Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations

Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations

Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations

Understanding African American Rhetoric: Classical Origins to Contemporary Innovations

Synopsis

This is an extraordinarily well-balanced collection of essays focused on varied expressions of African American Rhetoric; it also is a critical antidote to a preoccupation with Western Rhetoric as the arbiter of what counts for effective rhetoric. Rather than impose Western terminology on African and African American rhetoric, the essays in this volume seek to illumine rhetoric from within its own cultural expression, thereby creating an understanding grounded in the culture's values. The consequence is a richly detailed and well-researched set of essays. The contribution of African American rhetoric can no longer be rendered invisible through neglect of its tradition. The essays in this volume neither seek to displace Western Rhetoric, nor function as an uncritical paen to Afrocentricity and Africology. This volume is both timely and essential; timely in advancing a better understanding of the richly textured history that is expressed through African American discourse, and essential as a counterpoint to the hegemonic influence of Greek and Roman rhetoric as the origin of rhetorical theory and practice. Written in the spirit of a critical rhetoric, this collection eschews traditional focus on public address and instead offers a rich array of texts, in musical and other forms, that address publics.

Excerpt

The study of African American rhetoric as orature has been a significant advance in the field of communication, though relatively few scholars of African American rhetoric in speech communication have integrated African American rhetorical theories and methods to encase discussions of this culturally unique set of rhetorical experiences. Instead, a large number of African American rhetorical studies, textbooks, and monographs tend to offer engaging intellectual treatments of African American rhetoric within the limited purview of public address. Although several of these volumes are exciting to read, they contribute to a narrow understanding of African American rhetorical traditions laced in everyday discourse and leave the less knowledgeable reader with the impression that European and European American culturally generic paradigms are fully sufficient tools for examining culturally specific phenomena and artifacts. There is clearly a place for dramatistic, narrative, neoAristotelian, and postmodern rhetorical approaches, among other such paradigms. Alongside these proven methods, there must also be intellectual spaces for culturecentered rhetorical critics and criticism. This book claims one such space for African American rhetoric.

Daniel (1995) explains that in the late 1960s, the National Communication Association (formerly Speech Association of America) convened an “Open Meeting on Social Relevance,” out of which emerged a heightened consciousness among some White scholars of the need for African American intellectual and political participation in the discipline. Even after this genesis, there were persistent verbal harassment and death threats from those who would rather espouse the White racial separatism so characteristic of the 1960s than embrace the possibilities of a diversified intellectual front. Despite this, scholars such as Charles Hurst, Molefi Asante, Jack Daniel, Dorthy Pennington, Lucia Hawthorne, and Lyndrey Niles began to conceptualize the Black Rhetoric Institute, an entity that would be dedicated to rhetorical inquiry by, for, and about Black people throughout the diaspora. Although . . .

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