Invitational Rhetoric: Alternative Rhetorical Strategy as Ecofeminist Practice for Transformation of Perception and use of Energy in the Residential Built Environment from the Keweenaw to Kerala

Abstract : This paper explores the viability of invitational rhetoric as a mode of advocacy for sustainable energy use in the residential built environment. The theoretical foundations for this study join ecofeminist concepts and commitments with the conditions and resources of invitational rhetoric, developing in particular the rhetorical potency of the concepts of re-sourcement and enfoldment. The methodological approach is autoethnography using narrative reflection and journaling, both adapted to and developed within the autoethnographic project.

Keywords: invitational rhetoric, narrative reflection, ecofeminist invitational rhetoric, traditional rhetorical practice, alternative rhetorical options, gender crossing, transgenders, ecofeminism, female advocacy, sexuality

‘We won’t believe the world can change until we experience ourselves changing.’ Frances Moore Lappé as quoted in Merchey’s (2005: 212) Building a Life of Value.

This study takes the form of a personal odyssey from the Keweenaw Peninsula in Northern Michigan, US to the state of Kerala in India. It is also the story of my ecofeminist beliefs about the importance of environmental concerns and the way I have learned to articulate these beliefs through a feminist rhetoric of cooperation and caring, a persuasive approach that respects the spiritual and intuitive dimensions of existence, as critical sources of knowledge. I advance the ecofeminist rhetorical option of invitational rhetoric as a viable alternative to inadequacies in traditional persuasive rhetorical practices based primarily on rational beliefs and argue for the potency of emotion, intuition, and spiritual considerations in invitational rhetoric. I also extend the tenets of invitational rhetorical theory to include re-sourcement and enfoldment, which represent a deeper, more intimate wellspring of spiritually based practices that hold promise of transforming our experience of the world. Through my own travels and experiences shared autoethnographically, I show how ecofeminist invitational rhetoric offers an important suasory orientation for responding to the exigencies of environmental depletion inherent in our current residential energy use.

I am concerned with energy in the residential built environment for several reasons, all of which suggest that we must transform our mundane habits of energy use. Buildings — starting with material extraction, transportation, and processing — are prime energy consumers with constant demands for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, and telecommunications and mostly based on electrical power. Metropolis magazine (2003) calculates US energy consumption by sector: transportation 27 percent, industry 25 percent, and architecture 48 percent with homes consuming 21 percent of US energy on an annual basis. Altered perception and use of energy in the residential sector can significantly impact energy production, consumption, and environmental impact.

My impetus for this study is a strong dissatisfaction with traditional rhetorical strategies for failing to alter people’s perceptions and use of energy in the residential built environment in the technologically driven twenty-first century. My goal is to advance enhanced rhetorics for change that tap the creativity and resiliency of human beings in relation to issues of energy use and that empower the

lived passions of everyday experiences to serve as advocacy practices in the process of change at all levels of society.

My attention is focused on persuasive means because we already have much of the technological prowess to realise environmentally responsible energy use. Conservation of energy, increased efficiency of energy use, and employment of renewable energy are viable methods for fostering and assisting more environmentally and therefore socially responsible energy use. Accordingly, technology is not the primary obstacle in implementing radical changes in our perceptions of energy and subsequently, in practices and policies of production, conservation, and use. In 2005, President George W. Bush’s science adviser, John H. Marburger III, said, ‘Each generation…has a natural resistance to changing the way it produces energy–[which is] “one of the deepest and most pervasive aspects of the economy”’ (Smith 39). Our collective will to transform our attitudes and perceptions is the critical factor in overcoming our resistance to changing our energy production and consumption habits. While governmental mandates may force such changes, it is also necessary for appeals at the grassroots level — appeals that speak to our lives and in our hearts — to produce inner-driven transformation.

Traditional Rhetoric

Traditional Western rhetoric can be characterised as rhetor- privileged advocacy with a controlled agenda and hierarchical structure. This mode of persuasion is manifest in standard rhetorical practice in organisations and governments worldwide. However, there are at least three features of traditional rhetorical practice that weaken its claim to a universally applicable mode of advocacy. First, this rhetorical strategy is usually associated with spoken discourse based on formal, intentional principles of communication. Second, traditional rhetoric is focused on efforts at seeking truth and assumes this as an abstract, knowable entity that can somehow be verified and accorded power. Third, traditional rhetorical modes are characterised as occurring in the public sphere, a realm historically populated by white males with power and prestige. Such inadequacies in traditional rhetorical practice invite experimenting with alternative rhetorical forms in countering deficiencies and enhancing the rhetorical repertoire (Foss and Foss 1999).

Invitational Rhetoric

In the early 1990s, rhetorical theorists, Sonia Foss and Karen Foss, introduced invitational rhetoric as an alternative rhetorical option for enhancing rhetorical practice emphasising creating space for personal and social transformation through voluntary, co-constructed change. Resistance to change starts dissolving when parties involved in the communication realise that opportunities for learning, growth, and transformation are shared experiences for all participants, including the initiator(s) of the gathering.

