Borders and Change: The Temporalities of an Emerging Critical Rhetorical Theory
Claiming powerful conceptions of time is often used to legitimize the growth of an academic discipline. This study analyzes the temporal argumentation put forth in academic journals concerning the growth of critical rhetorical theory in the USA from the 1970s through the 1980s. What time did the scholarly agents presume or argue in favor of when they tried to legitimize rhetoric’s values in relation to other knowledge regimes in academia? The study shows that the various agents assumed a conception of rhetoric that was not only limited with regards to gender, class, race, and to Western liberal democracies, but that it also excluded non-progressive temporalities. The scholars at the time argued that the role of rhetoric was to study how people became good citizens, active in creating a morally sound community in search of either the ideal future or the eternal present that would enable social change. This study shows how the first, the teleological and normative temporality of rhetoric, along with the second, the eternal present temporality, both became tied to values of unity and knowledge borders in the name of change. The study shows that any temporality can become the function or underpinning logic of exclusion of alternative knowledge production when used to gain power. It invites further studies of knowledge producers’ conceptualization of time in order to find less exclusive alternatives.
Frida Buhre is a doctoral fellow in rhetoric at the department of Literature, Uppsala University, Sweden. Her research interests include, but are not limited to: critical rhetorical theory; feminist theory intersecting with postcolonial theory; rhetorical enactments of space and time; nomadism and borders; and knowledge production.
In this paper I speak to the interrelation of subjectivity and time, asking “what is the effect of the indefinite length of detention on how asylum seekers construct their identities in Australia?” Goffman describes the reduction of strategies of self-preservation available to the inmates of asylums such as mental institutions and prisons. The ways in which people on the ‘outside’ can offer subtle resistance to unpleasant tasks, by evincing sullenness of expression, muttered comments, and so on, reminiscent of the everyday forms of peasant resistance described by Scott (1987) is more closely monitored inside a total institution (Goffman 1961, p. 41). The importance of effecting small forms of resistance becomes magnified as a method of retaining some degree of autonomy. This analysis sheds light on the behaviour of one man I was visiting in detention. In order to effect the slight feeling of autonomy afforded by minor resistances, he no longer participated in what Goffman calls removal activities, activities such as excursions, field games and the like, which are intended to make the inmate oblivious for a time to the inexorable passage of institutional time. However Goffman’s comment on removal activities “if the ordinary activities in total institutions can be said to torture time, these activities mercifully kill it” (p. 67), relies on an assumption that the inmates know when they will be released. The sometimes hourly count of time until their release date is unavailable to asylum seekers in detention. This opens up to critical theorising the relation between subjectivity and time, through Grosz’s critical re-understandings of the relation between the two that show clearly that the two are bound up in each other (Grosz 2005).
Laurel Mackenzie is a PhD candidate writing on the question of how refugees and asylum seekers in Australia construct their identities, using a narrative research methodology that relies on an intersubjective approach to the hermeneutic phenomenological analysis of interviews with research participants. She currently works as an associate Lecturer in RMIT's School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, teaching an undergraduate course in social constructionism. Her research interests include Critical Theory, Gender Studies, Post colonialism, Phenomenology, and Language and Identity.
from our workshop on Power, Time and Agency held in Manchester, January 2013