Signs of Struggle

The Rhetorical Politics of Cultural Difference

By Thomas R. West

Subjects: Cultural Studies
Paperback : 9780791452981, 163 pages, February 2002
Hardcover : 9780791452974, 163 pages, February 2002

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Table of contents

Foreword: Toward a Productive Engagement with Cultural Difference
Gary A. Olson


Introduction: Compositions of Difference

1. Toward a Critical Theory of Negotiation and Hybridity

2. Rewriting the Difference of Race

3. Men's Studies, Feminism(s), and Rhetorics of Difference

4. Rhetoric, Emotion, and the Affective Violence of Difference

5. From the Safe House to a Praxis of Shelter

(Against) Conclusion: Taking It Outside, or, Rhetoric and Politics Beyond the Pale

Afterword: Risking Action at the Edge of Understanding
Peter Vandenberg


Works Cited


Focuses on signifiers of cultural difference, such as sexuality, class, gender, and race, and how they are connected to theories of writing.


Synthesizing rhetorical and cultural theory, Signs of Struggle generates innovative approaches to current critical theories of difference, culture, gender, and race, sheds new light on multicultural issues, and suggests productive avenues for further exploration. Through a critical examination of the more cherished ideals of liberalism—governance through negotiated consensus, tolerance, and civility—West calls for the expansion of the ground rules for risky interaction that involves attention to the "emotional politics" of cultural difference. In an engaging and pointedly straightforward style, West encourages a more productive engagement with difference, rather than an approach that merely celebrates diversity.

Thomas R. West is Assistant Professor of English at the University of South Alabama.


"This book should inspire reflection in our own classroom practices and research projects and introduce students to the power and depth of our differences. As the struggle over power continues, West provides a signal for changing our destination. " — Rhetoric & Public Affairs

"This is a smart, incisive, and constructive examination of how rhetoric, composition, culture, and politics intersect in important, sometimes troubling, always significant ways. " — From the Foreword by Gary A. Olson

"West provides cogent analyses of the debate in cultural/critical theory on race, gender, and affect, and gives some useful and timely insights into ways to approach the idea of safe houses, culture, and negotiation. He moves with deft ease among the theoretical arguments about difference, all the while clearly in command of their nuances, which enables him to draw out the insights he provides on the multicultural rhetoric of difference. " — Bruce Horner, author of Terms of Work for Composition: A Materialist Critique

"By refusing the rubrics of diversity and multiculturalism, West shows us that efforts to engage difference have too often collapsed into compositions of the familiar, grounded in the ironic topoi of authority—pluralism, rationalism, consensus, tolerance, civility. …We can wait for someone or something to carry us back where the footing is sure so that we may patrol the boundaries of our own understanding, or we can stand frozen, paralyzed by the likelihood that habituation will push back or absorb the unfamiliar as we move outward. The great value of Signs of Struggle is that West encourages us to make the most implicit of our ground rules explicit, not simply as an intellectual exercise, but to recognize the cost of not doing so. " — From the Afterword by Peter Vandenberg