Comparative Rhetoric Without Binary Inducing/Excluding “Non”

I continue to question how historiographic work might differently develop comparative rhetoric methods to not assert cultural values/reading/ways of knowing onto a text, but allow that text to establish its own rhetoric. How can two texts/object/ideas/persons be compared without the burden of binaries, “non”, the inheritance/weight of a Western historical timeline? How might comparative be developed as text design as a method of doing with/from texts? How might positionality move from a mindful stance to an action—doing within con/text?

Kermit E. Campbell “Rhetoric from the Ruins of African Antiquity”

  • “black Africa was not exclusively oral and not without recourse to a means of recording its use of language” (Abstract)
  • in 2006 (when this was published), the only extensive comparative rhetoric book of the time was George Kennedy’s Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-cultural Introduction (1998); parts of Kennedy’s book describe rhetorical practices of various cultures in comparison with major components of classical (Greek and Roman) rhetoric so that other cultural groups are deemed “nonliterate” (256)
  • Comparative Rhetoric divides human culture into two main groups: “Societies Without Writing” and “Ancient Literate Societies”—such dichotomy assumes that societies are literate or oral and that literacy is non-transferable (258)
  • goal is not to codify African rhetoric, but to understand it as having rhetorical features different from those in ancient literate cultures (those based on alphabetic writing)
  • Campbell looks at Nubia, Axum, and Mali civilizations—acknowledges treatment as introductory and necessarily broad because knowledge of African antiquity is emerging gradually (258)
  • examples of rhetorical questions, metaphors, and proverbs according to Greek and Roman speech are not present, so “Samples of other kinds of speech or writing are needed to support or refute the claim” that there is explicit logical reasoning inherent that does not adhere to Western cultural practice/influence (274)

Keith Lloyd “Learning from India’s Nyaya Rhetoric: Debating Analogically through Vada’s Fruitful Dialogue”

  • truth-centered and rhetorically egalitarian method of analogical debate
  • “Though rhetoric was not identified as a discipline, India’s debate tradition clearly embodies rhetorical impulses: setting forth and testing propositions, analyzing and applying various perspectives, and convincing others through common experiences” (286)
  • the entire debate is not to find “a winner and a loser, but to tease out hidden assumptions that may lie in the background of some given position, so that there can be a clarification of what is at stake and what each party is committed to” — Nyaya vada as democracy and public discussion (286)
  • “most examples of Indian debate occur in recorded mythical-religious dialogues; inter-scholar debates are mentioned rather than recorded”…so most studies in Nyaya are theoretical, completely neglecting debate in action (286)
  • “Comparative rhetoricians describe Indian rhetorical context, but most, due to Greek biases, apply Western rhetorical terms to Indian texts rather than look to its own theoretical and practical debate tradition” (287, citing work of LuMing Mao)
  • examines the method’s rhetorical journey from “discussions of scholars and kings, to academic formulization, to popular dialogic expression”
  • Nyaya method:

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  • this idealized portrait (above)  says almost nothing about why Nyaya took shape as it did (291)
  • “dialogues are hierarchy-leveling, based in shared analogies, truth-centered, and proposed to encourage fruitful living and spiritual liberation” (292)
  • “the Nyaya method creates a hierarchy-leveling rhetorical environment in which interlocutors set aside social and ideological differences to share a ‘‘knowing episode,’’ offering a proposition tested by inference, perception, and comparison” (297)

Dominic Ashby “Uchi/Soto in Japan: A Global Turn”

  • presents a method for reconsidering identities linked to place and the rhetoric used to construct them (Abstract)
  • Focus on particulars and use of thick description becomes even more important for comparative studies (citing work of Arabella Lyon and Jacquline Jones Royster)
  • Asby proposes a” theory of inside–outside positionalities for engaging the meaning-making potential within tropes of inside-outside, foreign-local, and traditional-modern” (257)
  • sets out to illustrate that spatial metaphors—of which inside-outside is but one—have a prominent place in rhetoric and composition scholarship
  • uchi (inside) and soto (outside): the dynamic involves an expanding and contracting sense of ingroup and outgroup, or inclusion and exclusion, which shifts in response to context (257)
  • the relationship between individuals and social order is mutually constitutive and contextual. It influences participants’ speech and other behavior, including topics of conversation; but, these latter things also shape the social setting, so behavior and context constitute one another. The social order shapes what is proper behavior while the relationship between members of the group shapes or determines the social order. (258)
  • the work of Kaori Chino in visual studies of gender in art describes a moment of meaning-making resulting from this interaction between inside and outside, generating a new sense of what Japan ‘‘is.’’
  • Chino “characterizes the relationship between Tang China (Kara) and early Japan (Yamato) as a ‘‘double binary’’ structure, although a ‘‘nested’’ binary may be a better description” (260)
  • this “highlights how inside and outside together contribute to the construction of a cultural ‘‘inside,’’ and demonstrates that not only people shift along a polar axis of inside and outside, but that the significance of practices, objects, and genres do as well” (260)
  • terms: Kara-within-Yamato and of Yamato-within-Yamato
  • but this leaves out other possibilities of the ways cultural borrowings may act, and loses much of the potential for negotiation of meaning presented by the back and forth shifting of uchi/soto.
  • “Chino’s model is flawed in that it favors the most inner category, Yamato-within-Yamato, at the expense of the dynamism of the Yamato-Kara whole” (261)
  • Ashby emphasizes positionality to make dynamic the relationships “that define inside and outside as shifting, contextual, linked to identity and relationships, and involving agency” (262)
  • gives the example of Christmas cakes in Japan as a “hybrid adaptation” that have not done away with Western Christmas iconography but have not made Christmas in Japan uniquely Japanese’ (263)
  • cake: roundness (unity), white color (sacred festival food), red strawberries (to repel evil spirits), with red and white together appearing as the national flag; it is not just a modification of a tradition to better fit locally, the cake is an ‘‘invented tradition’’ that draws from two cultures
  • Ashby posits, “By looking anew at symbols and discourses of inside and outside in place of blockages to transcultural-national communication and understanding, we find new ways of seeing, appreciating, and enacting commonality–difference as an indeterminate and interdependent, polar relations” (268)
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