Richard Marback’s Talk: “Appeals to uBuntu and the Ambition for Justice”

Last year Richard Marback received a substantial grant from the Humanities Center for his work on South Africa. At the end of this month, the HC is sponsoring a talk at the McGregor Memorial Conference Center. Professor Marback will discuss his research and there will be an opportunity for Q & A shortly following. Generally speaking, RM’s work explores intersections between rhetorical theory, human rights, African philosophy, philosophy of mind, and neuroscience. The talk is scheduled for Thursday, January 31, from 4:15 – 5:00 PM. Description from the HC flier:

The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa critics have increasingly decried the work of the commission as having purchased neoliberal economic reform with the perpetuation of apartheid-era disenfranchisement. For these critics, the TRC’s language of forgiveness and reconciliation evaded issues of redistribution and restitution that remain unaddressed and continue to both  cripple South Africa’s poor and challenge the country’s government. The extent to which the TRC’s language of reconciliation is falling out of use in civic discourse can be measured by tracking the word ubuntu, a word which signifies the idea that a person becomes a person through interactions with others. While a case can be made for seeing the shift in appeals to ubuntu as reflecting the co-opting of human emotion for economic and political gain, I believe such a case misses what it is appeals to ubuntu reveal about the larger issue of how best to orchestrate in civic discourses the often competing appeals for reconciliation, redistribution, and restitution. I argue the trajectory of   appeals to ubuntu in South Africa does more than affirm the intractable difficulty inherent in competing appeals for reconciliation, redistribution, and restitution. Appeals to ubuntu point the way toward a reformulation of civic appeals so those appeals may productively coordinate ambitions for reconciliation, redistribution, and restitution.
My approach to the argument is to work from two extremes toward a middle. At the one extreme of collective narrative I follow how appeals to ubuntu appeal to an individual sense of what it is to be human. At the other extreme of individual sense of self I follow how  appeals to ubuntu cultivate the individual’s sense of a collective humanity.   Neither extreme stands alone, both collective narrative and individual sense of self intertwine with each other. My conclusion is that it is in comprehending and exploiting the intertwining middle of collective narrative and sense of self that appeals to ubuntu can be made most productive. To arrive at this conclusion I read the record of appeals to ubuntu in terms of recent research in rhetorical theory, human rights, African philosophy, philosophy of mind, and neuroscience.

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The Votes Have Been Counted…

Readings for the next two Rhetoric Reading Group dates have been decided. The next meeting is Friday, November 30 at 3:30 pm @ Motor City Brewing Works. We’ll be discussing Adrienne’s selections:

  • Chapters 1 (“Crap Detecting”) and 2 (“The Medium is The Message, Of Course”) from Postman and Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity (Full text of Teaching as a Subversive Activity is available here)
  • Chapters 4 (“Social Control”) and 5 (“The Nature of Freedom”) from John Dewey’s Experience and Education (full text of Chapters 4 and 5 available here)

For the December meeting (date TBD) we’ll be reading some selections on classroom ecology and ecocriticism:

  • Simon C. Estok’s “The Ecocritical Imagination and Ecophobia”
  • Thomas Hothem’s “Suburban Studies and College Writing”
  • Ursula K. Heise’s “Greening English: Recent Introductions to Ecocriticism” (all materials available via Project Muse)

Rhetoric Reading Group

The next Rhetoric Reading Group meeting of the Fall semester is Friday, November 30 at 3:30 pm. In the spirit of determining our next text (or texts) collectively, below you will find selections offered by Jeff Pruchnic, Adrienne Jankens, Michael McGinnis, and Derek Risse. Please take a minute to preview the choices (most are available for free online or will be made available shortly) and cast your vote as a comment. We request that you only vote if you plan on attending the meeting. We look forward to hearing your thoughts!:

1. Jeff – Old Rhetoric(s), New?

Roland Barthes’ “The Old Rhetoric: an aide-memoire,” from The Semiotic Challenge (roughly 85 pages)

2. Adrienne – “Subversive Activity”

Chapters 1 (“Crap Detecting”) and 2 (“The Medium is The Message, Of Course”) from Postman and Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity ; Chapters 4 (“Social Control”) and 5 (“The Nature of Freedom”) from John Dewey’s Experience and Education (roughly 32 pages total)

(Full text of Teaching as a Subversive Activity is available as a pdf here; full text of Chapters 4 and 5 of Dewey’s Experience and Education are available here)

3. Mike – Publics and “Rhetorical Distribution”

Jenny Edbauer-Rice’s “Unframing Models of Public Distribution: From Rhetorical Situation to Rhetorical Ecologies” (available here); Jim Brown and Dale M. Smith’s “The Event and the Archive: Rhetorical Distributions in Civil Society”; Catherine Chaput’s “Rhetorical Circulaton in Late Capitalism: Neoliberalism and the Overdetermination of Affective Energy (available via Project Muse); Jenny Rice’s notes on Warner’s “Publics and Counterpublics” (here) – roughly 55 pages total


4. Derek – Ecocriticism and Classroom Ecologies

Simon C. Estok’s “The Ecocritical Imagination and Ecophobia”; Thomas Hothem’s “Suburban Studies and College Writing”; Ursula K. Heise’s “Greening English: Recent Introductions to Ecocriticism” (all articles available via Project Muse – roughly 45 pages total)

Upcoming Meetings

Thanks to everyone that showed up for the first Rhetoric Reading Group meeting of the Fall semester! If you were unable to attend, meeting notes can be found here. At the end of the meeting we discussed two upcoming events:

1. Dissertation Workshop – in roughly three weeks (specific date TBD), the WSRS will be sponsoring a student-run dissertation workshop. We will circulate three sample chapters from current Rhetoric and Composition students in advance of the meeting. In November we will meet to discuss these drafts, and the authors will respond to questions about the chapters, the writing process, etc. This event will be very similar in design to last year’s dissertation workshop. We’ll send out an email next week with details and post other updates here.

2. Rhetoric Reading Group – the second RRG will meet roughly five weeks from now (date TBD). As with past RRG meetings, we’d like to open the floor to text suggestions. At Friday’s meeting (10/19), we discussed the possibility of reading several shorter articles (totaling around 100 pages). It seems that there is a lot of interest in reading texts related to teaching. This is your opportunity to get in on the conversation! Please post your suggestions as a comment here or email Derek Risse. Is there something that you’ve been meaning to get to, but haven’t had the time? Are you reading/teaching something in a class currently that you’d like to discuss? All options are on the table. We will vote on the next (set of) reading(s) in the coming week, once all suggestions have been collected.

Rhetoric Reading Group

The WSRS is kicking off the Fall semester with another edition of the Rhetoric Reading Group! Our text will be Richard McKeon’s essay “Freedom and History,” available in the collection Freedom and History and Other Essays: An Introduction to the Thought of Richard McKeon (ed. Zahava K. McKeon, U of Chicago P, 1990). To help get the conversation started, we encourage participants to upload short responses (1-2 paragraphs) as comments on this post. What questions/comments do you have about the text?

Place: Motor City Brewing Works (2nd & Canfield)

Time/Date: 3:00 pm, October 19

Note to WSRS members: The first official meeting for members will take place just after the Rhetoric Reading Group.