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Culture, Rhetoric and the Vicissitudes of Life

Culture, Rhetoric and the Vicissitudes of Life

Edited by Michael Carrithers
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 196
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  • Book Info
    Culture, Rhetoric and the Vicissitudes of Life
    Book Description:

    Inspired by the Rhetoric Culture Project, this volume focuses on the use of imagery, narrative, and cultural schemes to deal with predicaments that arise during the course of life. The contributors explore how people muster their resources to understand and deal with emergencies such as illness, displacement, or genocide. In dealing with such circumstances, people can develop new rhetorical forms and, in the process, establish new cultural resources for succeeding generations. Several of the contributions show how rhetorical cultural forms can themselves create emergencies. The contributors bring expertise from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology and communications studies, underlining the volume's wider relevance as a reflection on the human condition.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-924-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)
    Michael Carrithers

    This book is about human expectations, vicissitudes and the ruin of expectations, and our human remedies, such as they are, against such ruin. The net of vicissitudes is cast very widely, across different societies and different scales of adversity, including a mother’s death, exile to a strange land, an unwanted sexual advance, a surprise rebuff of a rich man’s plans, the aftermath of the Holocaust, the events of 9/11, and a great slaughter of animals. What these have in common is that, because they are unanticipated and beyond routine, they test the nature and limits of cultural resources, call up...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Internal Rhetorics: Constituting Selves in Diaries and Beyond
    (pp. 18-33)
    Jean Nienkamp

    Internal rhetoric is my term for the way that we persuade ourselves – talking ourselves into (or out of) things, arguing with ourselves, berating ourselves. It is taken for granted in common parlance, but little studied in academia. Such self-talk is rhetorical insofar as it affects our actions, attitudes or beliefs, consciously or unconsciously. I thus coin the term ‘internal rhetoric’ as a deliberate ‘terministic screen’¹: to call attention to the persuasive or rhetorical nature of much of our thought.

    The ways that we consciously talk to ourselves mentioned above are oft en deliberately cultivated to affect our actions, attitudes and...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Story Seeds and the Inchoate
    (pp. 34-52)
    Michael Carrithers

    In this chapter I want to make two points. The first concerns an episode in contemporary German history when a new item of rhetoric appeared, and with it a new and, in a global perspective, unusual understanding of nationalist history. The term isVergangenheitsbewältigung,‘overcoming the past’, which came to be used routinely as a way of considering the Nazi period, with its aggressive war and genocide. The idea here was that the Nazis left a legacy of destructive, anti-democratic self-deception and willful ignorance behind, and that the only way to deal with that catastrophic legacy was to bring the...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Diffuse in Testimonies
    (pp. 53-68)
    Stevan M. Weine

    Testimony is when survivors of traumas tell their story. This text considers several literary models for approaching how survivors of historical traumas may give their testimonies. Reading W.G. Sebald and rethinking his notion of thediffuseilluminates what historical traumas ask of the individual survivor giving testimony and of all those who seek to respond to survivors’ traumas with a narrative. Applying Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the dialogic narrative could assist survivors and those working with them in producing testimonies that engage the diffuse through better embodying the polyphonic, dialogic, unfinalizable nature of historical traumas. This text closes with an...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Medical Rhetoric in the U.S. and Africa: The Oncologist as Charon
    (pp. 69-86)
    Megan Biesele

    A rhetorical subtitle for this paper might be ‘The Ubiquity of Persuasion in Medicine’. As in most other areas of human life, it is difficult, in healing performance and discourse, to get away from the primacy of nuanced communication about socialized belief. Thinking back some twelve years after my original writing in light of both anthropological work on Ju/’hoan San texts of many kinds and the complex indigenous politics which increasingly inform their production and use, I feel that social anthropology is nothing if not combined with rhetorical awareness.

    The heart of the paper is a contrast in rhetorical styles...

  9. CHAPTER 5 ‘As if Goya was on hand as a marksman’: Foot and Mouth Disease as a Rhetorical and Cultural Phenomenon
    (pp. 87-106)
    Brigitte Nerlich

    Foot and mouth disease (FMD), a highly infectious animal disease, broke out in the U.K. in the spring of 2001 and swept through the countryside for seven months. It attracted long and intensive coverage in the press, on television and on the web. From the start the government declared war on the disease and implemented a slaughter, culling or killing policy, combined with a policy of shutting down the countryside to prevent the spread of the virus. Although this war frame might initially have been useful in rallying support for the slaughter policy and to create a feeling of acceptance,...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Palaestral Aspect of Rhetoric
    (pp. 107-120)
    F.G. Bailey

    All rhetoric is palaestral. The metaphor of the wrestling-school is a vehicle for the rhetorical struggle to pin down another person and make him or her accept a definition of the situation. This essay examines the tactics used to do that and the sociocultural context that makes it possible.

    In the late 1960s in Losa, a community of about 800 inhabitants in the Maritime Alps of northern Italy, I heard a tale – an anecdote – about a lintel. I will tell it and then ask a catch-all question: ‘What does one need to know in order to understand what...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Ordeals of Language
    (pp. 121-137)
    Ellen B. Basso

    There is a kind of rhetorical functioning in the disorderly zones of human life, which sustains and transforms the persons involved. Linguistic operations at the edges of disorder appear as we engage our human deceptive and imaginative abilities, our abilities to produce alternatives, to resist what we learn is expected of us. In these zones, discomfort with the limits of our own cultures motivates tropological experiments, ‘the sleight of hand at the limit of a text’, as Voloshinov wrote. Here especially, the rhetorics of emotion work to transform socioemotional reality, having a critical and often unwitting impact on social life....

  12. CHAPTER 8 Inventions of Hyperbolic Culture
    (pp. 138-155)
    Ralph Cintron

    If there is a theorist who worked both anthropologically and rhetorically and deserves to be called a major theorist of rhetoric culture , it is Michel de Certeau. Given that this paper is about 9/11 and the dialectics of modernity, a particular passage of his seems clairvoyant. At some point in his career he stood atop the World Trade Center and later wrote:

    On this stage of concrete, steel, and glass … the tallest letters in the world compose a gigantic rhetoric of excess in both expenditure and production … Unlike Rome, New York has never learned the art of...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Rhetoric in the Moral Order: A Critique of Tropological Approaches to Culture
    (pp. 156-172)
    James W. Fernandez

    We begin argumentatively! There is hardly any other option given the ‘observer effects’ that characterize investigation and inquiry of any kind, and particularly in the human sciences, that intends to be offered up in theagora.Life in such public culture, as the Sophists well understood, is argument,controversia,and especially figurative argument, argument by analogy,allegory. We argue that moral order should still be a productive interest in anthropology even as concern for ‘moral economy’ and ‘distributive justice’ is being replaced by the idioms of the commoditized market economy, the stimuli of individual choice therein, and bottom-line profitabilities. We...

  14. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 173-173)
  15. Index
    (pp. 174-184)