n African Journal of Rhetoric - The rhetoric of the online media construction of initiation schools in South Africa

Volume 6, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1998-2054


The proliferation of online platforms has irreversibly altered the genre of speechmaking by allowing virtually every person with the platform to a global audience. The reconceptualization of the genre of speechmaking has to consider the shifts that the online environment brings to the study of rhetoric and change our understanding of influential forms of speech. The speech act online holds the potential for instant transmission across social networks and is preserved in archives that can supersede the authors of these acts. In particular, discussion forums are positioned as spaces where free speech and intellectual debate can take place within a public sphere that is not constrained by the social structures that govern our physical environment. Using the male circumcision initiation rite of the Xhosa, this paper examines how the South African public discursively constructs the epistemic location of African traditions in South Africa. It examines the rhetorical devices used by members of internet forums to construct the tradition of male circumcision among the Xhosa. Some of the key points of discussion of the findings of this paper include the discursive position of the media toward male circumcision as an initiation rite. Described by members of the media as an annual sensitive debate, initiation schools are often examined from within the hegemonic orders of science, civilisation and modernity. In this hegemonic gaze, black masculinity is deconstructed while the foundations of African cultures are positioned as romanticised orders of being that have no space in the civilised, modern South Africa, where a universal masculinity exists that purports to be culturally neutral and is devoid of any primitive and barbaric customs inherited from the pre-colonial era. The conclusion of this paper examines these rhetorical devices from within the Decolonial school of thought which critically examines everyday interaction for universalising, normative language that aims to commit cultural epistemicide to reinforce the white, male, European, Christian traditions of masculinity.

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