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Rhetorical Studies Reading Group

at the university of illinois

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Ralph Cintrón: “Fieldwork Take 10: Democracy and Its Ruses, Right/Left”

Thursday, April 12 at 12 noon @ Davenport Hall, Room: 109A

This talk is based on recent fieldwork among progressive Puerto Rican activists in Chicago. But it is also more than that, for I am interested in the long history of the “democratic imaginary.” What do people mean when they talk of justice, social justice, equality, rights, private property, and communal property, and what are the histories of these terms? Because I have also done fieldwork with right wing activists, this paper will juxtapose how both groups evoke the same terms with different inflections. My own sense is that these terms are fetishized by both groups and that democracy as idea is approaching exhaustion. With that in mind I want to point briefly to newer political imaginaries.

Workshop: Friday, April 13 at 11am @ English Building, Room: 107A  SEE ATTACHED READINGS BELOW.

In this workshop, I will discuss recent work at the intersection between rhetoric and ethnography. Participants in the workshop can talk about their ethnographic projects and receive feedback.

Biography: Ralph Cintrón holds a joint appointment in English and the Latin American and Latino Studies Department at the University of Illinois Chicago. His research and teaching interests are in rhetorical studies; ethnography, particularly urban ethnography; urban theory; theories of transnationalism; political theory, particularly the anthropology of democracy; and social theory. He is a former member of the Executive Board of the Rhetoric Society of America. Research wise, he has been working ethnographically in specific Puerto Rican and Mexican neighborhoods in Chicago. Some of this work has occurred inside an alderman’s office where the focus has been on housing issues. Other work in these communities has been focused on labor, immigration, remittances, the transnational political and economic forces that underpin these neighborhoods, and the evolution of political ideology. He has done fieldwork in Kosova and co-authored essays on humanitarian interventionism and international state-building. During the academic year 2007-2008 he was a Fulbright scholar at the University of Prishtina, Kosova, where he taught political science and did fieldwork in the region. In addition, he is associated with the International Rhetoric Culture Project, which brings anthropologists and rhetoricians together, at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. He is a co-editor for a forthcoming volume in the Rhetoric Culture series titled Power, Rhetoric, and Political Culture: The Texture of Political Action. He is currently writing a book titled Democracy as Fetish that theoretically and ethnographically critiques a few of the key topoi of democracy (transparency, equality, freedom, rights) in order to explore the ruses of liberalism. He is a former Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, and his book, Angels’ Town: Chero Ways, Gang Life, and Rhetorics of the Everyday, won honourable mention for the Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing from the American Anthropological Association.

Sponsored by: the Department of Latino/a Studies, the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Communication, and the Center for Writing Studies