Erika Gifford, The University of Findlay
Chapter One “Craft agency: An ethics for new materialist rhetorics” is crucial for situating new materialist rhetoric within the realm of craft for readers. Here, Gruwell defines craft as: “a material, process-oriented practice that takes seriously the entanglements of humans and nonhumans” (p. 14). This is easy to see in an example of a crochet project where a human entangles with a pattern to transform a piece of yarn into something new.
This idea of craft likely sounds familiar as Gruwell has already defined New Materialist Rhetorics (NMR) as the entanglements between agents in an assemblage. With these two definitions, Gruwell can now define NMR as craft:”New Materialist Rhetorics, then, are craft, and reframing them as such only further emphasizes their political potential and ethical significance” (p. 8). By aligning NMR with craft, she can now get into the work of using craft to build ethics for NMR.
Chapter Two “Crafting history, crafting rhetoric: Locating craft agency” delves into how this idea of craft is necessarily political as it is tied to traditional femininity, people of color, and other marginalized groups. Despite needing to buy materials to craft, Craft is also on some levels anti-consumerism as it encourages people to slow down and make their own items instead of buying them.
Gruwell also ties craft to the idea of agency. In a description of what she calls craft agency she says that it: “recognizes that building, dismantling, or abstaining from particular intra-actions is an ethical practice” (p. 31). By partaking in craft consciously, crafters can either reinforce the traditional stereotypes like craft being tied to domesticity and traditional femininity, or use it as a place of protest, or refrain from craft entirely.
Tying this back to NMR, Gruwell can make the point that rhetoric is necessarily political in the way that craft is necessarily political, and that rhetors need to be conscious of their political presence which is built off of interactions with material objects. Rhetors need to be conscious of what material object they allow to influence their work. Just as a piece of knitting emerges from the intra-actions between the knitter, the yarn, the needles, and the pattern, so too the articles we read, the material space we embody, the materials used for writing and our own experiences influences our rhetoric. And because rhetoric is now craft, it is also political.
Her argument here situates craft in a place where it can help NMR scholars navigate the complicated relationships between objects and the writer, as well as help show the necessary rhetorical and political implications of craft itself and how the intra-actions influence craft.