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Expanding the Idea of Américan Rhetoric

Workshop Leaders:

Christa Olson, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Rene De Los Santos

Latin America is here—actively present in U.S. history, culture, and politics. And yet, while research in Latin American rhetoric has gained traction in recent years, our disciplinary idea of America remains limited by colonial histories, national boundaries, and language barriers. As a result, rhetoric scholars located in the United States remain largely unaware of Latin America¹s rich rhetorical history.

This workshop invites a conversation among rhetorical historians and critics interested in engaging a broader notion of America--one that includes North and South, Anglo- and Latin-. Participants may be actively working on Hispano- /Luso-American topics or simply interested in gaining a new perspective for their more traditionally "American" work. Our conversation will begin from the assumption that the rhetorical histories of Latin America are already part of the rhetorical history of the United States and will become increasingly so over the next decades (50 million people in the US today have a history in Latin America; by 2060, Latin@s will make up 31% of the US population). Rhetoricians--as scholars and as teachers--need to have access to those broader American histories. Without imagining that all rhetoricians across English and Communication will become experts in the rhetorical history and theory of Latin America, we offer this workshop as an opportunity to consider the idea of America as a wide, diverse, yet shared context for rhetorical practice.

The following questions (and others) will guide our reading and discussions:

  • How does a Latin American perspective towards the history of rhetoric help us understand the global project we call “rhetoric,” especially since 1492?
  • What contributions does Latin America provide to the development of rhetorical theory, practice, and pedagogy?
  • How have Latin American rhetorical traditions informed, challenged, transformed, and been transformed by U.S. and European rhetorical cultures?
  • How does a Latin American—rather than a US Latin@ or Chicano—perspective help us understand the rhetorics of transnationalism and the evolving realities of US and European immigration, citizenship, and identity?

Our common reading and research questions will guide daily discussion and help determine the shape and direction of this workshop. In addition, workshop participants are encouraged to submit, a week before the start of the workshop, a brief text that addresses their interest in its theme. The writing could be drawn from an unpublished essay or a dissertation chapter, or simply be a reflection on goals for the workshop. We will read each other’s writing during the course of the weekend in hopes of advancing our common work and the study of rhetoric in general through the lens of Latin American rhetoric.

Questions should be directed to Christa Olson, cjolson6@wisc.edu


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