Rebecca Dingo, Networking Arguments: Rhetoric, Transnational Feminism, and Public Policy Writing. Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 2012. Print.

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In Networking Arguments, Rebecca Dingo articulates a transnational feminist rhetorical analytic that encourages researchers to expand their work beyond analyses of a static situation by instead tracing how rhetorics travel and how meanings shift as they circulate. Dingo argues for using a network model to think through transnational power relationships (14), and argues that this network model isn’t just figurative but rather indicates a series of important linkages (economic, political, historical, etc.) through which rhetorics might travel, keeping in mind that power is not equally distributed through these linkages, but is instead concentrated in certain areas. Indeed, Dingo argues that this network model works to highlight the gendered impact of globalization and neoliberalism. This network model, which understands localized arguments as connected with larger global contexts, encourages us to rethink concepts like rhetorical agency and audience and allows us to perform a kind of analysis that shows links between seemingly disparate local and global contexts.

Dingo argues that studying these networks can show us how arguments or policies that seem to be at odds with one another might actually be linked through an overarching logic. A network model encourages us to look beyond similarities and instead focus on how and why meanings shift as they travel. To illustrate this transnational feminist rhetorical analytic based on a network model, the book’s chapters focus on three key terms that have influenced the way policies account for gender—gender mainstreaming, fitness, and empowerment—and Dingo’s analysis of these terms show how the meanings of these terms shift as they cross various borders and also how the language of any given policy is networked with a number of larger historical, economic, and political contexts.

While Dingo argues for the network model as a transnational feminist rhetorical analytic, she also argues that this analytic can form a transnational feminist research methodology. In the book’s afterward, Dingo argues that researchers need to focus on writing networked arguments—that is, arguments that actively work to connect the “micro” of a specific text with the “macro” by showing how a given text relates to larger economic, cultural, historical, and political contexts. The idea of networking arguments works to articulate a method that brings the insights of transnational feminism to rhetoric, pushing researchers to think of rhetoric in terms of gendered relationships and circulations rather than as objects of research.

 

Key Quotes:

“[W]omen, and their rhetorical acts, can no longer serve as the only central objects of study; rather, women (and discourses about women) must be recognized as part of a network of relationships that affect how women’s identities are represented in various situations. Thus, to network arguments, feminist rhetoricians must not only consider the places where rhetorics travel and are deployed but also the external social, economic, and political influences that serve as exigencies for particular policy arguments about women.” (17)

“[A] transnational feminist rhetorical analytic must trace how contexts and interarticulations impact a rhetoric’s meaning so that feminist rhetoricians can understand the diverse material effects of globalization—including positive material effects. When scholars only look to critique, they may miss the relational or emancipating possibilities of rhetoric.” (111)

“To write networked arguments ultimately means connecting the micro and macro by situating writing practices within far-reaching economic and political systems and by drawing connections between vectors of power: state and supranational power, rhetorical representations, history, class relations, and sexual, gendered, raced, and ethnic identity. Networking arguments is thus not just an analytic but also a material practice. Networking arguments can result in writing projects that influence how, for example, policy makers understand that what appears to be the local situations of particular women are actually due to global economic changes.” (148)

“We might answer [the question of how one studies the global] by saying, let’s network arguments—let’s pay attention to the inconsistencies and incoherence; let’s see how and why rhetorics move and change; and finally, let’s connect the relationships among persuasion, language, power, circulation, and contexts.” (154)

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