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41 3 Writing the Other into Histories of Rhetorics: Theorizing the Art of Recontextualization LuMing Mao The Master said, “Even when walking in the company of two other men, I am bound to be able to learn from them. The good points of one I copy; the bad points of the other I correct in myself.” —Confucius Goodness consists in taking up a position in being such that the Other counts more than myself. —Levinas, Totality and Infinity In the past few decades, rhetoric and composition scholars have showed a collective interest in crossing borders and in studying other discursive traditions and practices. This discursive turn in part reflects a growing realization that our existing accounts of rhetorics remain partial, incomplete, and in want of expansion and revision. To broaden and rewrite histories of rhetorics, these scholars have been making a greater effort to give muchneeded voice to those discursive practices that have long been neglected, silenced, or altogether forgotten. Thus far we have seen impressive growth and development in work on indigenous rhetorics (Baca; Baca and Villanueva ; Powell; Stromberg), on Latino/a rhetorics (Kells, et al.; Ramírez), on ancient non-Greek rhetorics (Lipson and Binkley, Rhetoric Before and Beyond the Greeks and Ancient Non-Greek Rhetorics), and on ancient and contemporary Chinese rhetorics (Lu; Lyon “Confucian,” “Rhetorical Authority ,” and “Why Do the Rulers”; Mao “Reflective Encounters,” “Studying the Chinese Rhetorical Tradition,” and “Searching for the Way”; Wang; Wu; You). Collectively these endeavors not only have transformed and enriched our understanding of these other rhetorical practices but also are reshaping LuMing Mao 42 some deeply held assumptions about our own disciplinary identity and methodological beliefs. They have further illustrated how power dynamics and issues of location and authenticity directly influence and complicate the ways in which these other discursive practices and traditions are being recognized and represented. As rhetoric and composition scholars continue to bring to light more and more indigenous, non-Western discursive practices and traditions, the issue of methodology has become front and center for all those involved. What right, for example, do scholars have to represent this or that particular culture and its rhetorics? From what vantage point do they position themselves, and how does their position in turn shape and influence the outcomes of their studies? Why do we often encounter, in the accounts of the other, the privileging of facts over experiences or of logic over other modes of thinking? Our responses to these questions and the methodologies we develop will have significant epistemological consequences because they directly impact how we write the other into histories of rhetorics and how we develop a new discursive order where the modus operandi is not to establish provenance and dominance but to valorize experience and interdependence. In this chapter, I develop my response to these questions and to the issue of methodology by undertaking three specific tasks. First, I discuss a few methodological approaches of the recent past to identify the major challenges we face. Second, I move to propose what may be called “the art of recontextualization” in order to develop a framework that will allow us to critically interrogate, for example, the areas of representation we choose, the kinds of methodologies we deploy, and the strategic and ideological positions we take. Third, I apply the art of recontextualization to a reading of the Daodejing, a Chinese classic that has recently garnered a lot of attention among rhetoric and composition scholars. Finally, I conclude by briefly reflecting on the two epigraphs with which I begin this chapter and on a few more implications for writing the other into histories of rhetorics. Methodological Challenges in Representing the Other The tendency to rely on Western rhetorics or their basic concepts as the starting and/or end point to represent the other has remained strong and persistent. For example, scholars in our field have deployed an Aristotelian or a Burkean rhetoric in their study of the other, and other studies have appealed to Western logic and epistemology as their undergirding frame of reference. Any such approach in and of itself should not be necessarily subject to criticism. Serious problems do arise when one fails to examine, among other issues, the constructed nature of one’s starting point and the Writing the Other 43 inherent power dynamics attending each and every form of representation. For George Kennedy, the use of Greco-Roman rhetorical models and concepts aims to help us understand non-Western discursive practices and traditions . He is equally...


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