My educational philosophy is one that places emphasis on awareness. Although claims could be made that education is about learning and therefore the focus should be on the obtainment of knowledge, I contest this point. There are many ways in which one can obtain knowledge. That device we carry in our pockets is a good starting place. If the access of knowledge via my phone or a trip down to local library (if we are feeling traditional) has become so commonplace, then it stands to reason that the goal of education as being about knowledge may not suffice. At the very least there is a chance to expand upon what education means and challenge the ostensible traditional definition. Education, if not exclusively about knowledge, becomes instead about awareness. It is the awareness of the world, our place in the world, our history, our humanity. There are so many things to be aware of, and the question becomes what takes primacy? Awareness for me is an awareness of others; the others are not me, and yet, like I utilize that personal identifying pronoun to announce and claim their own identity. It is the other who is different than me, but calls out to me for recognition. Awareness is the awareness of the responsibility I have to the other in recognizing their voice and most importantly, their own sense of selfhood and their humanity. That is not to say that I am in charge of another’s selfhood, but rather, my responsibility is in being able to understand that there others out there, that a multiplicity of people from all walks of life exist and live in this world as I do. Before I can think about myself, the other must come first. Both articles for this week talked about including all voices in the discussion, and this is something I believe that education can and must accomplish.
The article by Victor Villanueva “On the Rhetoric and Precedents of Racism” had a quote from a student that stood out to me. The student was a young South Asian woman, who according to Villanueva: “speaks about the difference between between speaking and being heard, that if one is constantly speaking is never heard, never truly heard, there is, in effect, silence, a silencing” (Villanueva 4). In understanding the other, there is a need for dialogue and dialogue not only means talking, it means listening. It is to remain silent so that the other who may not have had the chance to speak can. But it is more than just remaining silent. Anyone can listen, but whether or not they hear is another issue. We must both listen and hear the other. We must comprehend and fully assess the meaning of what they are saying, for what they say is important. If there is to be diversity, then there must be the willingness of the self to enter into silence and take in what the other is telling it. We can talk about giving the voice of those who were once oppressed. We can espouse theories that believe in breaking down barriers and flipping binaries, all in the name of giving those underprivileged the right to have their say. But simply creating a space for this to happen may not be enough. If we are to truly understand others, then dialogue may be the key. Dialogue, which can only come about once we both listen and hear.
Just the mere thought of rhetorical bodies, or bodies having a rhetorical purpose, is a concept I’ve never conceived of on my own. I feel enlightened by this new frame of thought and, at the same time, not surprised because my education has been grounded in the ancient Greco-Roman understanding of the mind and body. Even right now, as I write this response for the week’s readings, my introduction is heavily based on the western framework for how writing is composed. Mostly everything I have read, especially as a literature major (somewhat) well versed in English and American literature, drama, and poetry is heavily influenced by the way Aristotle believed they should be composed.
In “Cultural Rhetorics,” our first reading of the semester, it was easy to see how dominant the classical understanding of rhetoric and the implementation of its uses are still utilized today. In fact, the Middle Ages attempted to distance itself from the Classical implementation of rhetoric, because of its “pagan” connotations. This did not last, and a reembrace of Classical antiquity during the Renaissance was, again, the dominant way Western thought was grounded. The length of the section alone that is devoted to the Classical Era is a prime example of its staying power.
I stress the lasting power of the Classical Era here only to bring to light the dichotomy between the concept of rhetorical bodies and the value we place on common Western thought, which places heightened value of mind over body. In Daisy Levy’s conference piece titled “This Book Called my Body: An Embodied Rhetoric,” Levy states, “The subversion of physical bodies in conversations about discourse systems is incredibly easy to do, and also very easy to ignore, but only because of the way Ancient Greco-Roman rhetorical theory has been universalized (4). So for Westerners that have had this Greco –Roman rhetorical theory engrained in them since youth, it is easy to see why viewing the body, as a rhetorical device, may be difficult to do at first.
