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  • Rhetorics of the Americas: 3114 BCE to 2012 CE
  • Marcos Julian Del Hierro (bio)
Victor Villanueva and Damián Baca. Rhetorics of the Americas: 3114 BCE to 2012 CE. New York: Palgrave/MacMillan, 2010. ISBN: 978-0230619036. 288 pp.

Heeding the call by Native scholars for more work privileging Native concepts, contributions, and ways of knowing in rhetoric and composition studies, Victor Villanueva and Damián Baca serve as coeditors of the collection, Rhetorics of the Americas. Baca sets the tone in the preface by stating that the book's intention is "to begin to fill a gap" within rhetoric studies that must go beyond proving formidability against the Greco-Roman tradition (ix). In this sense, the reader must recognize that each chapter's rhetoricity extends beyond conventional notions that characterize academic writing and work as "lifeless" texts serving as referential artifacts upon completion or publication.

In this spirit, Baca and Villanueva introduce the collection through the first two chapters rather than in a formal introduction. In the first chapter, Baca recognizes that "every communicative act is tied to rhetorical production … whether material or epistemological" to set up the necessary rhetorical shift required to read the collection (4). In the second chapter, Villanueva tells the story of the Taínos, while fully recognizing that he cannot tell the story without limited, Eurocentric resources, such as the diary of Dr. Diego Alvarez [End Page 85] Chanca. Villanueva intentionally uses these sources in order to complicate their reliability, which is also emphasized by the short length of the chapter and of the story Villanueva can tell. In other words, the story of the Taínos is brief only when told through a Eurocentric center, using Eurocentric rhetorics. Villanueva next repositions the story to the Native-centered Americas, stating, "[b]ut this book, like this history, opens here, in the West Indies. In the home of my ancestors" (19). This statement physically places the scholarship contained in the collection away from the Greco-Roman center, challenging the reader to think from a different position. The act of reading the book creates movement and the possibility for thinking about rhetorical practices beyond dominant modes and locations.

It is at these moments, when the rhetoricity of the book actively interacts with the reader, that the collection presents its most compelling moments. In the chapter "Practicing Methods in Ancient Cultural Rhetorics: Uncovering Rhetorical Action in Moche Burial Rituals," Laurie Gries warns how interpretation often furthers colonization, especially when examining artifacts belonging to ancient ancestors. In situations where artifacts exist without the proper explanatory knowledge bases, Gries argues that we must learn to listen to the rhetoricity of artifacts "on [their] own terms" (90). Gries suggests that scholars should "listen to the embodied discourse in the ancient practices themselves to uncover the rhetorical actions of those very practices," so that the artifacts may speak for themselves (91). While the use of patience and waiting as rhetorical devices for interaction offers fascinating and even radical ways of conducting research, Gries takes this notion a step further by offering her own reading of Moche mortuary practices and then following up with a critique of her own interpretation. Gries's example proves that "[i]n letting go of our need to appropriate the purpose and meaning of ancient rhetorical traditions, we confront our own desires to master the 'other' through interpretation" (93). The call for maintaining self-awareness reminds scholars of the need to scrutinize their research regardless of intentions or expertise.

A second instance of active interaction with the reader occurs in Dylan A. T. Miner's chapter, "'When They Awaken': Indigeneity, [End Page 86] Miscegenation, and Anticolonial Visuality." In discussing and theorizing how visuality functions differently within Western colonial and Native contexts, Miner purposefully delays presenting any examples until midway through his chapter, encouraging the reader to first work through the theoretical concepts he presents before analyzing any texts or objects. He states, "I hope to allow each and every one of us … to continue theorizing these concepts and engage these alternative modernisms," inviting the reader to actively engage, challenge, and think about the chapter's content beyond a top-down structure where the chapter stands...


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