Labels traditionally ascribed to women—mother, angel of the house, whore, or bitch—suggest character traits that do not encompass the complexities of women’s identities or empower women’s public speaking. Rethinking Ethos: A Feminist Ecological Approach to Rhetoric redefines the concept of ethos—classically thought of as character or credibility—as ecological and feminist, negotiated and renegotiated, and implicated in shifting power dynamics. Building on previous feminist and rhetorical scholarship, this essay collection presents a sustained discussion of the unique methods by which women’s ethos is constructed and transformed.
Editors Kathleen J. Ryan, Nancy Myers, and Rebecca Jones identify three rhetorical maneuvers that characterize ethos in the feminist ecological imaginary: ethe as interruption/interrupting, ethe as advocacy/advocating, and ethe as relation/relating. Each section of the book explores one of these rhetorical maneuvers. An afterword gathers contributors’ thoughts on the collection’s potential impact and influence, possibilities for future scholarship, and the future of feminist rhetorical studies.
With its rich mix of historical examples and contemporary case studies, Rethinking Ethos offers a range of new perspectives, including queer theory, transnational approaches, radical feminism, Chicana feminism, and indigenous points of view, from which to consider a feminist approach to ethos.
In the early twentieth century, the field of anthropology transformed itself from the “welcoming science,” uniquely open to women, people of color, and amateurs, into a professional science of culture. The new field grew in rigor and prestige but excluded practitioners and methods that no longer fit a narrow standard of scientific legitimacy. In Rhetoric in American Anthropology, Risa Applegarth traces the “rhetorical archeology” of this transformation in the writings of early women anthropologists. Applegarth examines the crucial role of ethnographic genres in determining scientific status and recovers the work of marginalized anthropologists who developed alternative forms of scientific writing.
Applegarth analyzes scores of ethnographic monographs to demonstrate how early anthropologists intensified the constraints of genre to define their community and limit the aims and methods of their science. But in the 1920s and 1930s, professional researchers sidelined by the academy persisted in challenging the field’s boundaries, developing unique rhetorical practices and experimenting with alternative genres that in turn greatly expanded the epistemology of the field. Applegarth demonstrates how these writers’ folklore collections, ethnographic novels, and autobiographies of fieldwork experiences reopened debates over how scientific knowledge was made: through what human relationships, by what bodies, and for what ends. Linking early anthropologists’ ethnographic strategies to contemporary theories of rhetoric and composition, Rhetoric in American Anthropology provides a fascinating account of the emergence of a new discipline and reveals powerful intersections among gender, genre, and science.