WAC Clearinghouse home page
About ATD   Submissions   Advanced Search

CCCC 2004: Review

Review: Special Event: Alternative Histories Matter: Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition
Reviewed by: Wendy Sharer, sharerw@mail.ecu.edu
Posted on: April 27, 2004
Updated on: April 29, 2004

Previous Previous

 

Next Next


The Coalition meeting is one of the highlights for me each year at the C’s.  Even before the conference officially starts, I can count on reuniting with old friends and mentors and learning about some fascinating new research from other feminist historians of rhetoric and composition. This year’s meeting did not disappoint.

The panel began with Gwendolyn Pough discussing the important role that black women played in the emergence of the black public sphere, specifically through their participation in blues music and the black church. Women, Pough explained, were often responsible for the organizing and publicizing that created the conditions that enabled black men to speak and to be heard both within and beyond the black public sphere. Pough closed with a call for scholars to reconsider the boundaries and constructions of the public sphere so that the critical role black women played in shaping public discourse might become visible.  Pough also mentioned that black women’s book clubs have provided an important arena for black women to participate in the public sphere. The time limits of the session, however, did not permit her to explain the work of these clubs in detail. She suggested that we pay attention to these clubs and begin to collect their materials so that future scholars have an archive to study.

Speaker 2, Malea Powell, discussed the difficulties of looking at alternative histories through a lens of gender because gender is constructed and understood through other cultural lenses. When we consider women in the history or rhetoric, we need to remember other cultural traditions that intersect with gender in the construction of rhetoric. Traditions of rhetoric are interdependent—there is no “margin” or “center.” These are simplified categories we have constructed as we try to sort through traces of history, but we must keep in mind that these categories are not “natural” or “real.” Powell also urged her listeners to view archives with healthy skepticism.  Imperialistic desires, Powell suggested, make archives appear to us as dead objects.  Yet archives, and the traces of history included in them, are alive and are living for us to construct stories about.

Haivan Hong followed Powell with a call for a serious investigation of the contributions of Asian American women to rhetoric in America.  Asian Americans are largely absent from histories of America—often only mentioned in the context of internment camps during the Second World War. If Asian Americans are not visible as more than victims—as the silent oppressed—within history texts, they certainly are not visible as rhetors or rhetorical theorists.  In addition to recovering the historical work of Asian American rhetors, Hong urged scholars to study the rhetorical work of current Asian Americans working in the field of composition and rhetoric.

The last speaker, Cindy Selfe, further connected the study of feminist rhetorics to the present through an overview of the rhetorical tactics used by “Velvet-Strike,” a group of women online gamers who intervene in the online antiterrorist game “Counter-strike.” Velvet-Strike members interrupt the militaristic rhetoric of Counter-Strike in two primary ways: 1) by inserting code into the game itself, code that results in changes to the graphics or action of the game (e.g. a peace sign and anti-war messages appear on a walls and backgrounds), and 2) by forming a team within the game and, as a team, refusing to participate in violent battles. Rather than engage in a shoot out with other players, this team of Velvet-Strikers will stand together in a heart shape and refuse to fire.  These acts of peaceful resistance enable women to spread an anti-war sentiment through the virtual world.

To complement these deeply engaging talks,  Coalition organizers provided time for younger scholars to meet with experienced scholars about various issues of professional concern such administering writing programs, writing the dissertation, getting funding, and getting published. The opportunity to discuss these important issues in small groups is one of the most enjoyable and beneficial aspects of CCCC for young and/or inexperienced teachers and researchers. In the midst of an increasingly large (almost unwieldy) convention, the Coalition demonstrates its commitment to individualized mentoring.


Previous Previous

 

Next Next