Invitational rhetoric admits egalitarian, expanded forms of communication. Instead of seeking static, externalised truth, it posits myriad truths with multiple possibilities for acceptance and beliefs with understandings revealed through interactions of daily life in kaleidoscopic rather than linear fashion. Invitational rhetoric expands the public sphere of rhetoric into private realms, which include marginalised populations such as women, non-Caucasians, those with disabilities, and other minorities or under-represented groups. Such an alternative rhetorical option contravenes hierarchical domination as a communication stance and replaces it with creative power at grassroots levels (Foss, Foss, and Griffin 6). Five core assumptions animate invitational rhetoric.

The purpose of communication is gaining understanding. In invitational rhetoric, mutual understanding based on equality, respect, and self-determination is privileged over persuasion and control.

The rhetorical process empowers both speaker and audience. Initially, at least one person is prepared with more information, an opinion, a goal, or in some other way prior thought about the issue or situation. However, this is not the traditional rhetorical relationship in which the rhetor exercises dominance. Rather, the process of invitational rhetoric is experienced as partnership. ‘It is not power-over. Instead, the power you enact in invitational rhetoric is power-with, where power to create knowledge and make decisions is shared between the speaker and the audience. Power…employed by all members of the interaction…energises, facilitates, and enables all individuals involved to contribute and learn’ (Foss and Foss 11).

Diverse perspectives are viewed as resources. Widely varied experiences and perspectives are respected and honored as valuable resources. The understandings of participants are enhanced with exposure to diverse input while the partiality of individual perspectives is acknowledged.

Transformation is a self-chosen act. The invitation in invitational rhetoric is to explore transformative opportunities under non-threatening conditions. The choice to change is emergent and self-chosen, premised in mutual understanding across diverse perspectives gained in interaction with others.

All participants exercise a willingness to yield. The grip on being right and being in control stymies mutual understanding and transformation; instead, participants are open to each other and the possibilities for transformation through shared and mutually beneficial experiences.

Critical to the process of invitational rhetoric are the conditions that foster mutual understanding and transformation. Foss and Foss delineate four necessary conditions for inviting transformation to occur: safety, value, freedom, and openness. Safety is established when the initiating rhetor or rhetors provide safe haven for the thoughts and feelings of participants in the sharing process and all maintain this space for everyone. Value is the respect for the personhood of all members of the gathering and establishment of respectful interaction. Freedom, in the context of invitational rhetoric, means the opportunity for every person to engage in meaningful dialogue and to choose in an uncoerced manner from the options they have helped create. Openness involves sincere curiosity and purposefully seeking out varied perspectives and beliefs in an honest effort at generating co-created transformation.

Though these conditions seem relatively clear-cut and even mild in the realm of advocacy for transformation, they are engendered through constant negotiation within the group in creating an evolving vision of change. Creating invitational rhetorical venues by establishing these conditions is an intense, ever-shifting process and never a fixed destination.

Fostering this kinder, gentler mode of rhetorical practice is a different approach than standard models of argumentation. Adopted in

the context of a holistic, integrated, communitarian approach to life, the assumptions and conditions of invitational rhetoric resonate with the principles of an ecofeminist perspective. An ecofeminist invitational rhetoric offers an alternative option for environmental and energy-use advocacy, on which I seek to expand and enact.


Ecofeminism’s lack of rigid structure and limiting conceptual content means the theory often appears as ecofeminism(s) and the rhetoric it engenders is expressed as rhetoric(s). Nonetheless, I gloss these variations to offer a summary of the value of ecofeminism as a framework for invitational rhetoric. The expansiveness and inclusivity of ecofeminism is one of its greatest strengths as it celebrates creativity by breaking the bonds of eco-damaging practices, acts of domination and aggression, and the suppression of spirituality. Ecofeminism encourages critical evaluation of the impact of Western values and lifestyles, especially the rationalistic configuration of thought that has been evolving for five hundred years with ‘increasing centralisation, bureaucratisation, hierarchicalisation, and a more extensive commodification all of which have serious implications for the human condition [where] an atomised, competitive population is created while the interdependent community is ignored’ (Bullis and Glaser 53). Ecofeminism focuses on unveiling ideologies that espouse domination in any form and structuring alternative modes of thought and organisation that honor and sustain the interconnectedness of all life.

