“Why Study and Write Social Histories of Rhetoric?”



Where do I stop and my sister and brother begin? 

When I am fed, will my sister and brother eat? 

How many received an invitation?  

What must they leave outside? 

Who is able to sit at the table? 

Why is there so little room?

Has that door always been locked?


When anguish drifts on the wind as if dried leaves of Autumn, and blazing faces are turned away under flashing ‘No Vacancy’ signs amidst overwhelming complacency, we must look down and find that line in the sand and decide on which side of it will we stand.


When through the passage of time the voices of all people are not embodied in the fabric of discourse, we must challenge the barriers against fraternal understanding and hear the whispers of the one who stands for the many who are forgotten across gendered, racial, ethnic, religious, national, and economic lines and tell their stories.



Social Histories, as living artifacts, memorialize the crucial moment when paradigms are tested by the “everyday” man or woman who demands change.  Through social action, individuals are determined to alter the course of existence against the satisfaction of the status quo.  Whether that aim is achieved or lost, it is the inclusive documentation of people and events that allow time and space to come alive, without bowing to an egocentric interpretation of actions.


With this absolute point of consideration, it is the responsibility of rhetoricians to present the most accurate, yet passionate, narrative of social actions, allowing readers and hearers the opportunity to witness the moment in question with vicarious wonder.  Social historians must be sensitive to human relations, political and economic constrains, and social momentums of the time, which allows him or her to piece together claims that pushes us to understanding.


Because Social Histories are a reflection of life, time, and space, they have value beyond the static presentations of traditional History.  Practitioners are able to draw from other disciplines such as Psychology, Anthropology, English, and other social science, while maintaining historical integrity.  Its continued scrutiny has promoted the evolution of subfields of peoples who were previously marginalized and/or omitted from traditional histories.  Through illumination of sample groups, events, and/or individuals, measurable growths and declines are recorded.  Therefore, Social Histories of Rhetoric have an intrinsic value that must not be silenced.


With this view, I am committed to differences that lend flavor to conversations, without giving into desires that demand an absolute narrative of time and space.  Moreover, but for the fact that respectful evaluation is a reflection of one’s heart, I will constantly verify the pulse of my interpretations and not hinder the Social Histories of Rhetoric and its discoveries. 




One Response to “Why Study and Write Social Histories of Rhetoric?”

  1. Eileen E. Schell says:

    This is a lyrical manifesto, Reva. I like the way you begin with the metaphor of the table and keep that operative throughout the piece. What I constantly wonder about with social histories is this: How can we be mindful of the texts and contexts that we tend to miss? Where have we been trained to look, and why? How can we look again, differently, and come up with different sites of inquiry?

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