Constellating Stories and Counterstories: Cultural Rhetorics Scholarship Principles

May 11, 2021

Published in Conversations | Issue 4

Alexandra Hidalgo, Michigan State University

Catheryn Jennings, Hamline University

Ana Milena Ribero, Oregon State University

Moderated by Kimberly Wieser

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Introduction

By Kimberly Wieser

I began doing work in the area of American Indian rhetorics in 1999 while a graduate student at Baylor University. At the time, there were a handful of articles in the field by non-Native people. Malea Powell had just finished her dissertation at Miami University in 1998. Scott Lyons was still in grad school. I was pretty much working in a vacuum, unaware of their work. I did know Malea from the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, and I connected with her in Puerto Vallarta at a 2000 conference where I presented on the ideas that would become my dissertation. She persuaded me to attend CCCC in Denver, where I first attended the Caucus for American Indian Scholars and Scholarship (which would later become American Indian Caucus). In 2014, I was working on my book, Back to the Blanket: Recovered Rhetorics and Literacies in American Indian Studies, when Malea, alongside Daisy Levy, Andrea Riley-Mukavetz, Marilee Brooks-Gillies, Maria Novotny, and Jennifer Fisch-Ferguson—The Cultural Rhetorics Theory Lab—published “Our Story Begins Here: Constellating Cultural Rhetorics.” I began to notice and trace the emergence of cultural rhetorics as a field and in 2019 was thrilled to join the constellations staff as a managing editor.

Cultural rhetorics is still very much a new field. It is not surprising that seven years after “Our Story Begins Here,” we continue to refine and articulate what cultural rhetorics is. I feel blessed and honored to have moderated this conversation, the first of a series of three, geared toward sharing our editorial teams’ understanding of cultural rhetorics practices in three areas: scholarship, methodology, and pedagogy. We bring you this series as a way to provide readers and authors (current and future) with a kaleidoscopic lens through which to engage with our understanding of cultural rhetorics. In our opening conversation in the series, we feature our editor-in-chief and one of the co-founders of constellations, Alexandra (Alex) Hidalgo, and my fellow managing editors Catheryn (Cat) Jennings and Ana Mileno Ribero. As someone who is always trying to learn more, this conversation gave me a chance to listen as we further articulate the principles of cultural rhetorics scholarship.

I intentionally started this conversation, unsurprisingly, by asking for each of our contributor’s origin stories in the field. These personal narratives demonstrate how their diverse backgrounds and experiences brought them to the field of cultural rhetorics through a love of stories and their power “to heal, to teach, to challenge dominant narratives,” as Ana says. Story is something all humans share, and cultural rhetorics gives us a space to make the connections between our stories, those of others, and stories in the field. Cultural rhetorics allows us to make stories central, to “constellate” them in order to make meaning. The border rhetorics Ana mentions in her story are “a bridge to cultural rhetorics,” as Alex says, because we “in cultural rhetorics work to transcend many of the borders we have in the field right now. Borders between the personal and the academic, the artistic and the intellectual, the textual and the multimodal.

The themes that emerge in the conversation below, in terms of what our editors look for in cultural rhetorics scholarship, include the centrality of story; the practice of constellating stories; approaches to culture, such as counterstory, that challenge master narratives; an engagement with the work that has already been done in cultural rhetorics; and citing the work, especially the theoretical work of BIPOC scholars, in what Ana calls “de-canoniz[ing]”. We look for these moves because we expect the work we publish, as Ana says, “to bring to light different cultural knowledges, meaning making practices, and epistemologies. Scholarship in cultural rhetorics pushes the boundaries of what we consider knowledge, what we consider evidence, even what we consider story, text, and image.” As Alex puts it, we want “to humanize and diversify scholarship.” In this way, cultural rhetorics is pushing the boundaries and erasing borders for the field at large, setting the mark of what rhetorical scholarship can be. We are concerned with what Cat calls “making space” for the knowledges that other areas of academia have been too “inflexible” to include. And we have made it our practice to nurture those knowledges and the authors who produce them at constellations.

In the end, it is the fact that we value mentorship and creating community that makes me most proud to work as part of the constellations family. I hope that as you read on, you will find our journal and this field to be a safe and nurturing space for your own intellectual and creative development, and that we will continue to find connections between our stories as we bring them—and us as human beings, not just academics—together.

