Editor’s Introduction

Editor’s Introduction

Peitho Volume 21 Issue 2, Winter 2022

Author(s): Rebecca Dingo

Dr. Rebecca Dingo is Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  Rebecca’s research has addressed transnational rhetorical and composition studies and in doing so she forwards a transnational feminist lens attuned to global political economy.  She is the author of Networking Arguments: Rhetoric, Transnational Feminism, and Public Policy Writing, which received the W. Ross Winterowd Award in 2012.  She has published widely in both the field of Women’s Studies and Rhetorical Studies.  Rebecca has also offered workshops and trainings across the globe on her research, writing pedagogies, and writing development.  Her pedagogy seeks to connect theory with practice and all of her classes tend to offer on-the-ground case studies paired with theoretical lenses. Rebecca earned her Ph.D. in English with an emphasis on Rhetoric and Composition from The Ohio State University.

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This Winter issue of Peitho arrives on the heels of the death of the beloved and deeply influential Black feminist writer/scholar/teacher/activist bell hooks, for whom we offer a memorial. It also comes out as the US (at least) begins to enter what is hopefully the endemic stage of COVID and some light at the end of the tunnel after two very dark years for many of us. But this issue also comes at the beginning of what looks like a possible reinvigoration of the Cold War as the world watches Russia invade Ukraine.  

As I think about the legacy of hooks I am inspired to make connections between the rhetorics of racial capitalism, gender, and conflict and I encourage Peitho readers and writers to do the same.  As I scroll through social media and listen to the news, I am reminded of how raced and gendered rhetorics of the Cold War persist into the present and how they have produced particular sorts of sentimentalities about the tensions between capitalism and communism, as well as who is worthy of protection and who is discounted. I was moved by postcolonial rhetoric and composition scholar, Priya Sirohi’s recent post on her Facebook page when she described the uneasiness, I was feeling but couldn’t put into words.  She states “It’s easy to love Ukraine because as far as the international imagination knows, they are a peaceful country bullied by a bigger and meaner one, with a former comedian as the President. It’s very easy to hate Russia because we have long hated Russia for its bullying and killing of spies and terrible dictator. These stories are part of the Western imaginary.”  Importantly, Sirohi’s post goes on to recognize that, while the world has and should rally around Ukraine, there has been little notice of a similar conflict between India and Kashmir.  She sees the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine and India and Kasmir as connected: 

the populist nationalism and long-standing Cold War era tensions make the two invasions the same. Russia wants a buffer with its enemies in Europe. India wanted to wrest control of Kashmir from Pakistan. The arguments about cultural hegemony are the same in both. The difference is that India and Kashmir are not predominantly white nations, and therefore their problems aren’t considered close to the hearts of people in the West. It’s not easy for Western media and politics to love nations with brown or black people in them because their problems are presented through thinly veiled racism as problems of the ‘third world’; Ukraine is European in the global imagination, and therefore its invasion feels shocking – it’s not the behavior of ‘civilized’ nations in the West. 

Sirohi’s observations and connections between nation-state powers, race, colonial histories, and global politics resonate strongly with the political and feminist project that hooks forwarded and lived. hooks’ legacy is demonstrating how structures of racism, capitalism, and gender work in tandem to reproduce and perpetuate dominant class structures, not only in the US but also globally. 

I first read hooks as an undergraduate student where I quickly learned through her work that Black people in the US were subjected to colonialism and that that those historical wounds still persist today. Her book Teaching to Transgress served as the only textbook of the required Feminist Pedagogy class I took while earning my MA in Women’s and Gender Studies. From hooks, I learned how to curate creative spaces for all learners in my classes while working to attend to the persistent wounds of racism, capitalism, and patriarchy present on the students in my class and in their worldview. 

We, the Editorial Team of Peitho, open this issue with a set of reflections on hooks’ legacy from scholars and activists situated not only around the world, but who also live/d and learn/ed in the very region of the US that hooks lived and grew up in.  We are struck by how many contributors to her memorial were moved and influenced by hooks’ owning her background as a poor Black Appalachian woman and seeing it as a source of strength, activism, and inspiration. As our collection of reflections show, hooks’ observations and feminist commitments transcend the globe and writers demonstrate important connections between legacies of oppressions, for example, present in Hyderabad, India and rural northern Georgia, US, not to mention within our own field of rhetorical studies.  

hooks’ legacy and commitment to understanding how different forms of oppression are interconnected, frames the potpourri of feminist rhetorical scholarship this issue of Peitho offers. In addition to several reflections on the legacy of bell hooks, Jessica McCaughey presents data on how the pandemic impacted graduate student writing, Sarah Dwyer considers the how university diversity statements serve as “straightening devices” for queer bodies, and C.C. Hendricks demonstrates how beat poet and activist Diane di Prima demonstrates feminist rhetorical practices that until now have been ignored.  Taken together, these essays demonstrate how feminist rhetorical theory can offer a vision of change, whether it is in how our institutions can write more inclusive diversity statements, how they might better support vulnerable graduate students, or even how understanding past writer-activist figures can help us imagine new and more just worlds. Peitho encourages more contributions that follow political and activist commitments as they live on in hooks’ and other feminists of colors’ thinking and continued legacies in particular, by expanding our notions of identity and locality in order to fully contextualize them in transnational patterns of injustice as the Ukraine example, Sirohi’s statement, and hooks attunement to locality within oppressive systems show. 

Work Cited

Sirohi, Priya. Post about Ukraine, Russia, India, and Kashmir. 27 February 2022, 11:53AM, https://www.facebook.com/priya.sirohi. Accessed 27 February 2022.