Grassroots, ecofeminist initiatives operating as cooperative, environmentally sensitive missions engender and embrace ‘a new sense of the universe. an exploration about being as well as doing’ [emphasis

in the original] (Egri 423-425). This being embraces emotional, intuitive, and spiritual facets of human experience. Spretnak declares, ‘It is our refusal to banish feelings of interrelatedness and caring from the theory and practice of ecofeminism that will save our efforts from calcifying into well-intentioned reformism, lacking the vitality and wholeness that our lives contain’ (Spretnak 13). The exuberance, vitality, creativity, and stance of ecofeminism offers a critical frame for developing alternative rhetorical practices. Building on this ecofeminist framework, I propose expanding the invitational rhetorical model developed by Foss and Foss by drawing

out the resonances of two ecofeminist concepts: re-sourcement and


Re-sourcement and Enfoldment

Ecofeminist scholar Sally Miller Gearhart abandons activism and traditional rhetorical practices as too manipulative and even violent in the intent to precipitate change and instead turns to more personal evocations of change. In what she calls re-sourcement, Gearhart theorises intuitive powers drawn on the wellsprings of pre-patriarchal, nature- based realms. Re-sourcement effects multifaceted energies of affirmation and connection. ‘Re-sourcement calls for the energy of receptivity, the energy of the listening ear, of the open meadow, of the expansive embrace. It calls for an energy generated from within the individual’s own territory and for an affirmation of that energy as the genesis of both individual and societal transformation’ (Gearhart ‘Womanpower’ 198).

Foss, Foss, and Griffin characterise re-sourcement as a rhetorical agency that draws on and politicises our deepest sources of life energy. ‘Re-sourcement involves the connecting of rhetors with their internal energy sources and their intentionality to share that energy….transforms the individual experience of cosmic energy into a political force; it politicises the psychic or intrapersonal energy to which the rhetor connects’ (qtd. in Foss, Foss, and Griffin 271).

Re-sourcement taps our connections to the life force of the cosmos and draws on this energy to form a matrix or community affecting a ‘“horizontal transcendence,” resulting in “a discernible sense of power beyond each…but not one above or bigger”’ [emphasis in original] (Gearhart as qtd. in Foss, Foss, and Griffin 271). This is a form of agency that moves beyond the autonomous individuality of the heroic rhetor in traditional rhetorical models and invokes the agency of community.

The first step in re-sourcement is awareness of and disengagement from the traditional rhetorical tendencies to conquest and conversion that promote polarisation in favor of rhetorical encounters that affirm positive, receptive energy. The second step is avoiding the often predictable messages or actions of traditional rhetorical stances and instead creating more invitational and responsive messages by drawing on private spaces for inspiration and energy with the aim of

fostering cooperation and collaboration instead of competition (Foss and Foss 44-48).

An example of re-sourcement as disengagement and creative response is given by Foss and Foss. A comic strip features a passionate video-game player who has spent a month trying to kill an enemy figure when his sister takes over, walks past the enemy, and proceeds to the next level of the game. The scene is perceived as confrontational by the brother; the sister’s solution is to ignore the agonistic scenario and move forward (Foss and Foss 44-45). Re-sourcement can create unaccustomed responses to situations of non-invitational communication by changing the dynamics within an ecofeminist framework (Gearhart ‘Another View’

41) and by making space for alternative strategies such as invitational rhetoric to develop.

Gearhart’s ecofeminist revision of rhetorical practices takes re- sourcement as an intrapersonal form of alternative rhetoric, that is, a mode of self-transformation that affects larger sociopolitical change through responsiveness and resonance rather than intention. She eschews the violence done to alternative views of traditional rhetorical strategies of persuasion and the manipulative potential of audience adaption by even the best-intentioned rhetor. Importantly, she makes a clear distinction between ‘wanting things to change and wanting to change things’ (qtd. in Foss, Foss and Griffin 276). While the first expresses a personal desire, the second implies violence because of its intention to alter others (Foss, Foss and Griffin 277). ‘Wanting things to change’ is an entirely different basis for conceptualising rhetorical practice and the role of the rhetor. Gearhart doesn’t give a name to this alternative rhetorical concept, but Foss, Foss, and Griffin coin the term enfoldment in characterising her idea. I offer enfoldment, along with re- sourcement, as a critical contribution to an expanded form of invitational rhetoric because these concepts radically alter the practices and aims of rhetorical practice. By adopting re-sourcement and enfoldment as the cornerstones of ecofeminist invitational rhetoric, our communicative practices and relationships become both expansive and intimate, inclusive and responsive, transformative and embracing. The following three premises of enfoldment, in particular, suggest the radical shifts entailed in this revision of rhetorical agency.

First, enfoldment entails a radically enveloping sense of trust. The rhetorical activity of enfoldment aims for a relationship of empathetic presence as it ‘takes the path of wrapping around the givee, of being available to her/him without insisting: our giving is a presence, an offering, a surrounding, a listening, a vulnerability, a trust…’ [emphasis in the original] (qtd. in Foss, Foss, and Griffin 278).

Second, enfoldment depends on a conducive environment within which trust and change can emerge. The assumption is that change only occurs if there is the basis within individuals themselves for such transformation and if an environment conducive to change is present. ’Communication can be a deliberate creation or co-creation of an atmosphere in which people or things, if and only if they have the internal basis for change, may change themselves; it can be a milieu in which those who are ready to be persuaded may persuade themselves, may choose to hear or choose to learn’ (Gearhart 198).