 

I know people think of “Our Story Begins Here: Constellating Cultural Rhetorics,” the collectively written enculturation article by Powell et al., as the origin story for cultural rhetorics, but what are your individual origin stories in the field?
An old photo of a young Alex sitting on her dad's shoulders. They are standing on a bridge in Caracas, surrounded by bushes and the like.

Alexandra Hidalgo with her dad in Caracas two years before his disappearance.

Alexandra Hidalgo: If you think of the heart of cultural rhetorics as being its reliance on story to deliver ideas, then you could say that I began doing cultural rhetorics as a six-year-old when my father disappeared in the Venezuelan Amazon, and I was left with the enigma of what happened to him and with the need to express the all-encompassing doubt and isolation I was feeling with those around me. I’ve been working through what storytelling can mean in terms of healing, answering intricate questions, and relating to others since then (and I’m about to turn 44, so that’s almost four decades!).

Having said all that, my more formal introduction to cultural rhetorics as a field began in 2014 at the inaugural Cultural Rhetorics Conference here at Michigan State University. I remember that I had my second son, Santiago, with me. He was a few months old and nursing and he kept making baby noises during the talks, but everyone was immensely kind about it. I felt like I’d found my place in the field. The presentations were vibrant and personal. Everything felt electric in that space, so I decided I would join this nascent field as soon as I could. Within a year, Malea Powell, Phil Bratta, Cindy Tekobbe, and I were co-founding this journal.

Ana Mileno Ribero: Alex, I have recently become interested in the power of story: to heal, to teach, to challenge dominant narratives. I know you are working on a film about your father and his disappearance. What a story to tell! I wonder how the process has been for you?

Alexandra Hidalgo: Learning to tell such a personal story from a filmic perspective has deepened my ability to think about scholarship from a metaphorical standpoint (both visual and abstract in terms of how I frame my ideas). It’s been one of the most transformative journeys in terms of my work as a scholar who makes films and a scholar who brings an artistic sensibility to her arguments and the topics I choose to cover in my academic, peer-reviewed research.

An older, square family photo with a baby Cat in her mother's lap, with her grandmother and greatgrandmother standing behidn the two. They are all wearing shades of black, white, and red.

Cat Jennings with her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.

Cat Jennings: I come from an academic background in classical literature and popular cultural studies, but it turned out that the work I was doing before I had even heard of cultural rhetorics was very in line with it. I finished my Master’s in 2011, and I immediately started teaching at a community college back home in Oklahoma. During that time, I was teaching a lot, but I was also doing some scholarship on my own, mostly in pop culture studies about social media and the stories that are told there and the communities that are formed, presenting at conferences and the like to keep myself more engaged in the larger field while I taught a heavy class load.

My best friend, Jaquetta Shade-Johnson, was getting her PhD at Michigan State at the time, and she told me about the first Cultural Rhetorics Conference, and that it was something I would probably be interested in. After reading the CFP, I knew that a project I was working on in my free time (ha) was a good fit, and I sent in the proposal. I was accepted, and while at the conference, I was able to engage with the field intentionally for the first time. I met many of my mentors and friends at that conference, and it led to my coming to Michigan State to study cultural rhetorics two years later for my doctoral work. It turns out that my desire to tell and collect stories that has always been a part of my life and my upbringing had an academic home in the cultural rhetorics that I first saw at the conference. It was then in my classes and conversations that I found the community of learners and makers of knowledge that saw and understood the value of story and storytelling, and I knew I was in the right place.

Alexandra Hidalgo: I like how the two of us came to it because of our infatuation with stories, Cat. It’s such a propulsive way to share our thoughts with others. I wonder how many of us ended up in cultural rhetorics because we craved the power of narrative in our own and in others’ scholarship.

Cat Jennings: Definitely! Before I knew about cultural rhetorics, I thought that there was no place for my love of stories (beyond just literature) in my scholarship. The ways in which story was valued and included that I saw and heard at the first Cultural Rhetorics Conference made my mind up for me that I was going to make the move from literary to rhetorical studies. I never saw myself in comp/rhet; it always seemed so cold to me. In fact, my master’s cohort and I used to call it the “dark side” of the field since it seemed so clinical in its analysis compared to the creativity and heart in literature.

