oa African Yearbook of Rhetoric - La retórica de la tragedia y el feminicidio en Ciudad Juàrez, México

Volume 4, Issue 2_3
  • ISSN : 2220-2188
  • E-ISSN: 2305-7785



Twenty years after the first femicide victims were found in Ciudad Juárez, México (1993-2013), this essay revisits the ongoing public protests organized, mainly by the victims' families and women activists, against the official silence and impunity surrounding the murder of hundreds of young women and girls in this border community. I do this from my position as a local feminist professor and as a Juarense/Fronteriza, being my standpoint as an insider on the Mexican side of the border. Firstly, I discuss rhetorical critiques produced by scholars in the United States, during and after the civil rights movement in the 60's and 70's, concerning the rhetoric of diverse social protests. I claim that by defining rhetoric as symbolic action, as a human communication process, and by contesting and re-writing the main idealistic premises of classical rhetoric (the unified male rhetor) K. Burke, M. McGee, and K. Campbell opened the possibility to explain and theorize social movements as enacted in diverse socio-historical contexts. Secondly, on the basis of this theoretical framework, I argue that the rhetoric of public protests surrounding femicide in Juárez, were and are agonistic in form, this agonistic or confrontational rhetorical practice being however only the most visible and strident symptom of a social-historical crisis related to a historical silencing of women in general and in particular working class young women. This agonistic moment was part of a process of social tragedy or drama, and not an extraordinary event. In this regard Burke's dialectical perspective on tragedy offers a useful way to observe the process of a social tragedy as crisis and contradiction. Lastly, I present a succinct version of the rhetoric about femicide, using Burke's concepts of pathema (suffering, silence), poiema (action, creativity) and mathema (the learning experience) as overlapping dialectical moments in a social tragedy or drama.

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