Session B1—Retellings: Opportunities for Feminist Research in Rhetorical Studies


Christina Ramiriz, University of Arizona
Wendy B. Sharer, East Carolina University
Heather Brook Adams, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Lynée Lewis Gaillet, Georgia State University

Jessica Enoch, University of Maryland-College Park

Cheryl Glenn, Pennsylvania State University

Imagine being a first-time attendee at the 2017 Feminisms and Rhetorics.

You skipped out on yoga and downed some coffee and a protein bar. After attending a fascinating panel during Session A, you head to a Session B panel, which is described as a “Collaborative/Interactive Session” (without being sure what that might mean in a FemRhets context).

What you find is a large room with lots of interested academics who have gathered to hear “Retellings: Opportunities for Feminist Research in Rhetorical Studies.” Here, a dream team of feminist rhetoricians are waiting to provide an overview of their scholarship.

Jessica Enoch, in her role as chair, introduced the panel members and reminded the audience that the session would be intentionally interactive, with short presentations by each panelist followed by an extended discussion. Christina Ramirez, who studies journalists and activists, began her short paper “Abuela, si estas aqui: Writing Our Histories as Liberatory Praxis” by telling a story about her grandmother. After describing the process of studying the rhetorical work of her grandmother, Ramirez challenged listeners to engage in similar projects. “How can we connect our own histories and genealogies to our research?,” she asked. “Doing so,” she continued, “is a political act.” Ramirez also made the case for turning our attention to the personal, or the close-to-home, as a liberatory feminist approach to research.

Wendy Sharer’s “Opening the Scholarly Conversation: Feminist Publishing Practices” made a strong case for ceding some of the authority ascribed to traditional academic journals to other publications and publishing formats. Her call for including other publishing venues and shorter-length formats into what is officially recognized as scholarly work was based, in part, on a recognition that the current norms in academic publishing are part of a system that—whether intentional or accidental—serves a gate-keeping function that privileges certain voices while excluding others. Reverence for these traditional, or “legitimate,” scholarly genre forms, Sharer said, perpetuates marginalization in ways that are distinctly anti-feminist.

Heather Adams in her presentation focused on “Integrity, Compliance, and Feminist Rhetorical Methods,” outlining ways that compliance requirements for Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) provide some protections but do not account for affective risks. “Professional integrity in feminist research methods” argued Adams, “does” account for these additional risks.

Lynée Gaillet spoke about feminist mentoring, briefly describing principles and sources for crafting a career retreat for women academics. Her “Re-inscribing Mentoring” discussion (and the two-page handout that accompanied it) included strategies for understanding organizational cultures at individual institutions and for cross-institutional mentoring.

After the panelists’ presentations, respondent Cheryl Glenn highlighted the connections between the feminist research practices discussed, and then opened up the rest of the session to a free-flowing participatory discussion. Glenn did so in a way that reinforced feminist principals of equality by asking every additional speaker to introduce themselves by name and institution—much as Enoch had done for the featured panelists.

The lively discussion that followed the paper presentations focused primarily on Sharer’s advocacy for expanding the scope of scholarly publication and on Gaillet’s encouragement to engage in feminist mentoring practices. The conversation included quite a bit of speculations and ideas about “what might that look like?” and “how can we make this happen?” This conversation included generating ideas about possible ways prominent scholars who already have established careers, such as those featured on the panel, can use their social capital to advance the strategies promoted at the session.

Sweetland DRC readers may be particularly interested in the discussion that focused on the merits of digital publishing, blogging, and curated forms of online scholarly conversations—such as those that are already taking place on sites such as this one. Such nontraditional publication opportunities were spoken of as important academic work that should be recognized as such.

For a first-timer at FemRhets, this session was an invigorating and inspiring immersion into the scholarly work of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, which sponsors the biennial Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference. Based on this session alone, I know there will be many Feminisms and Rhetorics conferences in my future.

About Author

Ruby Kirk Nancy

Ruby Nancy is a third-year PhD student in Rhetoric, Writing, and Professional Communication at East Carolina University. Her research on social justice rhetorics examines and amplifies the technical and professional communication strategies of community activists, organizations, and volunteers.

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