Ana Mileno Ribero: I started in the field of rhetoric and composition after I experienced teaching high school English and literature in Colombia. I fell in love with teaching right away. So, I came to the US to get my master’s degree, and the advisor at DePaul University recommended that I look into rhet/comp because of its pedagogy focus. When I finished my MA and went on to do a PhD, I fell in love with rhetoric. I became fascinated by the ways in which language created meaning in multimodal and multicultural ways. Because I am an immigrant (I was born in Bogotá, Colombia), and because I was studying at the University of Arizona in Tucson, which is close to the US-Mexico border, I became interested in border rhetorics and cultural rhetorics. My research since then has focused on the rhetorics of the US-Mexico border, rhetorics of race, and WOC feminist rhetorics.

A photo of Ana as a young girl with her two siblings, parents, and a white, fluffy dog. They are all wearing various shades of red, white, and blue, contrasting the pick walls of their home.

Ana Mileno Ribero (front and center) with her family in their first home in Miami.

Alexandra Hidalgo: I like the idea of border rhetorics being a bridge to cultural rhetorics, Ana. In a way, I think we in cultural rhetorics work to transcend many of the borders we have in the field right now. Borders between the personal and the academic, the artistic and the intellectual, the textual and the multimodal. Having crossed national borders in your life (as I have in mine) adds to the richness of the stories we can tell and how we can relate to the idea of cultural rhetorics.

 

As a nascent field, one of the questions we often return to at our editorial meetings is what makes an article a “cultural rhetorics article.” When you’re looking at a submission, what gives you the sense that a piece is practicing cultural rhetorics and is a good fit for our journal?

Alexandra Hidalgo: I already mentioned story as the magic portal that brought me to cultural rhetorics in my previous answer. When we are doing the initial editorial scan on submissions, I want to see a story being told somewhere in the piece. The other aspect I want to keep emphasizing as an editor is the need to give us a sense of who is writing the article and what their connection to the topic is. As I mentioned above, I am someone who straddles two industries—academia and the film industry. In film, when we pitch a project to funders and to production and distribution collaborators, we have to give them a sense of why we are the right person to tell that particular story. I aim for the articles we publish to do the same.

We had a fascinating conversation last week in my cultural rhetorics graduate seminar at MSU about who gets to tell which stories. We spent quite a while going back and forth on whether you should belong to the group whose story you’re telling. It’s not an easy question to answer, and there are no absolutes here, but for me, you can be a straight white woman telling the story of a queer Asian group if you do it ethically, in collaboration with members of the group you’re studying, and if you clearly specify what your connection to the topic is and why you want to engage with it. So, for me, the key moves I look for are storytelling and a strong sense of why you—the human being that you are with the history you have—are the one to share these ideas with us.

Cat is wearing an I love Tulsa t-shirt, jacket, and yellow scarf while standing next to the shore of a lake on a clear day.

Cat Jennings on the shore of Park Lake in East Lansing while in Michigan for the CRCon in 2014.

Cat Jennings: I think a lot about who can tell and who “owns” stories. Alex, I think that you are hitting on such an important nuance when you discuss the collaborative nature that needs to happen when telling a story that is not expressly your own. This is something that is talked about frequently in Indigenous studies. There is just so much work, especially about Native communities, that was done about the people and not with or by those people. There is a push to bring forward voices that can tell the stories of themselves and their peoples instead, and the values and practices of cultural rhetorics is one of the ways that space is being made for those kinds of voices.

Alexandra Hidalgo: Exactly, and of course, relations and constellating are key aspects to how we do cultural rhetorics, so bringing in those voices is a natural fit for us as we engage with stories about groups we don’t necessarily belong to. As I told the students in my cultural rhetorics seminar, as much as I enjoy telling stories about the Venezuelan upper middle class, I don’t want to be limited to that for the rest of my life. That is happily where relationality comes in.

Ana Mileno Ribero: For me, it is a matter of its intervention and/or contribution to the ways in which we understand how cultural productions, languages, rhetorics—meaning making at large—contribute to the making of cultures and countercultures. I want the article to be situated in some of the extant cultural rhetorics literature, for sure. But most importantly, the article should take a non-normative approach to culture(s)—to help us see something that challenges master narratives. I am especially drawn to texts that bring a critical perspective on an issue.