One important example in “Rhetorical Bodies” that exemplified the notion of basically “reclaiming” the body and using it as a canvas for artistic and rhetorical expression came in the form of reading how Baroness Elsa inscribed poetry on her torso. There is little to no conformity involved in this action, and probably seen as very controversial for the time (WW1 era). But seeing the body as a vehicle for rhetorical purposes challenges Western thought, and tempts us to step outside our traditional form of thinking and consider other alternatives.
In the afterword of “Rhetorical Bodies,” Sharon Crowley notes how women are in a particularly good place to provide a critical voice and analysis regarding bodily practices. She writes, “Women’s worth has been measured through and by their bodies” (358). And, because of this, Crowley notes how women become highly conscious of their physical appearance. It is difficult to imagine otherwise, especially in Western culture, when women are often judged more harshly for their bodies than men.
This week we read the script of Daisy Levy’s speech to the CCCC, “This Book Called My Body: An Embodied Rhetoric, the introduction and afterword to Rhetorical Bodies, “Habeas Corpus” by Jack Selzer and “The Material of Rhetoric” by Sharon Crowley, respectively, as well as excerpts from Cornelius Eady’s poems, Brutal Imagination.
Levy’s speech seems to focus on her dissatisfaction with the disconnect between the use of the term “embodiment” and literal bodily experience. She starts with an exercise to ask the audience to be aware of their bodies and then calls attention to a tendency to prioritize thinking of bodies as “a vehicle for the mind, a container of consciousness” rather than “as knowing and moving agents of change” in and of themselves. She goes on to connect the Greco-Roman rhetorical tradition and then the Cartesian split to various forms of oppression that have enabled some people to physically control others.
I had some difficulty understanding the Selzer and Crowley pieces and look forward to the class discussion to hear what others took from these. If I am getting the gist, it sounds like the authors are saying that neither some reality independent from description nor the way we describe our perception of reality through language exists completely without the influence of the other. In the senior theory seminar in anthropology, I remember reading foundational pieces in the field in favor of either a materialistic or idealistic worldview. Some of the pieces these authors reference here overlap with those. The repetition of the spider web symbolism reminds me of Clifford Geertz’ interpretation of Weber’s ideas to mean that “man is an animal suspended in webs of significance which he himself has spun.” In a social constructionist view, much of the reality we experience comes from discourse and not some underlying truth. That does not make it any less real, though. Crowley cites Derrida’s teaching that “inherited dualism privilege one term over the other” (360). She is referring to mind over body, but the same is true for White over Black.
Even though we know there is no scientific basis for racial differences, Eady’s poems and the willingness of the White public to believe in Susan Smith’s invented Black kidnapper show that race, despite being a social construction, is nonetheless experienced in very real ways. I am actually not sure that we can accurately call the fictional kidnapper her invention. In “My Heart”, the speaker says “Since her fear is my blood/And her need part mythical,/Everything she says about me is true.” Myths are held collectively. In “Sightings”, we see how ready people are to accept her story, even to support it with what they might even truly believe they remember.
There is more depth to how assumptions about race influenced the events that panned out than we might like to admit. On the surface, we can see that Smith’s lies were harmful in that they contributed one more story to a collection of stories that would seem to justify White people’s fear of Black men, but really they are a manifestation of pervasive and long-held stereotypical beliefs beyond any one person’s imagination. Why else, when she states “I have no answers/ To these questions.” is it that the speaker says “She only has me” and that this solution comes so easily to her? It goes without saying that this was an incredibly irresponsible and harmful lie.
These poems show the speaker’s humanity at the same time as they cast an eerie light onto what Smith’s thoughts may have been. In “Who Am I?”, the speaker’s compassion is evident as he aligns himself with the children: “And here is the one good thing:/If I am alive, then so, briefly, are they,”. Then, in “Birthing”, we see Smith’s words juxtaposed with evidence of the internalized racism of real people and the speaker’s separation of his experience from Smith’s account. These poems left me profoundly uncomfortable and with a lot of questions.
At this point, I have no language, No tongue, no mouth.