Gearhart (1979) posits that this communication environment forms a matrix within which self-change begins to grow and be nurtured. The focus is on atmosphere, listening, receiving, and a mode of being-in (the milieu) rather than being-against or the competitive mode of rhetorical antagonism (199-201).

Finally, if the conditions of trust and a conducive environment occur, then individual change can induce societal change. This movement from individual to collective, from local to societal, depends on an ontological assumption about the nature of the universe as ultimately a safe space with the presence of unconditional love (Foss, Foss, and Griffin 279), which helps counter reactions of fear of being misunderstood or negatively defined or appearing naïve or ridiculous.


To effect the intimate communication involved in invitational rhetoric requires establishing conditions where participants are willing to be vulnerable in exploring non-coercive individual and eventual social change. With this goal in mind, I use the methodology of autoethnography using narrative reflection and journaling, both adapted to and developed

within the project, to explore, compare, and contrast invitational rhetoric with traditional rhetorical practices.

This robust methodology relies not only on the traditional modes of observation (visual) and listening (auditory), but also includes hands- on (kinesthetic) participatory engagement of the physical/emotional self in the questing process. In the late 1970s, in the encounter with post- structuralism and post-modernism, ethnographers realised the radically interpretative nature of their knowledge claims provoking a turn to narrativity and a blurring of subject/object in ethnographic practice. One outcome was the development of autoethnography as a specific research methodology ‘connecting the personal to the cultural’ (Ellis and Bochner 739). Autoethnography is used as a methodological tool and even ‘more as a broad orientation toward scholarship than a specific procedure’ (Gingrich-Philbrook 298). Its essence is summarised by Ellis: ‘Autoethnographers examine relevant literature, interview other people, and weave their stories with those of others….[it] is not about fixing a problem…it’s about gaining insight into who you and others are and finding a way to be in the world that works for you’ (Ellis 296).

The strength of autoethnography, with its explication of the personal in terms of not just facts, but meanings and how the personal relates to a larger context, generates from layers of feeling and multi- sensory perceptions. The self, with its range of emotions and the physicality of the body, becomes a source of valid knowledge claims as the gaze shifts outward and inward and back again in multiple iterations of questing and ruminating (Ellis 2004). There is effort at creating evocative narrative that ‘refuses the impulse to abstract and explain, stressing the journey over the destination’ (Ellis and Bochner 44). Ambiguity is embraced with an understanding that the journey may well lead to wildly varied and even contradictory emotions, actions, and results.

I conducted autoethnographic study via narrative reflection and journaling acknowledging ‘writing is a way of seeing, that a lived experience is not only preserved but also is illuminated through writing about it’ (Emerson et al 63). Narrative reflection is delving into the past for supportive experiences and insights assembled and offered in the present. Memory is selective and the recapturing of the past is necessarily

partial, nuanced, possibly idealised, weighted for rhetorical effect, and in actuality ‘retrospective reinterpretation’ (Emerson et al 61). Narratives have agendas, however intentionally or unintentionally hidden, and these agendas are admittedly a form of persuasion, a directing of interpretation of the event. Nevertheless, narrative reflection enables me to reach into myself and share the emotional, sensual, intuitive essence of my experiences, as interpreted by me, in questing for manifestation and impact of invitational rhetorical options as ecofeminist practice in my home territory, the Keweenaw.

In India, my experiences are, by comparison, cursory because of temporal constraints, and results are again sifted through my sensory and emotional systems; however, on these occasions I was mindful of the analysis that was to follow. I shared with Richardson and St. Pierre the realisation that ‘writing as a method of inquiry [is] a viable way in which to learn about [ourselves] and [our] research topic’ (959). My journaling in India served as field notes recording time, place, encounter, and quantitative data, but also extended into exploration of emotional responses and plumbing spiritual depths. If I was to break the stranglehold of quantitative, rational-focused data, I was determined to explore the murky depths of emotional and intuitive response to conditions in which I was immersed. I share the view of Richardson and St. Pierre when they declare: ‘I know that when I move deeply into my writing, both my compassion for others and my actions on their behalf increase. My writing moves me into an independent space where I see more clearly the interrelationships between and among peoples worldwide’ (967).

My intentionally low-tech journaling and photography with a 35 mm camera became part of an ongoing, reflexive process and as I began to shape the India portion of the study. I came to the conclusion voiced by Goodall about ‘com[ing] to the place all writers whose life experiences stand outside of scientific explanation must eventually come to, which is the realisation that we don’t begin with knowledge, but come into it through writing. Writing is our way of translating that watchfulness, that inwardness, that solitude into words. The words themselves are our methods, our ways not so much of shaping knowing as of coming to it’ (472).

Autoethnograpy allowed me to plunge deeply into real-life physical activities and enterprises and share the visceral and emotional results of questing for a ‘feeling mind and thinking heart’ (Killingsworth and Palmer 45) with a softening of the polarity of rational and emotional responses. By choosing autoethnography, I declare my willingness to become intimately involved with the study of invitational rhetoric and share not only the results, but the personal journey through the process of discovery.

