Figuring others: Toward a transnational feminist rhetorical analytic

Jennifer Leanne Wingard, Syracuse University


In this project, I attempt to look at various genres of texts - public policy documents, national, alternative, and locally circulated presses - as well as multiple time frames in which these texts circulate in order to show how figures "ideologically traffic" across temporal terrain. These rhetorical productions become nodes in the analysis, and thinking in terms of nodes or linkages allows for a discussion of connectivity and contiguity, rather than analogy or linearity. By tracing figures across seemingly different temporal and cultural discourses, I hope to show the ways in which ideologies traffic across these discourses in the name of power. By bringing seemingly naturalized (or normalized) rhetorics into proximity with seemingly unrelated rhetorics I can begin to expose the ways that these rhetorics work together to mystify power and hierarchical relationships produced by nation states and capital. I am interested in using a transnational feminist rhetorical analytic to show how the past, present, and future are not causally connected through notions of nostalgia and/or progress, but instead are scrambled and ever-present from one temporal location to the next.

In order to define the figures analyzed in this dissertation, I compiled an archive of various media publications (mainstream, independent, and limited circulation or ethnic presses) over the last twenty years. Within this initial research, I discovered that particular figures - the bandit, contaminant, terrorist, and predator - dominated media discussions of immigration and LGBT rights to varying degrees. What varied was the frequency of the term across particular dates. From there, I discovered that the terms were used most often in conjunction with the development, discussion, and adoption or defeat of national legislation. And what became even more significant was how the figures present in the media could also be found within the legislation itself. These "eruptions" of the figures demonstrate how media and legislative discourse are linked, and from this basic discovery, I began to formulate a project that not only traced figures across history, but also demonstrated how these figures are palimpsestic in nature - carrying markings of previous utterances across time and space.