In this interview, I speak to Dr. Rudo Mudiwa, Post-Doctoral Research Associate in Comparative Literature at Princeton University, and winner of last year’s ASHR Dissertation Award for her project, “The Prostitute as Citizen: Mobile Women, Urban Space, and the Threat of Disorder in Zimbabwe.” Dr. Mudiwa earned her Ph.D. in Communication and Culture, with a minor in African Studies, from Indiana University, Bloomington.
The American Society for the History of Rhetoric (ASHR) invites submissions for its 2020 Dissertation Award.
The ASHR Dissertation Award honors an exemplary dissertation treating rhetorical history (broadly construed) that was defended between September 11, 2019, and September 10, 2020.
For this latest ASHR interview, I spoke with Marissa Croft, a PhD Candidate at Northwestern University, and winner of ASHR’s 2019 Student Paper Award. Croft’s paper, “An Object Worthy of the Attention of a Sensible Republican”: Establishing the Characteristics of a Revolutionary Republican Political Style through the Costume Reform Project of the Société Populaire et Républicaine des Arts (1793-1795),” examined the rhetorical implications of dress and costume in French revolutionary discourse.
Jordan Loveridge: Can you tell me about how you became interested in the history of rhetoric? What initially drew you to the field, and how would you describe your main research areas?
As the (U.S.) American Society for the History of Rhetoric, we have let “the history of rhetoric” guide our programmatic priorities since our foundation in 1977. The truth is, though, that such an emphasis is incomplete and even harmful when it ignores the American context in which we rhetoricians are educated, evaluated, and employed.
We unequivocally denounce the state-sponsored and state-excused murders of Black people in the United States, with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and David McAtee as recent victims among a tragically untold number in our country’s centuries-long and present-day history of anti-Black oppression. We affirm that, beyond individual racist actions, the systems that order American life are themselves racist and rooted in white supremacy. Such systems, which we condemn, exist not only within the academy writ large but also within the field of rhetorical studies broadly and the history of rhetoric more specifically.
What sort of work, from which scholars, about which topics gets rewarded in the U.S. American academy? Who faces serious consequences for their work? Who does not enter or remain in academe because of its hostility to them and/or what they teach and study? Honestly asking those questions reveals that whiteness and White scholars are often promoted, rewarded, and advanced, while Black scholars, Black scholarship, Black rhetors, and Black rhetoricians are often marginalized, ignored, neglected, and tokenized.
ASHR commits to centering and supporting scholars and scholarship that draw upon the history of rhetoric to call out anti-Black systems and structures (including within the study of the history of rhetoric itself) and trace their historical-rhetorical development and deployment, to enrich understanding of Black rhetorical traditions, or to otherwise bring Black perspectives to the field. In doing so, we follow the lead of scholars and scholarly groups who have been doing and promoting such work for decades, and at no little personal and professional risk.
In making this public statement, we make ourselves accountable to everyone reading it. Please hold us accountable.
The ASHR Steering Committee
We are tendering $50 micro-grants to support non-tenure-track rhetoricians (graduate students, post-docs, teaching faculty, lecturers, adjuncts, “alt-ac”ers). It is not much, but it might enable the purchase of a book for comps or a round of groceries. At this point, we can award only 15 micro-grants, but we hope to offer them again in the coming months.
To apply, please email the name, position (including university/college, if applicable), and preferred email address of the person (perhaps yourself) who could use this support to ASHR President, Michele Kennerly, at kennerly AT psu DOT edu. This information will not be stored or shared. The grant will come via PayPal, unless the applicant specifies a preference for a check.
These little grants will be divided in the following way: 10 are reserved for the first 10 applicants who fit the non-tenure-track rhetorician criterion and provide the information in the paragraph above; 5 are reserved for the first 5 people fitting that criterion but nominated by an advisor, mentor, or friend, out of acknowledgment that not everyone who could use the modest sum will see this notice or, maybe, feel comfortable applying directly.
Additionally, grant recipients who are members will receive a one-year extension of their membership; grant recipients who are not members will receive a one-year membership.
If you would like to donate to this initiative, click here.
Michele Kennerly, ASHR President
Allison Prasch, ASHR Membership Coordinator
Bjørn Stillion Southard, ASHR Treasurer
& the rest of the ASHR Steering Committee