Cat Jennings: Ana, the push against the master narratives is something I definitely look for as well. Cultural rhetorics is about making space for things beyond what has already been said and acknowledging that there are voices and knowledges that have been actively suppressed, erased, and/or vilified, and a cultural rhet piece needs to challenge that ongoing damage.

Alexandra Hidalgo: An absolute yes to counterculture and to getting us to look at a topic in a way that turns it a little (or a lot) on its head. A new perspective is such a welcome aspect of what scholarship can do for us in terms of moving conversations forward and transforming how we see ourselves and our lives.

Cat Jennings: When I read, I am looking at how they [the authors] not only tell their story, but also how they support and weave their story into the larger conversations happening in cultural rhetorics. Further, I look at the value the author puts on the endless wealth of knowledges that exist beyond the traditional, often referenced, canon. As has been mentioned already, story, to me, is an important part of knowledge making and sharing, so I look to how the knowledges in the text have been made and presented. I look to whose voices are uplifted and respected and how those voices and that of the author are woven together to create content.

Cat stands, smiling, in a wooded area, wrapped in a beautiful, colorful blanket.

Cat Jennings wearing the graduation blanket she was gifted by her dissertation committee.

Ana Mileno Ribero: I really like this, Cat. I agree with you that we must have more purposeful and feminist citation practices so that we don’t continue to reproduce white hegemony in academia. We need to cite more BIPOC authors, not just as primary sources, but also when it comes to the theoretical lenses that we use in our work.

Alexandra Hidalgo: I couldn’t agree more with both of you. The people we cite and through whose lenses we frame our own work can shape a piece at its core, so citing diverse scholars can go a long way to pushing conversations forward in new, much needed directions.

Ana Mileno Ribero: And shape the field, too. It moves the field away from the same (white male) canonical texts. I’m not saying those canonical texts don’t have any relevance. Those texts can be useful. However, the canon has for too long prioritized Western/white/colonizer ways of knowing and being in the world. CR scholarship shifts the canon—or maybe de-canonizes.

 

Realizing that this is going to be a very subjective answer, what in your experience is/are the main purpose(s) of scholarship in cultural rhetorics?

Ana Mileno Ribero: I think the purpose of scholarship in cultural rhetorics is to bring to light different cultural knowledges, meaning making practices, and epistemologies. Scholarship in cultural rhetorics pushes the boundaries of what we consider knowledge, what we consider evidence, even what we consider story, text, and image. I really believe this scholarship is at the forefront of innovation in the field.

Alexandra Hidalgo: Ooh! Talk more about evidence, Ana. I love the idea of inviting our authors and readers to broaden their understanding of evidence and data to include something daring and personal, like journal entries from our teenage years and the texture of our grandmother’s dresses.

Ana Mileno Ribero: One article that comes to mind is the award-winning article by Alejandra Ramírez and Rubén Zeneca. They use their mothers’ experiences and bodies as evidence of im/migrant mothers’ care, labor, and resistance.

Alexandra Hidalgo: Now to answer the question, the purpose of cultural rhetorics in my profoundly subjective view is to humanize and diversify scholarship. By focusing on story and on the authors’ connection to the topic, we are bringing in the humans in all their magnificent messiness into what has traditionally been supposed to be an objective endeavor. Also, by saying over and over that all cultures are rhetorical, we end up publishing scholarship about populations and practices that for centuries (dare I say millennia?) have been considered outside of the purview of what rhetoric does.

Alex, her two sons and her mother wear summery clothes as they pose for a photo on a bridge in a city.

Alexandra Hidalgo with some of her favorite storytelling subjects, her mother Antonieta and her sons William and Santiago.

I loved my time at Purdue University, where I got my PhD. The program and its faculty literally changed my life and gave me wings with their knowledge and dedication to helping us grow experientially and intellectually, so I am not sharing the following anecdote as a diss to the program, but simply to explain why cultural rhetorics matters so much. When I was there I was told during one of my seminars by a faculty member that ideas and practices outside of the Western tradition were not rhetoric. The faculty member made sure to say that they were not inferior, but they were simply not rhetoric because they stood outside the Greco Roman tradition. The fact that we in cultural rhetorics are eager to study all cultural practices and see them as rhetorical is a key aspect of what we can offer, and it has and will continue to enrich and diversity the scholarship we do.

