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Culture in Rhetoric

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Richard Wilkins and Karen Wolf

Richard Wilkins and Karen Wolf present an innovative look at the relationship between rhetoric and the ethnography of communication.
They argue that a situated rhetoric extends beyond the study of public discourse to include moments of identification that are used in a situated, social, and cultural way. The main problem the book addresses is the idea that individuals use situated rhetoric to accomplish communal identification, even at the risk of multiple interpretations from others.
Culture in Rhetoric draws on case studies exploring argumentation through speaking and silence over the use of Native American land; asynchronous communication active in the cultural frames of a CBS 60 Minutes episode; identity and communication at a Jewish havurah; optimal forms of communicative conduct in Britain; and the changes in education communication of a North American college.
Wilkins and Wolf present the position that the context, form, and meaning of these situated instances of rhetoric provide a foundation upon which to analyze the communicative constructions of cultural identity.

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1 Culture in Rhetoric 1

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Chapter 1 Culture in Rhetoric Set on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth, Massachusetts, overlooking Plymouth Bay and a replica of the Mayflower, sits a plaque titled National Day of Mourn- ing. The plaque reads as follows: NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole’s Hill in Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their culture. Par- ticipants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience. Erected by the Town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England. This plaque sits across the street from one of the most visited spots in Plym- outh, that of the Plymouth Rock, which is marked with a sign that reads “PLYMOUTH ROCK Landing Place of the Pilgrims 1620. Commonwealth of Massachusetts.” The Pilgrim Hall Museum website provides the following explanation for the inception of the plaque: On Thanksgiving Day, many Native Americans and their supporters gather at the top of Cole’s Hill, overlooking Plymouth Rock, for the National Day of Mourning. The first National Day...

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