Mystic Identifications: Reading Kenneth Burke and “Non-identification” through Asian American Rhetoric
Krista Ratcliffe’s term “non-identification” offers a version of identification that assumes identity is not always identifiable. As an attitude that fosters cross-cultural listening, non-identification asks us to listen to others from a place of “neutrality,” with “hesitancy,” “humility,” and “pause” in order to consider identity’s fluid nature (73). This thesis first argues that this term might also describe speaking strategies premised on non-identifiability. As I’ll show, an inventive non-identification would articulate some rhetorical strategies that neither “identification” nor “disidentification” currently articulate. However, rhetorical scholars need more theoretical and practical guidance for what this kind of speech looks like. So, this thesis also argues why, despite criticism to the contrary, the writing of Kenneth Burke offers an ideal account for inventive non-identification. Burke’s descriptions of the terms “synecdoche function,” the “mystic” and “poetic language” achieve the same effects as Ratcliffe’s non-identification, yet Burke describes these same effects from the perspective of the speaker. Following my re-reading of Burke, I ground the theory of inventive non-identification in a brief rhetorical analysis of Yan Phou Lee’s 1887 autobiography When I Was a Boy in China. By showing how this theory applies to Asian American rhetoric, I conclude that inventive non-identification has utility for the field of rhetoric more broadly.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Wood, Nathan D., "Mystic Identifications: Reading Kenneth Burke and “Non-identification” through Asian American Rhetoric" (2020). Theses and Dissertations. 8482.
Asian American rhetoric, Kenneth Burke, non-identification