Imbalances and Inequities: The Structure of Inquiry and Its Place in Rhetorical Studies
Abstract: Inquiry’s place in rhetorical studies has long been contentious. Critics argue that academic professionalism and the rise of criticism and theory have diminished rhetoric as a pragmatic art. The recent trend in higher education toward greater restrictions on academic inquiry poses new problems for rhetorical studies, particularly where those restrictions exacerbate existing educational inequities. In the effort to address those inequities, a distinction needs to be made between old concerns with inquiry and the new issues any reorganization of inquiry will present. The generic support for inquiry that universities provide benefits rhetorical studies by lending structure to inquiry processes fraught with uncertainty and marked by impermanency. That support allows for the kind of careful engagement with possibility that rhetorical invention requires. The 2009 documentary film Naturally Obsessed: The Making of a Scientist illustrates the value to inquiry of professional conventions and other forms of generic support. Those same conventions serve rhetorical studies in similar ways.