Knowledge painfully acquired

Friday, May 27, 2011

Two CFPs I want to remember

  1. "Memories and Violence" (due date for article, August 1)
  2. 7th Intercultural Rhetoric and Discourse Conference (due date for abstract, November 1, 2011)


Sunday, May 22, 2011

A couple of interesting posts on the management of history

I have nothing at this point to add to these posts; I just found them interesting:
  • "Managing History in China" (井底之蛙)
    About problems with the management of the Forbidden City: "China has lots of history. 5,000 years of it, in fact. Historical Preservation, or Cultural Resources Management, or whatever you want to call it is something they have less of as shown by recent events in the Great Within. Basically, the Beijing Forbidden City Cultural Development Company has been accused of setting up a special club for rich people inside the Forbidden City. ..."
  • "Mixing Up Taipei's History" (Patrick Cowsill)
    About the possibly ideologically motivated historical inaccuracies in the official English description of the Red House, a historical landmark in Taipei.


Friday, January 12, 2007

This is cool... Oberlin's Digital Collections

Working on preparations for my trip to Oberlin's archives next month, I came across this in Oberlin's Digital Collections. I feel as though if I wait long enough, I won't even have to go to the archives to do my research--it'll all be digitized!

The document I just linked to is entitled "The Shansi Memorial Association: A Strategic Missionary Opportunity." It was published in 1908 and basically outlines the history of Oberlin's missionary work at Shanxi, China; the "martyrdom" of the missionaries in Shanxi in 1900 (during the Boxer Uprising); the restoration of the Oberlin mission in Shanxi in 1903; and a plan to establish a Christian school system in Shanxi via the work of the Shansi Memorial Association. It ends with a somewhat indirect request for money:
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.

*K'ung Hsiang-hsi, or Kong Xiangxi, was a Taigu graduate who got an M.A. from Oberlin and returned to China to establish the Ming Xian school in Taigu. Later, he became married one of the Song sisters (Song Ailing) and became involved with the Nationalist government. He's pictured here (on the right).


Friday, March 31, 2006

Back to the archives

Just a short note to say that I'm working the archival documents again. (Note that I say "working them", not "working with them", though that is true, too.) I found a couple of interesting articles in the student/faculty magazine Tung Feng (東風). The two articles are from 1959 and 1960 and focus on the advantages and disadvantages of a university with a "mixed" (foreign and Chinese) staff. The articles themselves are actually some compositions written by students from the Junior English class. Some of the advantages mentioned by the students echo the development rhetoric I was mentioning in a couple of earlier posts. For instance, students suggest that having foreign teachers can help introduce students to new ideas that can help modernize Taiwan/China. They also suggest that it can help them learn about other ways of thinking. This sounds a little like Lerner's "empathy" to me.

There are a couple of directions I could take all of this in, and I'll try several on for size. To the extent that I can find out, for instance, I want to suggest why the editors of Tung Feng would choose to publish two articles/collections of student essays on mixed faculty at that particular time. And I want to see if there is any relation between the time of publication and other discussions that were going on in the magazine and also in the rep letters and other correspondance of the Oberlin reps. It might be a long shot, but it's a way of getting at the issue of what the publication of the student writing is doing in addition to what it's saying.

(Ignore the "continue" link below...)


Friday, March 24, 2006

A note on the uses of empathy in Cold War rhetoric

This is going to be a short note, actually. I commented in my last post on the use of "empathy" as a keyword for development scholars following Daniel Lerner's ideas about how to modernize traditional societies. Writing during the 1950s and 1960s, Lerner describes empathy as key to getting people in un(der)developed societies to consider alternatives to their current situations. Starosta indirectly criticizes the "Lernerian" type of empathy as an attempt by Western rhetors to create dissatisfaction and alienation among people of other societies.

