“If we look closely and engage in rhetorical listening, we can find precarious spaces located in the everyday,” Dr. Cristina Ramírez of University of Arizona suggested during her talk at a PWR program meeting on Friday, April 20th. Indeed, Ramírez’s talk, “Barrio Rhetorics of Belonging: Recovering and Historicizing Hidden Rhetorics from Precarious Spaces,” takes on a project that involves not only listening, but also transcribing and translating from the archives of Mexican women writing in precarious times. In Ramírez’s words, her research turns to “the roots of family literacy, writing, and understanding of the intersections with border and barrio history.” In so doing, she tells the stories of early 20th century Mexican women writers who give voice to resistance and survival in precarious moments.
Ramírez began her talk with several goals: to define precarity, to locate precarity, to discuss research in terms of precarity, and to introduce models and approaches in investigating precarity. She defined precarity as “a descriptor used to describe the conditions of fear, uncertainty, and continual instability created by labor regimes as well as terrorism.” She traced all of the ways in which precarity is an enduring feature of the human condition, exploring the ways that precarity gets reproduced; she referred to the conditions of Native Americans, black Americans, and college adjuncts as examples.
To illuminate how people have resisted the conditions of precarity, she turns to the historical examples of Mexican women writers contesting popular narratives about being uninformed and illiterate. In particular, Ramírezexamined the work of Juana Belen Gutierrez de Mendoza, Laureana Wright de Kleinhaus, and Elena Arizemendi Mejia. She also looked at writing published in El Grito, a literary magazine made all the more special for Ramírez’s research given the fact that her great-grandmother, Ramona Gonzales, founded the publication. By translating and exploring these works, Ramírez argued that she was recovering lost and precarious voices from both within her family and beyond. Indeed, by getting to speak through and translate her great-grandmother’s words, Ramirez recovered an archive that allows work from within the borderlands to be made more visible.
Ramírez ended her presentation with a call for the greater adoption of translation as a research method within rhetoric and composition studies. An often-overlooked methodology, translation offers scholars the opportunity to re-surface past identities and to more actively engage with once-forgotten histories.
If you would like to view Dr. Ramírez’s presentation in full, check out our recording at https://stanford.box.com/s/6id61c4zxzeryk0nzs0ht2ib39ifgebd. [You will need to be logged in to Stanford Box to view the three-part recording.]