Other-oriented rhetoric as posthuman witnessing of wangari maathai’s arboreal networks

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    1 Scopus citations


    In Reassembling the Social (2005), Bruno Latour challenges methods that abandon empiricism for claims of invisible social forces. Actor-network Theory (ANT), because of its demands for traceable, empirical evidence, cannot cross the divide between the network it describes and the rhetorical possibilities that network engenders. ANT can only describe what has already occurred and leave speculation about how the network might shift to another theory. Conversely, Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) posits that objects withdraw infinitely from other objects, which necessitates a kind of speculation in order to describe rhetorical potentials (what lies outside of what Gramsci calls “tendential” forces [p. 589] is the focus of “Speculative Realism,” a philosophical umbrella under which OOO builds out its premises). Between the infinitely withdrawn existence of the object and the already-realized connections of the network lies a rhetorical chasm that has yet to be bridged by unifying rhetorical theories. Groundbreaking work in technical and medical communication has given us methods to analyze alternating individual and corporate identities in global technical networks-Dorothy Winsor’s ethnographic pathfinding (2001), Jordynn Jack’s neurorhetorical discourse analyses (2001), Clay Spinuzzi’s activity network tracing (2003), Damián Baca’s recovery of Aztec codex rhetorics (2009), Barry Thatcher’s global technology transfer scholarship (2006), Angela Haas’s wampum hypertextual studies (2007), and Gabriela Raquel Rìos’ land-based literacies and rhetorics (2015) all instrumentalize how we can view complex technical networks and the shifts that occur in these networks. These valuable methods for instrumentalizing network analyses begin to address the gap that persists between descriptions of how material agencies and social agencies assert and entangle themselves. The agency of actors we would recognize as autonomous individuals and the agencies of material actants has yet to be described as both manifest and potential-Latour spent an entire book trying to do away with what sociology relegates to the social to refocus ANT theorists on the manifest and empirical. In between the monad, objects, and the congregation lies a motivational region where identification and shifting 68consubstantiality beckon. This chapter pilots a method-Other-Oriented Rhetoric (OtOR)-to connect two kinds of posthuman analyses-ANT (Latour, 2007) and Speculative Realism/OOO (Boyle & Barnett, 2016; Bogost, 2012; Bryant, 2011). Malea Powell, in “This Is a Story about Belief,” calls for “wider understandings of how all made things are rhetorical, and of how cultures make, and are made by, the rhetoricity of things” (2011). This chapter seeks to provide just such understanding of the complex reciprocal construction of a particular rhetorical ecology by first listening to how the subjects in that ecology formulate their co-construction with their objects.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationPosthuman Praxis in Technical Communication
    PublisherTaylor and Francis
    Number of pages24
    ISBN (Electronic)9781351203067
    ISBN (Print)9780815384854
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Arts and Humanities
    • General Social Sciences
    • General Engineering


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