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Performing ethos in administrative hearings: constructing a credible persona under the Chinese Exclusion Act over time

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Ethos or credibility of a speaker is often defined as the speaker's character (Aristotle). Contemporary scholars however, have contended that ethos lies with the audience because while the speaker may

Ethos or credibility of a speaker is often defined as the speaker's character (Aristotle). Contemporary scholars however, have contended that ethos lies with the audience because while the speaker may efficiently persuade, the audience will decide if it wants to be persuaded (Farrell). Missing from the scholarly conversation is attention to how ethos is performed between speaker and audience under institutional structures that produce inequitable power relations subject to changing political contexts over time. In this dissertation I analyze how ethos is performed that is a function of a specific social and political environment.

My grandfather, Al Foon Lai, was a paper son. As an adult, I learned that paper sons were members of paper families that may or may not actually exist except on paper; furthermore paper immigration was the way many Chinese entered the United States to get around the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943). Grandfather held legal status, but grandfather's name was fictitious and thus his entry to the United States in 1920 was illegal. Today by some authorities he would be classified as an illegal immigrant. As Grandfather's status as a paper son suggest, Grandfather's credibility as someone with the legal prerogative to reside in the U.S. was a dynamic construct that was negotiated in light of the changing cultural norms encoded in shifting immigration policies. Grandfather constructed his ethos "to do persuasion" in administrative hearings mandated under the Chinese Exclusion Act that produced asymmetrical power relations. By asymmetrical power relations I mean the unequal status between the administrator overseeing the hearing and Lai the immigrant. The unequal status was manifest in the techniques and procedures employed by the administrative body empowered to implement the Chinese Exclusion Act and subsequent laws that affected Chinese immigrants. Combining tools from narrative analysis and feminists rhetorical methods I analyze excerpts from Al Foon Lai's transcripts from three administrative hearings between 1926 and 1965. It finds that Grandfather employed narrative strategies that show the nature of negotiating ethos in asymmetrical power situations and the link between the performance of ethos and the political and social context.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Presenting ASU's ethos: Old Main as a seat of argument

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Scholarship on the rhetoric of place and space provides ample precedent for the study of structures as rhetorical texts; real and imagined places which convey meaning or memory, particularly monuments,

Scholarship on the rhetoric of place and space provides ample precedent for the study of structures as rhetorical texts; real and imagined places which convey meaning or memory, particularly monuments, memorials, and museums have been extensively studied, but loci of identity and history in institutions of higher education are under- examined. The following analysis of Arizona State University's Old Main building seeks to fill a gap in the study of place and space. As an entity which produces its own powerful discourses, Arizona State University expresses its historicity and institutional goals through varied and numerous media, but Old Main is one of the most critical, for the structure acts as an ethical proof in ASU's argument for its character, endurance, and worth. This examination addresses how ASU's ethos is articulated through the experiences of Old Main's past and current users, the instructional historical texts and artifacts displayed in the structure, the way that the building is mediated by ASU discourses, and the agency of the edifice itself. This work endeavors to answer Henri Lefebvre's call to improve widespread understanding of spaces as texts and their dialogue with users, and builds on the work of Carol Blair, Richard P. Dober, Diane Favro, and Bruno Latour, as well as that of Henri Lefebvre. To provide full context, this analysis integrates scholarship from the disciplines of campus planning, architecture, classical rhetoric, and the rhetoric of place and space.

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  • 2014