Sustainability through Embodiment: Feminism and Composition

Sustainability is an intriguingly polysemic word, and the readings on feminisim and composition might be the first to address the issue directly.  Perhaps the concern for sustainability has its origins in that, as a theoretical lens, feminism is also very polysemic — “race, class, age, disability, queer, linguistic, immigrant, global, and other categories” (Micciche, 129-30).

Diversity is a strength but might also create vulnerabilities to sustainability.  I think is problem is what Richie and Boardman address when they note, “[t]he history of feminism suggests that it is necessary to do more than interrupt a disciplinary conversation.  Disruption may be only temporary, and as Reynolds and others point out, it’s easy to push disrupters to the sidelines, to stop listening to them and to marginalize them once again” (601).  I wonder if homogenous groups tend to advocate for themselves more effectively than heterogenous groups.

With this trouble of sustainability in mind and the historical lessons narrated in the readings, I come to understand the troubles both feminism and composition encounter when advocating for their place in and beyond academia.  I thought I had the passage marked, but, cannot locate the discussion of hegemonic powers “bulldozing contradictions” in order to create ostensible harmony — by silencing dissensus or any difference on any dimension.

The advantage of feminism and composition is the call to invoke lived experience.  Embodiment is my favorite aspect of the theory because it might provide a unifying locus for sustainability.  Unity need not require conformity, and, sadly, I think the two words and concepts are too often conflated.  Embodiment also involves returning to expressivist notions of voice.  “As Suzanne Clark points out, narratives of experience theorized become sites of agency: ‘ At the same time that stories of personal experience invoke and re-cite determinant categories of identity…such stories produce an excess not easily retrofitted at the norm’ (Ritchie and Boardman, 602).  Drawing on the personal is a potent concept.  Yet it might be nullified through larger practices; I have written about the use of the passive voice to “purge’ the scholar from scientific writing.

My main question remains, how might feminism provide a stabilizing means for composition and rhetoric to sustain diversity?

A less interesting question is the paradox of how to reconcile collaborative efforts and personal narrative (embodiment)?  It is less interesting because the answer appears evident in collaborative techniques yet maybe not explicitly articulated.


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