digital Library, we can make our fellow citizens active members of an international Republic of Letters, and we can strengthen the bonds of citizenship at home. We can find the money and the skill, but can we find the will?

See also

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Whose GOP?

Daniel Williams, God's Own Party: The Making of the Christian Right (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

from the publisher:

When the Christian Right burst onto the scene in the late 1970s, many political observers were shocked. But, God's Own Party demonstrates, they shouldn't have been. The Christian Right goes back much farther than most journalists, political scientists, and historians realize. Relying on extensive archival and primary source research, Daniel K. Williams presents the first comprehensive history of the Christian Right, uncovering how evangelicals came to see the Republican Party as the vehicle through which they could reclaim America as a Christian nation.

The conventional wisdom has been that the Christian Right arose in response to Roe v. Wade and the liberal government policies of the 1970s. Williams shows that the movement's roots run much deeper, dating to the 1920s, when fundamentalists launched a campaign to restore the influence of conservative Protestantism on American society. He describes how evangelicals linked this program to a political agenda-resulting in initiatives against evolution and Catholic political power, as well as the national crusade against communism. Williams chronicles Billy Graham's alliance with the Eisenhower White House, Richard Nixon's manipulation of the evangelical vote, and the political activities of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and others, culminating in the presidency of George W. Bush. Though the Christian Right has frequently been declared dead, Williams shows, it has come back stronger every time. Today, no Republican presidential candidate can hope to win the party's nomination without its support.

A fascinating and much-needed account of a key force in American politics, God's Own Party is the only full-scale analysis of the electoral shifts, cultural changes, and political activists at the movement's core-showing how the Christian Right redefined politics as we know it.

The Public Work of Rhetoric

John M. Ackerman and David J. Coogan, eds., The Public Work of Rhetoric: Citizen-Scholars and Civic Engagement (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2010).

from the publisher:

The Public Work of Rhetoric presents the art of rhetorical techne as a contemporary praxis for civic engagement and social change, which is necessarily inclusive of people inside and outside the academy. In this provocative call to action, editors John M. Ackerman and David J. Coogan, along with seventeen other accomplished contributors, offer case studies and criticism on the rhetorical practices of citizen-scholars pursuing democratic ideals in diverse civic communities--with partnerships across a range of media, institutions, exigencies, and discourses.

Challenging conventional research methodologies and the traditional insularity of higher education, these essays argue that civic engagement as a rhetorical act requires critical attention to our notoriously veiled identity in public life, to our uneasy affiliation with democracy as a public virtue, and to the transcendent powers of discourse and ideology. This can be accomplished, the contributors argue, by building on the compatible traditions of materialist rhetoric and community literacy, two vestiges of rhetoric's dual citizenship in the fields of communication and English. This approach expresses a collective desire in rhetoric for more politically responsive scholarship, more visible impact in public life, and more access to the critical spaces between universities and their communities.

The compelling case studies in The Public Work of Rhetoric are located in inner-urban and postindustrial communities where poverty is the overriding concern, in afterschool and extracurricular alternatives that offer new routes to literate achievement, in new media and digital representations of ethnic cultures designed to promote chosen identities, in neighborhoods and scientific laboratories where race is the dominant value, and in the policy borderlands between universities and the communities they serve. Through these studies and accounts, the contributors champion the notion that the public work of rhetoric is the tough labor of gaining access and trust, learning the codes and histories of communities, locating the situations in which rhetorical expertise is most effective, and in many cases jointly defining the terms for gauging social change.

Rhetorics and Technologies

Stuart Selber, ed., Rhetorics and Technologies: New Directions in Writing and Communication (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2010).

from the publisher:

Recognizing an increasingly technological context for rhetorical activity, the thirteen contributors to this volume illuminate the challenges and opportunities inherent in successfully navigating intersections between rhetoric and technology in existing and emergent literacy practices. Edited by Stuart A. Selber, Rhetorics and Technologies positions technology as an inevitable aspect of the rhetorical situation and as a potent force in writing and communication activities.

Taking a broad approach, this volume is not limited to discussion of particular technological systems (such as new media or wikis) or rhetorical contexts (such as invention or ethics). The essays instead offer a comprehensive treatment of the rhetoric-technology nexus. The book's first section considers the ways in which the social and material realities of using technology to support writing and communication activities have altered the borders and boundaries of rhetorical studies. The second section explores the discourse practices employed by users, designers, and scholars of technology when communicating in technological contexts. In the final section, projects and endeavors that illuminate the ways in which discourse activities can evolve to reflect emerging sociopolitical realties, technologies, and educational issues are examined.

The resulting text bridges past and future by offering new understandings of traditional canons of rhetoric--invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery--as they present themselves in technological contexts without discarding the rich history of the field before the advent of these technological innovations. Rhetorics and Technologies includes a foreword by Carolyn R. Miller and essays by John M. Carroll, Marilyn M. Cooper, Paul Heilker, Johndan Johnson-Eilola, Debra Journet, M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Jason King, James E. Porter, Stuart A. Selber, Geoffrey Sirc, Susan Wells, and Anne Frances Wysocki.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Design for Hard Times

from the New York Times:

DURING the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama’s choice of Gotham — an elegant 21st-century font — for his campaign signage was praised by graphic designers for its modernity and implicit message of change. Critics derided John McCain’s font, Optima, which was developed in the 1950s, and recalled the printing on a remedy for gastric distress. . . .

Kate Murphy, "The Candidate Is Not My Type," New York Times, 29 October 2010.

Monday, November 1, 2010

You Can Say That Again

Nori Neumark, Ross Gibson, and Theo Van Leeuwen, eds., Voice: Vocal Aesthetics in Digital Arts and Media (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010).

from the publisher:

Voice has returned to both theoretical and artistic agendas. In the digital era, techniques and technologies of voice have provoked insistent questioning of the distinction between the human voice and the voice of the machine, between genuine and synthetic affect, between the uniqueness of an individual voice and the social and cultural forces that shape it. This volume offers interdisciplinary perspectives on these topics from history, philosophy, cultural theory, film, dance, poetry, media arts, and computer games. Many chapters demonstrate Lewis Mumford's idea of the "cultural preparation" that precedes technological innovation—that socially important new technologies are foreshadowed in philosophy, the arts, and everyday pastimes.

Chapters cover such technologies as voice mail, podcasting, and digital approximations of the human voice. A number of authors explore the performance, performativity, and authenticity (or 'authenticity effect') of voice in dance, poetry, film, and media arts; while others examine more immaterial concerns—the voice's often-invoked magical powers, the ghostliness of disembodied voices, and posthuman vocalization. The chapters evoke an often paradoxical reassertion of the human in the use of voice in mainstream media including recorded music, films, and computer games.