I am not me, yet. am just an understanding.” (Eady, 53)
While reading the poems in Cornelius Eady Brutal Imagination, I felt compelled to research about the events the author wrote about and get more details of this horrendous crime. I learned that Susan Smith drove her car into a lake with her two children inside it, and killed them. To the authorities, she created this story about a carjacking in which the carjacker was a black individual. She hold on to that story for nine days until, she finally, in great mental pressure, confessed the murder of her own kids. (“Susan Smith reports a false carjacking”, 1994) It was very surprising to me that the author could tell the story in a completely new perspective in a form of art such as poetry. He did it splendidly. He gave voice to this imaginary black man that had lived only for nine days with the sole purpose of serving as a scapegoat of a violent and no forgiveness crime. Eady was brilliant when he described this imaginary black man from his “birth” and his intrinsic relationship with Susan as he, without her, was nothing. I wonder what motivated Susan to think that if she claimed this carjacker to be black her story would be more realistic. Well, actually, afterthought, I believe that that is not a very difficult guess.
In her talk “This Book Called My Body: An Embodied Rhetoric”, Daisy Levy expresses her interest in studying and most of all understanding the relation between body movements, specifically dance, education and mind. And she is not content with the way “embodiment” in academic environment is used and the fact it doesn’t actually represent or function as it should. She starts her presentation by engaging the public in an exercise that allows the audience to “feel” their bodies by analyzing their lungs movements. In it, she shows how the body and its movements “are a vehicle for the mind, a container of consciousness, one that has to be read, has to be interpreted”. She demonstrates through her own experiences in the educational field that the body and its expression is a source of knowledge that should be experienced. That is a notion and concept that I have never given so much thought. It is interesting to think that the body and its movements have meanings and most of all, messages.
The idea of “Rhetorical bodies” was an interesting concept to consider. In the media today, bodies are used for marketing purposes in a variety of ways; selling the product through sex, etc. Tatoo artists use the body to pass on the messages that their clients want to express. Advertisers have used the human body to promote and sell their products. Some have even offered endowments to people willing to tattoo their skin with logos or catchphrases for the company. Is this a form of rhetorical body? I believe it is.
It seems like if the body has high cheek bones and a flat nosed, the individual would be classified as Indian decent. Would that individual now be the symbol of a specific tribe or culture, becoming a silent form of propaganda using its bodily image to represent its beliefs? This idea makes the concept of “rhetorical bodies” realistic, when considering how image is used in marketing.
This week’s readings explored the concept of mind over body. The selection that remained with me was Eady’s poems. The thought that racial conflict would allow the white citizens to be susceptible and instantly believe in Susan Smith’s fictitious “black” abductor statement demonstrates the theory that the fear in a racist mind has difficulty separating fact from fiction. It’s almost as if white society expected the victim to state her pseudo abductor was black and decided to look no further. It makes one question if that is the way racist and ethnic biases are used to create discourse amongst groups; the thought of kidnapping is scary, but Smith used that general fear and exploited it by adding the fictitious “black” abductor to escalate the terror. The body of a white kidnapper vs’ the body of a black abductor, which would enhance her recount and add to the apprehensions of society. The whole idea is revolting.
James Blandino- Cultural Rhetoric 10/14/14 Tapping Back: The Genius of the Body
My doctor and friend, Katina Manning, a chiropractor and light/energy healer, once told me that every cell of the body has its own memory, feelings, and vibration. She said knowingly that every cell within me was oscillating and singing its own song that she could hear. Where there was static, adjustments were made to get those cells singing in harmony again. It could be in the muscles, soft tissues, or bones. The force that gravity, stress (emotional and physical), and repetitive movements have upon the skeletal system, muscles and soft tissues of the body is immense yet the mind does not always recognize a problem until pain ensues. This disharmony of the systems can cause a misalignment that can lead to more severe health complications and restriction of movement further down the road. It's time to listen to the body again, a popular sentiment in the movement towards viewing the body as rhetorical. This is harder than we think. Hundreds of years of dualism between mind and body have made it nearly impossible for us to draw any knowledge from the body that contains a treasure trove of information. If doctor Manning is correct, every cell in our body could tell us a story. Why is that so few of us can hear the song of the cells in the way Dr. Manning can?
