“I Have No Mother Tongue”

(Re)Conceptualizing Rhetorical Voice in Indonesia

Authored by: Amber Engelson

The Routledge Handbook of Comparative World Rhetorics

Print publication date:  July  2020
Online publication date:  June  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367409029
eBook ISBN: 9780367809768
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9780367809768-22

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Abstract

How might comparative rhetoricians reconceptualize “voice,” and thus rhetorical agency, in an age where translingualism is the norm rather than the exception? This chapter highlights how ethnographic research might help answer this question by tracing the ways one Indonesian Religious Studies scholar, Tim, reflects upon and theorizes rhetorical voice in relation to the vocational, religious, and ethnic identities he brings with him. Though he acknowledges the role broader Indonesian culture might play in his writing choices, Tim sees his English-using voice as equally mediated by situational power dynamics linked to his position as a trained counsellor and to his double-minority status as a Christian and ethnically Chinese Indonesian. Overall, this chapter highlights how an ethnographic approach - which allows scholars to put text-based analyses in conversation with qualitative interviews and sociopolitical context - can work to challenge essentialist, static formulations of culture and authorial voice when it comes to Indonesian rhetorical practices. Though grounded in an Indonesian context, the research highlighted here also suggests new ways scholars of comparative rhetoric might locate “voice” and rhetorical agency both textually and extra-textually in a world of shifting linguistic and sociopolitical affiliations.

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