Ana Mileno Ribero: What!? That is unbelievable… and very old school. I think, fortunately, the field has adopted a more capacious definition of rhetoric that recognizes the meaning-making practices of non-Western peoples. But constellations may be the only or one of the only journals that focuses solely on rhetorics outside of the Western tradition.

Alexandra Hidalgo: The comment wasn’t meant unkindly. The faculty member did, though, seem to believe in this notion that non-Western ways of being, thinking, and making belong to intellectual traditions outside of rhetoric’s purview. It’s encouraging to see that we are broadening that understanding in programs around the US (and the world). We lose so much when we exclude what we consider non-Western from what we play with and study.

Cat Jennings: While this is saddening, it is honestly not surprising. So often any knowledges or ways of doing that don’t fit into the models that were established so very long ago are either disregarded or are seen as not serious enough scholarship, and they have to be paired with more traditional rhetorics or rhetoricians.

Alexandra Hidalgo: This is why publication endeavors like constellations that use the peer-reviewed route to exploring topics outside of the traditional areas of study in rhetoric and composition are key. They help us turn to new topics that have long been ignored and to do it with nuance and care.

Cat Jennings: As I mentioned above, I think cultural rhetorics is about making space: making space for a myriad of kinds of knowledge making, research methodologies, community understandings, etc. When studying literature, everything felt so deeply fixed in place and inflexible. I felt as if my work had to look and sound a certain way and make reference to certain people in order to be taken seriously as scholarship. In cultural rhetorics, there is so much more room to breathe. Cultural rhetorics is, to me, about understanding that each new generation of scholars will and should have the room to make and share knowledges in the ways that best tell their stories.

Ana Mileno Ribero: This is very helpful, Cat. I don’t think we often consider “flexibility” as an important disciplinary characteristic. But it definitely should be! This is how disciplines avoid reproducing ideas that align with racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. We need to be flexible and subject to the changes of cultures.

 

Submitting work to a journal can be intimidating no matter where we’re at in our careers, but in particular when we’re getting started as scholars or beginning to do work in a new intellectual community. What advice do you have for authors wanting to submit to constellations who feel apprehensive about their scholarship’s fit for the journal?

Cat Jennings: I would advise authors to read through the articles and stories we have published. There are so many different voices and knowledges that have already been shared that I like to imagine most folks could see themselves as fitting into those conversations somewhere. Beyond that, as the field is ever growing and evolving, reading through some of the “foundational” pieces would be good—seeing the ways they have expanded and integrated even more since those were published only a decade or so ago. Once they feel comfortable with cultural rhetorics as a field and lens, send it in! We work so hard to offer support and guidance to the authors that even if it needs work, there will always be someone to offer help in the revision process.

Alexandra Hidalgo: Yes! Reading what we’ve already published works at multiple levels. The first is that you get a sense of our style and sensibilities. The second is that if you cite some of the work we’ve already published, we see the piece as being in conversation with the ideas we’ve been sharing with readers. The third is that reading the work a journal has published can demystify some of those mountains we feel stand between us and getting our work “in print.” Yes, the content is fantastic, but it is also imperfect. There is no such thing as perfect scholarship (or perfect anything) and reading what’s out there can help authors feeling trepidation about their own ideas pinpoint what they have to offer to the conversations we’re already having.

Ana Mileno Ribero: Confidence is such a big issue with beginning scholars. I know I suffer from imposter syndrome. But, like you said Alex, reading what’s been published already can make it feel a little bit less scary sometimes.

Alexandra Hidalgo: To answer the question, though, my first bit of advice if you’re nervous about the fit of your piece is to send us a pitch. Yes, here I am using film terminology again, but a pitch is something we also do in journalism (and I’ve been dipping my toes in that lately for reasons I still can’t articulate and that we can leave for a different conversation on multi-hyphenate scholars). The beauty of the pitch is that you can send it before writing the piece. You give us a sense of what you are thinking about writing and you ask us if we’d be interested. We will write back and provide you with some feedback on whether it is a good fit, and if you want, we can even give you some advice on how to make it a good fit. If your vision for your piece and our vision for what we want match, you can write the piece knowing that we are already invested in it.

This casual image pictured Ana, her husband, and her two young children, all looking quite happy.

Ana Mileno Ribero with her family in Corvallis, OR.