I turn now to real-world settings to explore the practical viability of an ecofeminist invitational rhetoric for transforming perceptions and habits of energy use in residential settings. I consider as well the potency of ecofeminist re-sourcement and enfoldment for transcending boundaries of race, language, and culture and for facilitating cross- cultural collaborations. More specifically, I turn to my own autoethnographic narratives as a ecofeminist rhetor in the Keweenaw and Kerala. These field sites provide distinct settings for study of alternative communications of advocacy.

The Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan

This field-site is in my home territory, the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) of Michigan. The Keweenaw Peninsula is a finger of land jutting north into the center of Lake Superior and is the northernmost part of Michigan at 47 degrees north latitude with an average annual snowfall of 240 inches. It is here my story begins a decade ago when my late husband, an architect, and I relocated to the U.P. where we built an award-winning passive solar, super-insulated home. We also assisted the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International in designing and building other energy efficient, award-winning homes with low-income families where our concern for energy use is summarised in a journal entry by my husband (1997):

My feeling is that low income people need energy efficient and functional housing more than others as they have fewer dollars to be squandered on this aspect of their lives. As energy costs increase, more of their limited income will be diverted to heating their houses – properly designed houses will minimise the impact of these increases. (Kindred)

I draw on my Keweenaw experiences to consider the effectiveness of invitational rhetorical practices in a Western context.

From the very inception of the idea of moving north, my husband and I manifested elemental components of ecofeminist commitments as we viewed life as an interconnected web and thought our personal efforts on behalf of the planet were part of the basis of change globally. We believed not only our words, but our actions were critical in the process of transformation: we designed and constructed prototypical energy efficient houses as a form of material advocacy for alternative discourses relating to the built environment. Participants had the opportunity of sensing the intrapersonal energy of re-sourcement coupled with enfoldment’s wanting things to change (Gearhart qtd. in Foss, Foss, and Griffin 276) in this communitarian house-building effort. I suggest that, from an invitational rhetoric perspective, we might think of the houses as co-rhetors in that they materially enact the caring and sharing ethos of ecofeminism, display the logic of their being, and draw response from visitors.

In some ways, my husband and I continued to be traditional rhetors seeking to persuade visitors to our home and audiences at professional conferences of the importance and possibility of energy efficient living even at such high latitude. However, we also fulfilled the communitarian conditions of Foss and Foss’s original model of invitational rhetoric by letting visitors explore our house in anonymous silence with responses generating from the realm of the sensorium, the part of the brain that receives and interprets input from the senses. This realm also fuels the internal energy of re-sourcement and enfoldment furthering the power of invitational rhetoric as alternative practice.

We basically established the conditions of invitational rhetoric in conceiving of our home as providing a sense of welcome for not only family and friends, but especially visitors unknown to us who shared interest in energy concerns. When my husband and I accepted the state grant for our house with obligations for effecting innovative design along with marketing and educational efforts, our intent was creating co-rhetors that individuals could experience as sensually as possible. As soon as the house was completed, we hosted the first Keweenaw Solar Home

Tour, along with open house events at several other energy efficient houses in the area and invited community members to visit and experience the ambiance and attributes of our passive solar home. We also arranged workshops and an art exhibit of the work of my cousin in British Columbia, whom we’d commissioned to carve our front porch post: a bear’s head on one side and solar motif on the other to further community discussion about connection with the natural world and alternative energy.

The post speaks powerfully to visitors and is a much commented upon feature as it manifests ecofeminist commitments to ecological holism and spiritual connection. The bear, a strong symbol in my cousin’s and my Finnish ancestry, was purposely positioned on the front of the post as a rhetorical reminder of the reverence we felt at claiming a part of the wooded landscape for our building. It was a physical connection with the natural world as was the sun motif carved on the opposite side of the post facing the house. These motifs are rhetorical reinforcements of acknowledging natural powers in relation to the artificiality of the building. Visitors are greeted by a bear, experience the southern panoramic exposure to the woods only after entering the house, and are again reminded of the house’s connection with and homage to the natural world when they depart and spy the sun motif.

My 1,920-square-foot home has been quietly speaking for nearly a decade. It is part of a traditional subdivision with conservatively designed homes lining the street and much of the original woods retained between houses and in yards. The street is to the north of the house, so the façade contains small windows as there is never direct sunlight and the customary two-car garage jutting out for wind protection and closer access to the street gives no hint of the sensory surprises inside.

As first-time visitors troop up the stairs to the residential level, there are gasps of amazement at the panoramic effect of the living room and the house embraces their imaginations. The deciduous trees wave a leafy hello in the greens of spring and summer, and the reds, yellows, and oranges of autumnal celebration. In snow season, the trunks and branches of the sheltering woods present silhouetted forms against the cloudy grey or clear blue of wintry skies and when the wind blows, there’s a slow sway of sensual dancing on display.

