“Rethinking Composition from Mexican legacies advances a more constructive understanding of parallel writing systems and rationalities in America yet also promotes a critical intervention in the politics of writing instruction in the present. Such an intervention might involve facing the reality that today’s writing specialists need to look far beyond the myths of an East-to-West planetary horizon toward its local challenges and mutations in the Americas and the Caribbean. Although Composition specialists theoretically embrace ‘diversity,’ they do not reflect on the origins of alphabetic and English Composition that are the fruit of a Eurocentric interregional system before which they are profoundly uncriti cal, and, because of this, they struggle to contribute valid alternatives for exploited populations of the Americas. As the field rethinks its role for the 21st century, perhaps we will also consider how Composition studies might join the much larger conversation of disparate and local composing practices throughout history, across the Americas and beyond.”
— Damián Baca
This article comes from Damián Baca, a professor in my own program at the University of Arizona. I include this article primarily because it was the class where I first encountered it that opened up many new ideas for me–and these have heavily informed my comps lists. The article discusses the Eurocentric tradition of so-called “classical” rhetoric, a model that obscures and erases the vital modes of composition and understanding used by other cultures. Baca’s article focuses on indigenous Americas, particularly those of Mesoamerica.
Baca characterizes globalization as a “capitalist world-system” centered on colonial expansion and exploitation. It further notes: “Rhetoric and Composition is always already a product of asymmetrical exchanges of global and colonial power. Globalization is not something that is happening to Composition. Globalization is something that Composition is doing, and has been doing for quite some time” (Baca 231).
Eurocentric composition practices were violently enforced upon the indigenous American populations by European invaders, along with Christianization and missionary work. This is reflective of the same bias that often holds true today, that alphabetic/European-style modes of language and composition are treated as superior to pictographic/non-European modes.
Baca says of composition studies, which have traditionally emphasized questions of who, what, and how: “But we must also interrogate why and where for a new geography of reason and invention, a geography that cannot be divorced from economy and the material realities of living experience which are undoubt edly legitimate components of rational thought” (Baca 233).
Baca points out that conflicts between alphabetic and pictographic systems of writing and notation, such as can currently be seen occurring with the advance of technology and digital culture, are not “new.” They echo the legacy of the European/alphabetic invasion and forced assimilation of the indigenous American people.
“If we are to theorize beyond the field’s Eurocentric East to-West narrative, then by necessity we must also envision theories that account for co-evolutionary histories of composing, with special attention to the unique legacies among the Mesoamerican past and the Mexican living present, for example” (Bacca 238).
Baca, Damián. “Rethinking Composition, Five Hundred Years Later.“ JAC 29.1-2 (2009): 229-240. PDF File.