Another instance of empathy in Cold War rhetoric has come to my attention via Christina Klein's Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961 (which I've also written about here). Klein cites a 1957 speech by Francis Wilcox ("a mid-level State Department official") that was published in the Department of State Bulletin's July 29, 1957 issue. The speech, entitled "Foreign Policy and Some Implications for Education", argues that in the current conflict with the Soviet Union, Americans needed to "'cultivate the quality of empathy--the ability to put yourself in the other fellow's position and see things from his point of view'" (qtd Klein 22). He recommended that providing Americans with an "'education for overseasmanship'" that focused on the cultivation of empathy was crucial to curbing the influence of Soviet propaganda. If Americans, who would be increasingly living and working abroad, had this capacity, they could more easily help in the American project of providing people in newly decolonized countries with alternatives to Communist ideology. Klein characterizes Wilcox's rhetoric as part of what she calls a "global imaginary of integration" that contrasts with the "global imaginary of containment" that is usually considered the dominant strain of American Cold War rhetoric.

The fact that both Americans and the people of developing countries are called upon to cultivate empathy is not something I've seen yet in my reading. I think one of the things I'll have to consider about this, though, concerns the different objectives that empathy was supposed to serve, and the different activities to which empathy was linked. (Wonder if it's possible to do an activity system analysis of empathy? Hmmm...)


Monday, March 20, 2006

Attempts to piece together some thoughts about development communication and intercultural rhetoric

(Wow. That's a long title.)

I've gone back to William Starosta's article "On Intercultural Rhetoric" to try to understand it in terms of some of the ideas about development communication that I've been reading recently. I think I understand better now the context out of which Starosta was coming and what he was reacting against in that chapter. As Starosta writes in a later essay, "On the Intersection of Rhetoric and Intercultural Communication: A 25-Year Personal Retrospective" (1999), his characterization and critique of intercultural rhetoric grew out of his experiences studying "rural development in the 'third world'" (150). Starosta states that when he first worked in this context, he accepted the dominant beliefs of Western aid agencies and development scholars:
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.

When Starosta asserts that intercultural rhetoric "breeds cultural disharmony" and alienates people from their "native settings" (311, emphasis in original), he is critiquing a fundamental concept of classical development communication theory. According to Melkote (2002),
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.

Works Cited
Melkote, Srinivas R. "Theories of Development Communication." Handbook of International and Intercultural Communication. Ed. William B. Gudykunst and Bella Mody. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002. 419-36.

Starosta, William J. "On Intercultural Rhetoric." Methods for Intercultural Communication Research. Ed. William B. Gudykunst and Young Yun Kim. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1984. 229-238. Rpt. in Intercultural Communication: A Global Reader. Ed. Fred E. Jandt. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2004. 307-314.

Starosta, William J. "On the Intersection of Rhetoric and Intercultural Communication: A 25-Year Personal Retrospective" Rhetoric in Intercultural Contexts. Ed. Alberto Gonzalez and Dolores V. Tanno. International and Intercultural Communication Annual 22. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1999.


Monday, January 23, 2006

Actor-Network Theory and Activity Theory

After reading Collin Brooke's post on Bruno Latour's Reassembling the Social, I ordered a copy of the book for Tunghai's library. With luck, it'll be on the shelf before the summer. (No, I'm not kidding, unfortunately.)

In the meantime (or is it "mean time"?), I did manage to find a multicolored version of the introduction that gives me some idea of what Latour is writing about.

Also, after reading Collin's review of the book, I wonder what connections there might be between Actor-Network Theory (which I know nothing about) and Activity Theory (which I know next to nothing about)--or whether or not they would be compatible. I see Latour's name cited in some works that take a sociocultural approach to writing (Prior's Writing / Disciplinarity, for instance), but Latour's work doesn't seem to be considered part of Activity Theory as, say, Yrj? Engestr?m's does.

Anyway, I feel I should learn a little more about this at some point, but I don't want it to move me too far away from my dissertation work...

(Ignore the "continue" link.)