No Reclaimed Homeland: Thi Bui’s Postcolonial Historiography in The Best We Could Do

Front cover of Inks volume 4, issue 1

Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society, vol. 4, no. 1, Spring 2020, pp. 44–65.

Abstract: Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do, a graphic memoir centering on her family’s experience with war in Vietnam and with resettlement in the United States, earned critical acclaim upon publication in 2017. It touched a nerve with U.S. readers attuned to their country’s rising xenophobia, eliciting praise for humanizing refugees. Her comic certainly stirs compassion with its fusion of emotive drawings and text—but it does more. Bui subtly encourages readers to not only see refugees as human but to realize that no polity exists apart from migrancy. Situating her book in recent postcolonial theory, I read it as a commentary on the shifting nature of history and nation. Bui presents no singular homeland, past or present, implicitly calling into question Americans’ desire for a walled nation and bounded culture.

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A Persian Preacher’s Westward Migration: Táhirih’s Transnational Rhetoric, 1817–2015

Illustration of Táhirih’s travels with five key stops starred by Layli Maria Miron.
Map: Clipping of “Middle East in the 19th Century,” University of Chicago

Journal of Communication and Religion, vol. 42, no. 4, 2019, pp. 5–27.

Abstract: During her brief life in the early nineteenth century, the Persian poet and theologian Táhirih advocated for a spiritual revolution. Authorities executed her for heresy in 1852. After death, Táhirih attracted admirers around the world; Western writers—especially women—have interpreted her history to argue for gender equality, religious renewal, and global interdependence. This Middle Eastern preacher has established a posthumous pulpit in the United States, as members of the Bahá’í Faith there have authored a dozen books about her. After introducing Táhirih’s rhetorical rebellions, this essay demonstrates her transnational influence by analyzing her afterlives in U.S. Bahá’í discourse.

Full Text: You can download the article by clicking the link below.

Making Visible the Nativism-Ableism Matrix: The Rhetoric of Immigrants’ Comics

Rhetoric Review Journal

Rhetoric Review, vol. 38, no. 4, 2019, pp. 445-462

Abstract: Nativist ideology, which dominates public discourse, implements ableist hierarchies to reduce immigrants to diseases of the body politic. Immigrants’ graphic narratives, on the other hand, reveal the disabling effects of xenophobic environments. Rhetoricians have begun to recognize comics’ persuasive potential but thus far have not explored their role in immigration rhetoric. Using this medium’s affordances, immigrants critique the nativism-ableism matrix, as exemplified by Parsua Bashi’s comics memoir about immigrating to Switzerland from Iran, Nylon Road (2006/2009). Bashi’s self-worth, displaced by her unreceptive context, depends on accepting a mental (dis)ability. Her comic counters nativism’s eugenic underpinnings by visualizing variation.

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Image courtesy of Rhetoric Review.

Martha Root’s Interwar Lectures: Cosmic Education and the Rhetoric of Unity

Cover of Peitho 21.1 (c) CFSHRC 2018

Peitho: Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric & Composition, vol. 21, no. 1, 2018, pp. 132-157.

Abstract: This article introduces Martha L. Root’s cosmopolitan rhetoric, which exemplifies how women speaking from (religious) margins interpret traditions to create calls for social change. In lectures delivered between the world wars, Root argued for “cosmic education,” a global peacemaking program promoting openness and civic service in learners, which she distilled from precepts of the Bahá’í Faith. Root implored every listener, from her US co-nationals to audiences worldwide, to evangelize peace. Her rhetoric of unity harnessed principle with practice to animate the cycle of cosmic education, a cycle she modeled by inventing transnational sisterhood with the 19th-century Persian poet Táhirih Qurratu’l-Ayn.

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Laura Barney’s Discipleship to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Tracing a Theological Flow from the Middle East to the United States, 1900–1916

Journal of Bahá’í Studies, vol. 28, no. 1–2, 2018, pp. 7–31.

Abstract: The discipleship of the young American Laura Clifford Barney to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the early 1900s resulted in a flow of spiritual teachings from East to West. After several years of intense engagement with her teacher in Palestine, Barney sought to disseminate in her Western homelands what she had learned. Her private and public writings demonstrate how she employed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s teachings in her efforts to influence social discourse by promoting the Bahá’í Faith in Europe and the United States. Examining these teachings and Barney’s applications thereof in her rhetoric allows us to witness how a transnational channel of theological knowledge developed.

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Review of “Constitutive Visions”

Cover of Constitutive Visions courtesy of Penn State Press

Constitutive Visions: Indigeneity and Commonplaces of National Identity in Republican Ecuador (Review), Quarterly Journal of Speech, vol. 103, no. 1-2, 2017, pp. 186-190.

Christa J. Olson’s first book provides a model for rhetoricians who, like her, wish to transcend disciplinary divisions and the geographic scope of their homelands to study the rhetorics of other lands through an array of artifacts. In Constitutive Visions, Olson ambitiously intervenes in two significant projects: first, to “demonstrate the powerful roles played by resilient commonplaces in the constitution of national identity,” and second, to “emphasize the particular force that elements of visual culture lend to the constitutions of strong identifications” (24). That is, she exposes the processes through which rhetors compose a national identity for their country.

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