Making and Unmaking the Prospects for Rhetoric: Selected Papers from the 1996 Rhetoric Society of America Conference

By Theresa Enos; Richard McNabb et al. | Go to book overview

REX VEEDER St. Cloud State University


Rhetorical Study and Practice in the Zone: Chicano/as, Sky Rhetoric, and Earth Rhetoric

The Rhetorical Situation in a Polyculture

We have moved from a monocultural perspective to a polycultural one. I like Michael Halloran thoughtful rereading of his article, On the Ends of Rhetoric, because it pretty well defines what the rhetorical situation is in a polyculture:

What "O. E. R." ignored was the possibility that we live in multiple and fragmentary worlds, worlds that overlap, compete, and transform themselves continuously, worlds provided by family, ethnic community, neighborhood, profession, political affiliation, and so on. A more accurate portrayal of the modern condition, and perhaps of the postmodern and premodern conditions as well, would have emphasized the way identity is shaped by the voices of these multiple worlds in which we live, each of us an unstable, occasionally harmonious but more often cacophonous chorus of these voices or -- to return to the spatial metaphor -- a mosaic or quilt, made up of bits and pieces of past identities that were themselves assemblages of fragments. (114)

Halloran's description of the modern condition describes a situation needing a different kind of rhetoric. As one of my students, William Spath, puts it, "To adequately function in a diverse, polymorphous, postmodern setting, rhetorical theory must posit itself within a site. . . between diverse discourse groups" (2).

Studying rhetoric in a polyculture has provided us with exciting knowledge and approaches to living and learning. We have learned to direct our attention to the injustices done to minorities and have discovered rhetorics we have not studied well enough. We have a start. What we have not yet done is articulate a way to bring diverse views together through a philosophy, theory, and practice of rhetoric, and part of our work as rhetoricians is to find a place among competing rhetorics where we can act as translators. We need to practice a rhetoric in the cracks between cultures, a rhetoric that allows people to be

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