The openness of the living space and connection between the house and the world of nature outside is direct and inviting and all visitors are mesmerised by this surprising intimacy. As guests relax into the comfort of the sofa, they gaze outside with comments of rapture: ‘It’s so peaceful.’ ‘The woods are almost inside.’ ‘It’s so quiet.’ ‘It’s a treehouse.’ Soon visitors realise that just as the panoramic array brings them closer rapport with nature, the super-insulation of the house quiets the hum of traffic from outside.

With indoor air quality an issue in much of the built environment and respiratory conditions such as asthma increasing, visitors often mention the quality of freshness in the air. Their perception is correct as the heat recovery ventilation system provides a complete air exchange from the outside once every three hours during cold weather when the house is closed. Breathing eases and stuffiness subsides as people experience a sense of freedom with the physical and portent of spiritual healing attributes of the house. A sense of peace, wellbeing, and safety is offered by the home’s embrace in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic forms, which constitutes conditions of invitational rhetoric in the offering of an alternative living environment.

The context of the house from spring to fall offers another sense of freedom, which is also one of the primary conditions of invitational rhetoric. The property is naturescaped, which means no lawn in favor of encouragement of native and unregulated plants, i.e. weeds. Vegetation is knee-to-thigh-high in the sunny front yard and ground cover abounds in the leaf-shaded side and backyards. When downstate, urban, middle- school students visited the house one summer as part of Michigan Technological University’s Summer Youth Program, one student asked, ‘What’s with your lawn?’ I responded, ‘There’s no lawn, this is called naturescaping; what goes is whatever grows.’ The youngsters grinned at the audacity of the action as such a lush and wild environment is unusual in a city or subdivision, except in what are judged as neglected yards or unkempt vacant lots. The interlude constitutes re-sourcement in changing the dynamics and definition of yard care and encouraging an unaccustomed definition of landscaping.

During frequent house tours, I provide technical and anecdotal information, but it is the very house itself and surrounding environment

that silently speak the loudest as co-rhetor in advocating for alternative housing models that are smaller, more energy efficient, and mindful of their natural setting. The house is exemplifying enfoldment in ‘wrapping around the givee, of being available…without insisting’ (Gearhart qtd. in Foss, Foss, and Griffin 278).

In some ways, my husband and I continued to be traditional rhetors seeking to persuade visitors of the importance and possibility of energy efficient living even at high latitude. However, we also fulfilled the communitarian conditions of Foss and Foss’s original model of invitational rhetoric by letting visitors explore the house in anonymous silence if they so chose. In this way, we unwittingly established conditions of freedom and safety for them by not requiring response to the experience.

Obviously, my house and grounds are the genesis of my quest for alternative rhetorical options in relation to energy concerns and serves as a powerful rhetorical companion. The following is an autoethnographic interlude shared from sitting here in front of my computer. I share a vignette of the ambiance of my home in the Keweenaw through sensory details as an illustration of autoethnography’s visceral nature.

As I write on an early spring day here in the Upper Midwest, I’m in my spacious, south-facing studio in my passive solar home with windows overlooking our community’s shared woods. Oak, birch, and maple trees of varying trunk expanse are on the verge of leafing. Last year’s crunchy layer of snow- flattened leaves is coming to life again as spring breezes scatter them and reveal shoots of daffodils, crocuses, irises, and all the unruly and welcomed plants of my naturescaped yard. Sunlight streams through my low-e [e=emissivity] windows, which stretch from two feet above my dyed concrete floor slab to the ceiling. The floor serves as thermal mass to hold the trapped sunlight as radiant heat. Eighty percent of the south wall of this room is glass and at times I have to lower the cellular soft shades to block the brilliance so I can read what is on my computer screen.

Vihrea, my black cat with luminous green eyes [vihrea in Finnish means green] is resting on my bright red, hand-woven attempt at Navajo weaving covering a folded polar fleece blanket and she stretches a paw my direction before yawning. Pepper, her grey and white companion, has just scooted outside slipping through the weighed netting I hang in place of a screen door keeping bugs at bay, but letting my cats be mistresses of their comings and goings. The door has just slammed shut with the wind rising and promising a storm. I pause from my writing and use a grey, loaf-sised Lake Superior rock with a reddish stripe to hold the door ajar.

Mozart fills the studio with auditory sunshine. I’m sipping tea from my husband’s favorite mug bearing a grinning Goofy. Tazo Chai, with a strong scent of cloves, reminds me of last year in India. I have my feet propped up on a carved box from my Oregon days that serves as my footstool here in the studio. I wiggle my toes as my fingers tap away on my keyboard.

Here I’m arguing for the validity of my own lived experiences as knowledge(s) about positive conditions of the passive solar built environment. By sharing the visceral elements of the experience, I’m seeking to evoke the emotional connection and response I feel in the house in a way that invites others into its presence as an enfoldment presenting ‘an offering, a surrounding, a listening, a vulnerability, a trust” for the reader or visitor’ (Gearhart qtd. in Foss, Foss, and Griffin 278).

