Still Writing at the Master's Table: Decolonizing Rhetoric in Legal Writing For a 'Woke' Legal Academy
21 Scholar 255 (2019)
37 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2019 Last revised: 6 Nov 2019
Date Written: October 16, 2019
When I wrote Writing At the Master’s Table: Reflections on Theft, Criminality, and Otherness in the Legal Writing Profession almost 10 years ago, my aim was to bring a Critical Race Theory/Feminism (CRTF) analysis to scholarship about the marginalization of White women law professors of legal writing. I focused on the convergence of race, gender, and status to highlight the distinct inequities women of color face in entering their ranks. My concern was that barriers to entry for women of color made it less likely that the existing legal writing professorate, predominantly White and female, would problematize the ways students are taught legal reasoning, analysis and writing. I argued: “If the traditional [dominant] legal analytical process is normalized and passed off as objective, both in the content of the legal writing curriculum and in the body of the person teaching the curriculum, most students unwittingly will continue to replicate racist and elitist legal structures as they learn the very process of legal reasoning and analysis in law school and as they undertake the practice of law.”
I pick up that major theme in this article by focusing on how law professors of legal writing are forced to serve as handmaidens of hierarchy in the maintenance of the legal academy as an elite and closed discourse community. It considers how in teaching students how to “do” law - employ legal reasoning and analysis through written communication - legal writing curricula provide for no critique of the colonized formal rhetorical structures in which critical thinking, reading, analysis and writing skills are grounded. Part I problematizes the relationship of the five canons of rhetoric, specifically Invention and Dispositio, to Western/European epistemologies. Part II introduces Indigenous, African and Asian Diasporic Rhetorics, and Latinx Rhetorics as critiques of the canons of rhetoric and the Western concept of canonicity; examines them as new sites for Inventio and Dispositio; and considers the implications for teaching legal reasoning, analysis, and communication. Part III explores how de-centering Western epistemologies as the sole acceptable source of rhetoric opens possibilities for decolonizing the legal academy, and for preparing law students to become change agents in the practice of law.
Keywords: Rhetoric, Critical Rhetoric, Legal Writing, Indigenous Rhetoric, African Diasporic Rhetoric, Asian Diasporic Rhetoric, Latinx Rhetoric, African American Rhetoric, Asian American Rhetoric, Decolonize, Legal Academy, Woke, Discourse, Oppositional Discourse
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