Her line of thought around the genius of every cell in my body was hard for me to comprehend. Certainly, the body is not a place to look for knowledge. Knowledge is only found in books, not in things themselves. As an academic and a lover of language, words, texts, stories, and speeches have constructed my reality. This attitude reminds me of Jack Seltzer's analysis that "words have been mattering more than matter". Seltzer writes that, "In history, textualized accounts of historical events have come to count as much as the historical events themselves; in anthropology and sociology, cultures have been understood as intangible webs of discourses more than as aggregates of people and things , the substance of tangible realities; in studies of gender an ethnicity , the emphasis has been on constructions of identity through language and other symbol systems; in science, biology and chemistry and physics are now understood as collections of texts as much as they are efforts to engage and describe the physical world through discrete material practices." This overemphasis on language as conveyor of meaning can be problematic.
I was always told that my body was separate from my consciousness. "I think, therefore I am". This dualism leaves the body without a voice in the conversation, without a rhetoric of its own. Dr. Manning is putting the body and mind onto what Sharon Crowley might call a continuum rather than a dichotomy. Crowley writes, "The post-structuralist displacement of body/mind onto a continuum privileges neither of these terms. Rather, it opens up a space for thinking about the relations that obtain between body and mind, and for speculating about the difficulty of distinguishing the limits of either in relation to the other." I wrote in week # 2, "the world, as constructed by Western Rhetoric (is this construction less real every day that this course goes on?), wants to put people in neat and tidy categories: male or female, white or other, able or disabled, English speaking or non-English speaking." Crowley pints to this problem of dichotomy within gender, "The problem . . . is not with hermaphroditic bodies but with a restrictive system of sexual classification that insists on a bipolar distinction between male and female." I consider this mind or body split to be a similar problem. There is an obvious spectrum between mind and body, male and female, black and white, able and disabled, sane and insane, and there are questions as to where one category begins and the other ends. Hundreds of years of popular Western thought have relegated the body to the position of ignorant vessel, holder of the soul and mind, but nothing more. Yet, after a session or two with Dr. Manning, I was convinced that there was knowledge to be gained from looking at and listening to my body.
These ideas were pushed back up into my mind this semester as we were reading Gloria Anzaldua's thoughts about the knowledge within her own body. The more I thought about Dr. Manning's singing cells, the more I recognized that my body was telling my mind things all the time. This riff on the split by Anzaldua resonated deeply with me; she writes, "The Catholic and Protestant religions encourage fear and distrust of life and the body; the encourage a split between the body and the spirit and totally ignore the soul; they encourage us to kill off parts of ourselves. We are taught that the body is an ignorant animal; intelligence dwells only in the head. But the body is smart. It does not discern between external stimuli and stimuli from the imagination. It reacts equall
Brutal Imagination, by Cornelius Eady, is a tale of injustice. This excerpt from the book centers on the story, in a poetic way, of a young black man accused of kidnapping Susan Smith’s children. Susan smith was a woman who did not want to live; she was desperate and unhappy with her life. Susan was trying to end her life and took her children with her, but in the last moment, she lost courage but let the car with her children sink in a lake. Her children are now dead, and Susan now needed someone to take the blame; nothing would be easier than blaming a young black man, the perfect villain, who is apparently a vicious creature capable of doing the most atrocious and barbaric things. Everyone believes her story, but what is not to believe? Let us not forget that black is evil, black corrupts, it deceives. Innocent or not in this story, this man is probably guilty of something else in his life.
