Our theme for AY 2018–19 is Chicanx Cultural Reclamation Strategies in Rhetoric, Composition, and Postcolonial Identity. Our goal is to examine how rhetorics of survivance continue to address the colonization of language, identity, faith, and culture in the classroom setting. In the Mesoamerican cosmology of non-linearity, history remains alive in the rhetorics of the Chicanx writers we will consider—thus necessitating a look back at colonial contexts that both the Chicano Movement and Chicana Feminist Wave contest, and that current Chicanx composition pedagogy continues to address.

Our fall quarter meeting occurred on Wed., Oct. 24th. Our readings set the context for our colonial contact studies of race and representation. These works variously considered the relationship between race and religion, identity and empire, and the individual and community:

  • Erin Kathleen Rowe, “After Death, Her Face Turned White: Blackness, Whiteness, and Sanctity in the Early Modern Hispanic World” (American Historical Review, vol. 121, no. 3, 2016)
  • Christa J. Olson, “Casta Painting and the Rhetorical Body” (Rhetoric Society Quarterly, vol. 39, no. 4, 2009)
  • Fray Bernardino De Sahagun, Book Six, Chapters One and Nine from The Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain (1547)
  • OPTIONAL: Daniel Nemser, “Primitive Spiritual Accumulation and the Colonial Extraction Economy” (Política común, vol. 5, 2014)
  • OPTIONAL: Daniela Bleichmar, “Visions of Imperial Nature: Global White Space, Local Color” (from Visible Empire: Botanical Expeditions and Visual Culture in the Hispanic Enlightenment, 2012)

We first discussed Olson’s and Rowe’s pieces in conversation with one another: Olson argues for considering colonial-era casta paintings beyond solely their expression of Spanish imperialism, and Rowe explores the concept of candidez, or brilliance, in the hagiographies of early modern Black saints. Both the casta paintings and the hagiographies employ whiteness or brilliance as a marker of transcendence—either into social prominence or into holiness. Accordingly, rhetorics of the body emerged as a key theme for our discussion. We discussed the power of visual and embodied rhetorics to support the projects of transnational Spanish colonization and Catholic conversion.

We next focused on the theme of colonial acquisition, as our attention turned to the Florentine Codex. We concentrated on the construction of the codex in regard to the collection of Nahuatl (Aztecan or Mexica) prayers and speeches. We considered who might have transcribed, edited, translated, and framed the material, and for what purposes. For instance, does the codex represent exclusively the rhetorical purposes of Spanish Franciscan Bernardino De Sahagun, or does it also include those of the anonymous Indigenous peoples who contributed to the gathering and presentation of the codex’s material? Which rhetoric—European, Nahuatl, or both—does the Florentine Codex prioritize? Which rhetoric does the Florentine Codex preserve? We concluded our conversation with this critical examination of the differences between the rhetorics of the colonizer and rhetorics of the colonized.

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Past themes include the following:

  • Feminist Interventions in History and Rhetoric (Enoch, Quandahl, Royster, Lerner)
  • Circulation and Materiality (Gries, Latour, Bennett, Spinoza, Boyle)
  • Rhetoric and Activism (And What They Mean for Pedagogy) (Happe, Haskins, Butler, Dewey, Acosta, DeChaine)
  • Ecologies and Metaphors (Edbauer, Booth, Deleuze and Guattari)
  • Emotions in/of Rhetorical Education (Berlant, Gross and Alexander, Stenberg)
  • Heidegger and Aristotle’s Rhetoric (Kisiel, Gross)
  • Foucault’s Care of the Self/Parrhēsia (Courage of Truth, Government of Self and Others, Hermeneutics of the Subject)
  • The Architectonics of Rhetorical Action (Doxtader, McKeon, Simonson)


Banner photo credit: Maestrapeace Mural, Lapidge Street Facade, The San Francisco Women’s Building. Muralists: Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Cervantes, Meera Desal, Yvonne Littleton, Irene Perez, 1993–1994 (photo courtesy of Meastrapeaceartworks.com)