Home Amy Larner Giroux

Kaleidoscopic Community History:
Theories of Databased Rhetorical History-Making


Kaleidoscopic Community History

To access my dissertation project website, please click the image above.

Abstract: To accurately describe the past, historians strive to learn the cultural ideologies of the time and place they study so their interpretations are situated in the context of that period and not in the present. This exploration of historical context becomes critical when researching marginalized groups, as evidence of their rhetorics and cultural logics are usually submerged within those of the dominant society. This project focuses on how factors, such as rhetor/audience perspective, influence cross-cultural historical interpretation, and how a community history database can be designed to illuminate and affect these factors.

Theories of contact zones and rhetorical listening were explored to determine their applicability both to history-making and to the creation of a community history database where cross-cultural, multi-vocal, historical narratives may be created, encountered, and extended. Contact zones are dynamic spaces where changing connections, accommodations, negotiations, and power struggles occur, and this concept can be applied to history-making, especially histories of marginalized groups. Rhetorical listening focuses on how perspective influences understanding the past, and listening principles are crucial to both historians and the consumers of history. Perspectives are grounded in cultural ideologies, and rhetorical listening focuses on how tropes, such as race and gender, describe and shape these perspectives. Becoming aware of tropes—both of self and other—can bring to view the commonalities and differences between cultures, and allow a better opportunity for cross-cultural understanding. Rhetorical listening steers the historian and the consumer of history towards looking at who is writing the history, and how both the rhetor and the audience's perspective may affect the outcome.

These theories of contact zones and rhetorical listening influenced the design of the project database and website by bringing perspective to the forefront. The visualization of rhetor/audience tropes in conjunction with the co-creation of history were designed to help foster cross-cultural understanding.