Ana Mileno Ribero: I agree with everything you two are saying. At constellations, we are intentional about mentorship and about community. We are happy to talk to authors about their projects and to brainstorm ideas about how to make the piece a good fit for the journal. We consider them part of our disciplinary community and want to help them publish or realize that another journal might be a better fit.

Cat Jennings: I think our (the journal’s) dedication to mentorship and guidance is one of the reasons it is such a good fit for early scholars as well. I know when I have sent things into journals in the past, it kind of feels like they are just sent out into the ether, and you just kind of sit around and dread/hope for a reply. For constellations, we engage with the authors and the mentorship/editorial team throughout the process, something I wish I could have had when I sent in those first few things.

Alexandra Hidalgo: Yes! Having a mentor with whom to work through revision suggestions is such a gift, and our mentors enjoy the work, as do our authors. I remember getting “Revise and Resubmit” reviews for the first two articles I published while in graduate school and being so confused by what they were asking me to do. It was terrifying, and I felt like they were going to end up rejecting me because I couldn’t possibly make the requested revisions when I didn’t understand what they wanted from me. When my ever-supportive faculty and friends Jennifer Bay and Kendall Leon looked over the reviews, though, they were able to identify the moves they were asking me to make and point me in directions I could take to make them. It made all the difference and that is what we provide for our authors if they choose to work with a mentor.

 

Cultural rhetorics is a relatively “new” discipline within the larger rhetoric and composition field. What do you foresee for the future evolutions and ventures of cultural rhetorics? What can the field of composition and rhetorical studies as a whole learn from cultural rhetorics scholarship?
Alex takes a photo of herself and her son, Santiago, in a mirror found in this slightly industrial, creative landscape.

Alexandra Hidalgo with her youngest son Santiago while visiting Detroit’s Heidelberg Project.

Alexandra Hidalgo: Maybe it’s because I spent much of my day today having meetings with distribution and postproduction companies and pitching my documentary about my father’s disappearance to them—and here we come full circle from question one to our last question by returning to my dad’s story. How very tidy of me. Tidy or not, I think cultural rhetorics can help us make scholarship more engaging. In film, you work tirelessly to hook your audience. You know that your audience can (and often does) walk away at any point, so you try to keep reeling them in, whether it is through character development or plot or by creating worlds where they want to dwell. Often it’s a combination of various tactics and charms. You hustle to keep them connected to every frame of your story.

I would argue that, in academia, we are gifted at producing nuanced, far-reaching, and profound arguments, but we don’t always present them in a way that keeps people engaged. We assume (often rightly) that if our work is thoughtful and well-researched enough, it will be assigned for class or colleagues will want to cite it in their own work. In other words, we often compose our scholarly work as if people had no choice but to read—or at least skim—to the end. We take our audience’s attention for granted, because in many ways, it is. I would like for cultural rhetorics, with its emphasis on storytelling and on playing with form and standing up to the powers that be, to inspire rhetoricians to play with what hooking the audience means. How do we keep people at the edge of their seats as they read/watch/listen to/touch our scholarship? I want us to continue to answer that question in countless ways and inspire others in the discipline to do the same.

Cat Jennings: Yes! Cultural rhetorics has so much more room for engagement. To tell stories in the ways they are supposed to be told, not sterilized, or made stuffy with an unnatural need for rigid formality in the prose. Cultural rhetorics scholarship can be beautiful, it can be poetic, it can be difficult and disrupting, and in all these things, it can be familiar to such a wider audience that can see more of themselves in it than in other kinds of scholarship. Cultural rhetorics keeps the humanity in academics and is far more engaging because of it.

Alexandra Hidalgo: Absolutely. And I love the idea of poetic scholarship. I think of Thomas King’s prose in The Truth About Stories and how in my cultural rhetorics seminar we were unanimously in awe of the evocative generosity of his writing. It’s prose you want to reread, prose that makes you weak in the knees. I want more of that kind of prose in our journals. I want the sentences we publish to transfix us.

Ana is standing with two of her academic friends, Jose and Sonia. They are very close to the camera and smiling, but you can see they are in a room lit by blue light with many frames on the walls and lots of other people in it.

Ana Mileno Ribero (right) with her academic familia, Drs. José Cortez and Sonia Arellano.

