Two CFPs I want to remember
- "Memories and Violence" (due date for article, August 1)
- 7th Intercultural Rhetoric and Discourse Conference (due date for abstract, November 1, 2011)
Knowledge painfully acquired
The most urgent need is the erection of an Academy building at Taiku for which $10,000 are necessary. We have the land and the site has already been chosen. Mr. K'ung [Hsiang-hsi*] now has a class of ten boys who are taking up Academy work in a small and uncomfortable building, and has been obliged to turn away many children of influential families because of the lack of suitable quarters and equipment. There is also need of a budget of $1,000 for general expenses and for the equipment and enlargement of some of the day schools. It is gratifying to have the salaries of our representatives assumed by individuals, so that all of the money contributed by the Oberlin constituency may be applied directly to the work. (15)I wonder how typical this kind of "indirect" request for donations was at the time. At any rate, it will provide some more background for my study.
My taken-for-granteds—that the agency knows best, that innovations should be adopted by all villagers for the benefit of the nation, and that the public's task is to listen carefully and to enact, not to question and to initiate messages—corrupt much of what I wrote in my early years. I also worked within the construct of the third world, a place that must be penetrated and uplifted with messages of change so as to bring it "up" to a place alongside more primary worlds. I may have acquired my errant perspectives from the literature of political scientists and sociologists. (150)Starotsa's wry confession regarding his former views also gives some background to and explanation for the vehemence of his 1984 article, where he engaged in a sustained critique of intercultural rhetoric. In the earlier article, Starosta defines "'rhetorical' intercultural discourse" as "that interaction that initially places cultural interactants into set sender and receive roles as a result of programmatic expectation, colonial relationship, or an active notion of cultural hierarchy" (308). While nowadays that might appear to be an odd notion of rhetoric—putting the involved parties in the old sender-receiver roles of Shannon and Weaver's mathematical communication theory—we can see that at the time Starosta was reacting to some of the dominant perspectives in development communication.
Daniel Lerner's The Passing of Traditional Society (1958) illustrates the major ideas of the early mass media and modernization approach [to development]. Lerner identified and explained a psychological pattern in individuals that was both required and reinforced by the modern society: a mobile personality. This person was equipped with a high capacity for identification with new aspects of his or her environment and internalized the new demands made by the larger society. In other words, this person had a high degree of empathy, the capacity of see oneself in the other person's situation. Lerner stated that empathy fulfilled two important tasks. First, it enabled the person to operate efficiently in the modern society, which was constantly changing. Second, it was an indispensable skill for individuals wanting to move out of their traditional settings. (424)Development, then, was not an interactive process in the sense that the "3rd world" people were thought to have anything to contribute. Starosta's criticism about intercultural rhetoric in the development context is that the rhetor—by definition an "outsider"—approaches the audience with a deficit model of that audience's society. What the audience possesses is at best irrelevant to the purposes of development and at worst an obstacle. Persuasion consists of stripping away those aspects of the audience's society that get in the way, and in creating in the audience (according to Lerner) a desire to leave the traditional society by attempting to get that audience to identify (have "empathy" for) with people in other situations.