Individual Inquiry Statement

- Naomi Shabot


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I began the school year with little idea of what Rhetoric as a discipline involves or how it functions-both inside and outside of the academic community. Nine months later, I better understand the academic community and its function in community-based inquiry. The Intercultural Rhetoric program has give me the opportunity to make significant connections between my prior knowledge and new forms of theory, practice, and research methods. Charting the path I took through the program is difficult, mainly because so many aspects of it overlapped at different times, only to come to a coherent whole upon reflection. Each aspect feeds into another in some way, making the process of intercultural inquiry seem limitless and varied. I will discuss how three different projects contribute to this process.

The Community Literacy inquiry allowed me to synthesize practical issues surrounding literacy with my interest in agency as a means of self-expression. I interviewed four of the writers and analyzed how they expressed themselves both as individuals and as part of a larger community. In doing so, I learned how to combine a theoretical approach with examining a particular group's actions, allowing me to make some conclusions about a teenager's sense of identity in multiple contexts.

Taking a class in the Rhetoric of Science and writing "A Rhetoric of the Gene" allowed me the opportunity to explore how rhetorical theory can be applied to practical situations in other disciplines. I looked at the differences between public and private science and how the language used can highlight a felt difficulty in the surrounding social issues. Exploring this issue taught me that research methods and rhetorical theory can be useful outside the academic realm. I learned how to closely examine a series of texts to identify the factors at stake and how rhetoric is being used.

Finally, my analysis of the Orthodox and Reformed Jewish prayer services not only gave me the opportunity to look at a topic in which I am interested, but also to examine it through the lens of genre. I realized that not only are there varying degrees of conformity with a religion, but that in the end, it doesn't really matter whether the denominations are of one genre or two. Genre is a useful tool for thinking about how people categorize ways of using language and communicative purposes.

More than just taking some required classes, this program is about perspective. It's about looking at a situation from a variety of angles, taking into account theory, language, culture, and setting. It's about allowing different voices to cross discourse boundaries and come together in communication, or about drawing parallels between texts to connect and make sense of them in new ways.

This year, I focused on the interaction between the individual and the community at large, how rhetoric is useful in science and the workplace, and how groups define cultural practices as their own. Most importantly for me, I had the opportunity to work with an excellent faculty who pushed me to think beyond myself and showed me some of the limitless possibilities for intercultural research and work.