The traditional rhetorical appeal to logic would be citing the home’s energy performance: 2007 average monthly natural gas bills of

$58 for space heating and domestic hot water and $54 for electricity. However, this study claims that transformation relating to energy concerns can’t be addressed solely in conventional economic and quantitative terms; evocative description tapping into the sensory realms is vital for holistic representation of a plethora of responses to the energy challenge and opens the possibility for personal and cultural movement toward sustainable residential living environments – and these environments are not for just the financially able.

Even as my husband and I savored our new home and shared the experience of it with others while entertaining and conducting tours, we also extended our concern for low-income families by volunteering our services to the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. A year after our arrival, Copper Country Habitat for Humanity (CCHFH), which had already been building energy efficient homes, was using my husband’s designs and building smaller versions of our passive solar, super- insulated house with local families.

Since 1995, over twenty families have partnered with CCHFH and thirteen of the houses have been passive solar and super-insulated. These homes have to be snug and affordable, so they look much like factory-built modular housing at casual glance; however, the significant change is the sise of windows on the south side. Sunlight floods into these small homes and provides more than adequate daylighting in summer and equally bright rooms in winter as sunlight reflects off snow. The super-insulated 2″x 6″ walls and extra insulation above the ceiling and under the floor, plus careful caulking and gasketing, ensure a tight envelope with heating and hot water bills often a tenth of those in previous houses. Habitat housing partners and visitors to their homes are enthralled by not only the economic advantage of their new homes, but also the cheerful ambiance of these living spaces.

In a sense, the mission of Habitat for Humanity is rooted in the conditions of invitational rhetoric as low-income citisens are offered the opportunity of participating in what could prove the pivotal acceleration and stabilising of their standard of living. Citisens of the community are also offered the opportunity of investing time and effort in addressing poverty housing and the communication is based on ecofeminist principles of caring and cooperation. The value of the co-rhetor manifested in these Copper Country Habitat homes is their compact efficiency, welcoming of sunlight from the south, and a history of neighbors coming together to help build a home with a family in need. Participants have the opportunity of sensing the intrapersonal energy of re-sourcement coupled with enfoldment’s ‘wanting things to change’ (Gearhart qtd. in Foss, Foss, and Griffin 276) in this communitarian house-building effort.

In communities, the homes become beacons attesting to the possibility of invitational rhetoric’s conditions of freedom, safety, value,

and openness being manifest in both the practices of Habitat housing partners and volunteers. The homes attest to the reality that small can be beautiful and that perceptions of housing and energy use and more responsible citisenship can be realised even by citisens with modest incomes assisted by neighbors who are willing to ‘give a hand up and not just a hand out’ (a slogan of Habitat for Humanity International).

Ecofeminism asserts the interconnectedness of all life forms on Earth, which means stretching outward beyond conventional cultural zones of relative comfort. My working in the Western hemisphere was a fairly obvious choice in exploring invitational rhetoric as ecofeminist practice. My decision to examine the subject from an Eastern stance was a surprise – to me, first of all.

Kerala, India

Initially, I visited India casually as a tourist and there had an epiphany about expanding my study and returned as an ecofeminist researcher also observing and participating in rhetorical situations, traditional and invitational, from an Eastern venue. In my subsequent encounters with Indian academics, activists, and society at large, I was primarily audience and not the instigating rhetor, which engenders a different perspective on rhetorical encounters. What follows is not a travelogue or economic treatise, but rather commentary on Indian life and an attempt at gradually teasing out manifestations of invitational rhetoric, especially in relation to the built environment, as an alternative mode of communication and sharing my experience of giving myself over to the process of an alternative rhetorical mode. I was seeking to diminish the sense of other and foreign by letting myself be vulnerable and studying how invitational rhetoric operates in a different culture, noting how it affected me, and seeing if, indeed, we all ‘swim in the same interconnected global soup’ (Agar 21).

I’ll now pause again for an autoethnographic moment and share some of the insights and transformation occurring within me while in India, recorded in my ever-present journal. This entry, which I title Mumbai Interlude, shares a portion of my emotional journey:

I sit here on a dusty concrete bench in an equally dirt-covered park with well-used playground equipment in evidence.

Fungus, mold, and patched concrete form the mottled skins of undistinguished block-like apartment buildings [illustrated in Figure 16]. Plumbing pipes and electrical conduit run where needed in unmasked fashion on the exterior of buildings. Windows are barred or caged.

I’m here on an architectural mission of sorts. Why am I relatively unphased by the grimy poverty everywhere? The scratched and dented vehicles belching fetid fumes. The shabby little market stalls and shops stuffed with colorful, cheap wares. The decayed streets and sidewalks with leg-breaking, axle-busting potential. Color and cleanliness comes only in the artfully displayed fruit and vegetables and the saris and salwar kameezes of the fluid- flowing Indian women.

Yet I am happier here than America. Here there’s blatant poverty; in America, there’s the cankerous hidden poverty of loss of spirit, loss of sense of equity, and inability to judge enough in relation to endless abundance of material goods. I can bear poverty more than pretense.