Susan did not even need to try very hard to convince people of her story; the “society” itself helps her create and develop the scenario for her “play” to take place. “…She only has me, after she removes our hands from our ears.” (p.57),
In the Book Called My Body: An Embodied Rhetoric, Daisy Levy tries to present the human body as something that conveys meaning, something that can tell “a story”. It seems like our head or our brain is the only part of our body that can “produce” meaning, but according to Daisy, the body as a whole, its every single movement, has meanings to “decode”. Maybe she believes that scholars see the human body as something “intangible”, which can only be used as a vehicle to interpret something “outside” the body. Daisy uses her experience in dance and movement education to give examples on how our body is always telling us something, always trying to communicate, and we just need to be “silent” and listen.
Unfortunately, the texts from the Rhetorical Bodies are not very clear to me, so I cannot elaborate on it right now, but hopefully inside the classroom I may have a clearer view.
The story told in the poem Brutal imagination it is really interesting. I have never heard it before and through search I could get more information and I felt so sad. I would never think that such a murder would be a matter of poetry. In the poem Eady tells us a real murder case story, and also deals with the story of race and racism in the American society. Susan killed her sons and then she needed someone to carry her burden, someone to be the guilty. This is where an African American comes into being the main character of the whole story. A story of Black car jacked invented by Susan to explain the disappearance of her two children who she sank into the river. Susan’s imagination led her to accuse an imaginary black man, believing that the police and the society would believe her so easily. Susan imagination sees African American as criminal rather than as people; she falsifies the Black African identity. Susan imagination could be share by others in a society where stereotype related to African American is a reality. “Susan Smith has invented me because nobody else in the town will do what she needs me to do” Here, I could feel the sadness in the voice of the black man. In this passage also I notice that the black man is aware about the fact that black man is associate with bad things that happen in the society.
On The Rhetoric and Precedents of Racism
I enjoyed how this article opened with a historical piece including the Incans and the Aztecs. It’s interesting because my colleagues and I generally spend much less time talking about the Aztecs with our kids because they have a much more violent history. I think that the comparisons here of the interactions with the Spanish Conquistadors were very telling of this.
As far as the statistics of which groups are the most discriminated against there was no surprising information here for me. We have even had some of these discussions in class as far as who is targeted the most. We have also discussed that the more minority qualities that you are the more targeted you are. I recognized that this was written in 1999 and I would like to think that our culture has grown since this was written. I know that it is unrealistic to think that things have changed a lot but I would like to look at it as any improvements are positive. Looking at history our society has grown tremendously. We still have a long way to go in many areas. There will always be people who are resistant to change and those who are too ignorant to change their ways and beliefs. Unfortunately, all that can be done is to get the information out there you can’t force everyone to listen.
I found it interesting when he touched upon the point, “…so that any group that fails does so by virtue of flaws in the group’s “norms”, as in the stereotypical contention that the dropout rates among Chicanos and Latinos are so high because Latino culture does not prize education like other groups do.” This quote just got be thinking about my own classroom. I have defiantly seen kids do poorly because their family does not place an emphasis on the importance of school. I have not seen that related to a particular culture I have only recognized it as a family to family basis. I think that it would be wrong to assume that an entire culture would feel a certain way about a topic. Especially when we are all living in the same country, we are all Americans, no matter where we came from originally. I am not even sure if that thought is completely clear. The point that I am trying to make is about stereotyping. I will never forget in a psychology class I took when we focused a class on stereotyping. We talked about how stereotyping is something that our mind does in order to make a snap judgment, or quick decision, about someone or something new. Creating that stereotype is not wrong it is a mechanism for our brains so that we have a starting ground. However, sticking with that “snap judgment” is wrong.
Culture and Truth
I was pretty shocked reading about the headhunting ritual of the Ilongot. I had to re-read some parts of this chapter multiple times because at some moments I thought I had misunderstood. I think that it was incredible that this author felt safe living in this community for 30 months with his wife. Then, to be offered the only explanation, “…how the rage in bereavement could impel men to headhunt…” I am just left with so many questions after that explanation. Who do they kill? How do they choose who they kill? Then for the writer to offer a theory on why possibly this headhunting was a way for the people to deal with their grief and his theory was just brushed off. These people did not need any more of an explanation then they had.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.