Ana Mileno Ribero: I think the logical next step for cultural rhetorics is to do more multilingual scholarship. As we’ve discussed here today, CR scholarship challenges dominant narratives about knowledge, scholarship, and the world. Part of that is challenging the hegemony of White Mainstream English (to use the term coined by the brilliant April Baker-Bell) in academia. Multilingual scholarship is not only more inclusive of diverse communities and their stories, but it also shifts the center of power when it comes to writing and reading publications. What I mean is that usually most US-based journals (and many international journals) are only published in English. So, writers and readers expect to write and read in English. This benefits native writers and readers of WME. However, when an article includes a language other than WME, it creates a feeling of disorientation in the monolingual WME reader so that, for a minute, they get a sense of what it feels like not to be part of the privileged community. I think that’s a pretty great move!

Alexandra Hidalgo: Estoy definitivamente de acuerdo. It will be a complex journey finding reviewers and copy-editors for multilingual work, but the time to do this has arrived. We have enough cultural diversity in the field and enough international connections now that we are at a point where we can embark on this new venture.

Cat Jennings: To be honest, I am so excited to read the scholarship that is taking place in cultural rhetorics, in say, ten years from now. I look at how much it has grown, constellating knowledges and voices across multiple disciplines and lenses, even in just the time it has been in the academy with this name (the knowledges and the people have always already been here). I hope that as technology continues to connect and make accessible information sharing and gathering, and as the academy as a whole continues to (hopefully) place more value on understandings that both break new ground and make space for those that have been long disregarded, that cultural rhetorics continues to be a place for those stories to be shared in the ways that they best need sharing. I think the larger composition and rhetoric field needs to look to cultural rhet as a model for how scholarship can be done in ways that are so much richer than many of those that have come before.

Alexandra Hidalgo: I love the idea of thinking ten years down the line. It’s like dreaming about a future we can’t even imagine because if we play our cards right, cultural rhetorics will turn in directions so innovative that they are beyond our current conjecture abilities. And that is as happy an ending as one can imagine when launching a new discipline.

 

About the Authors

Alexandra Hidalgo is an award-winning Venezuelan filmmaker, theorist, memoirist, and editor whose, documentaries have been official selections for film festivals in 15 countries and been screened at universities around the United States. Her videos and writing have been featured on The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, NPR, The Criterion Collection, and Women and Hollywood. She has a PhD in English from Purdue University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Naropa University and is associate professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures and co-director of the Doc Lab at Michigan State University. Her video book Cámara Retórica: A Feminist Filmmaking Methodology for Rhetoric and Composition received the 2017 Computers and Composition Distinguished Book Award. Her academic video essays have been published in enculturation, Kairos, Present Tense, and Peitho, among others. She is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of the digital publication agnès films: supporting women and feminist filmmakers and of the peer-reviewed journal constellations: a cultural rhetorics publishing space.

Catheryn Jennings is a collector of stories, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and an affiliated faculty member in Environmental Studies at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Catheryn’s research and teaching interests include First Year Composition; Indigenous Rhetorics and Representation; Queer Rhetorics; Land-Based Rhetorics; Cultural Rhetorics; archival studies; Digital Rhetorics; Community Engaged Rhetorics.

Ana Milena Ribero is a proud Latina, Mother-Scholar, and assistant professor of rhetoric and writing at Oregon State University. Her research and teaching mainly focus on rhetorics of im/migration, rhetorics of race, critical literacies, and Women of Color feminisms. Her book project explores “Dreamer rhetorics”—the rhetorical productions of undocumented youth activism—during the Obama years. Her scholarship can be found in Rhetoric Review, Peitho: Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, Performance Research, Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society, Decolonizing Rhetoric and Composition Studies, and the Routledge Handbook of Digital Writing and Rhetoric. Twitter: @anamilenaribero

 

About the Moderator

Kimberly Wieser is Associate Chair and Associate Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma as well as affiliated Native Studies faculty. Her book Back to the Blanket: Recovered Rhetorics and Literacies in American Indian Studies was published by OU Press in 2017. Wieser is one of the co-chairs for American Indian Caucus for NCTE/CCCC and serves as a Managing Editor at constellations: a cultural rhetorics publishing space.

 

Production Credits

Developmental Editors: Alexandra Hidalgo, Kimberly Wieser

Copy Editor: Iliana Cosme-Brooks

Editorial Assistant: Jeanetta Mohlke-Hill

Social Media Manager: Mitch Carr