Horn OK please is painted on all back bumpers of big vehicles and horns sound endlessly as drivers navigate as much by auditory acuity as by visual and kinesthetic prowess in the ever-changing, constant flow of traffic.

Sweat trickles down my face. Scent is less strong than anticipated

– perhaps diminished by the furnace of a fiery, desiccating sun or diminished olfactory ability of the sniffer.

This is perhaps a more honest world – one that admits lack, but gets on with the business of life. The ubiquitous cell phone confirms India’s leapfrogging over a century of communication evolving via line.

And now I rate the taste of Indian food with the cheeky confidence of one nourished by dal and masala, roti, and golabi. My appreciation for meat and potatoes was never great and now recedes even further into the realm of deadly dull.

Young boys cavort on the jungle gym in front of me. Except for the difference in language, they could be children anytime, anywhere. Other is fiction (a park in the Chunabhatti district of Mumbai, formerly Bombay, 27 December 2005).

In retrospect – and struggling to find manifestations of invitational rhetoric – I think I was experiencing the communitarian qualities of this alternative rhetorical form in the level of comfort I felt moving about and interacting with Indians. The characteristics of invitational rhetoric — freedom, value, safety, openness – relate to communication where the goal is a sense of comfort that allows for free- flowing exchange of ideas and feelings. The melting of otherness as I journeyed through India and deeper into my knowledge of and responses to the country was invitational rhetoric writ large with me purposefully stepping out of the role of the rhetor and absorbing India through my senses and allowing myself to be transformed and embrace a larger worldview.

My specific field-site was Kerala, a small state in the southwest corner of India bordering on the Arabian Sea. Over the past half century, Kerala has become a model for enlightened social policies achieving nearly 100 percent literacy, universal health care, and life expectancies that match those of the US.

The sensual experience of Kerala provided the foundation for my study. As I traveled about the state, I was treated to the constant moving picture of life in South India – a panorama of dwellings, shops, and citisens streaming along roadways. Women in saris and churidars (loose- fitting pants, long tunic top, and shawl draped over shoulders) in vibrant hues continued to be a delight. The constant tooting of horns was initially annoying to my Western ears, but was apparently customary in heavy traffic where drivers used both visual and auditory clues to navigate with clearances often measured in inches.

I learned to eat Indian style with my fingers a scoop and my thumb a thruster pushing rice and spicy sauces into my mouth. I savored the sensuous delight of this mode of eating as I’d mix paneer tikka masala in puffy steamed rice and green-tinged methi mutter malai with green peas intact into more rice and enjoy experiencing the texture and

temperature of my food with more than just my taste buds. Once I became adept, I found it a wonderfully tactile sensation that increased my intimacy with my food. Utensils became cold, hard, and very hi-tech by comparison.

I learned the custom of removing shoes at doorways and became comfortable walking barefoot on smooth, cool surfaces in homes and temples. I also became accustomed to feeling cool water flush my backside after toilet visits, which required squat-and-aim dexterity. New protocols and closer proximities heightened my awareness of greater human connectedness in India. Dwellings, shops, modes of transportation – all were more compact and with less in the way of walls, glass, and other partitioning devices. I welcomed the increased physical and emotional contact.

The focus of my field study was on the advocacy practices of the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD). This innovative center is engrossed in effecting social architecture aimed at creating decent, sustainable housing and communities for all while incorporating indigenous design elements, construction strategies, local materials, and appropriate modern technology.

Most of my time was spent studying the effects of the philosophy and technologies of British-born master architect, Laurie Baker, co-founder of COSTFORD. I was over three months in Nalanchira, a rural setting for The Hamlet, the Baker home and office compound, which forms the roots of Baker’s practice as a cluster of signature homemade brick buildings added gradually when dictated by inclination or necessity. Some are rectangular, some are round, and all are nestled on a steep hillside covered with prolific tropical vegetation. The country burnt brick buildings in the compound were powerful co-rhetors of the philosophical, design, construction, and communicative strategies of COSTFORD and the Quaker/Gandhian philosophy of Baker.

I felt the manifestations of invitational rhetoric in the conditions of architectural exposition I experienced in the buildings rooted in the hillside. The small compound with luxurious vegetation and covered porticos for quiet meetings invited residents and visitors alike to engage in the conditions of invitational rhetoric. The very richness and unique

qualities of the setting allowed members of COSTFORD and me the freedom and safety in an atmosphere of openness to share our values about the residential built environment in both India and America. Although we spoke, the rhetorical power of The Hamlet and other COSTFORD buildings surpassed our words by their very existence as co-rhetors.

Although Baker died in 2007 at the age of ninety, he created a storied sixty-year history in India and a model of advocacy for sustainable building practices and societal enhancement that is now being carried on by Indian architectural partners. Spending time with COSTFORD members and touring buildings, I was relaxing and benefiting as a participant in the invitational rhetorical process. COSTFORD architecture was an invitation to participate in a vision of not only energy efficient, sustainable buildings, but promise of healthier communities. Increasingly, I melted into the communicative process as supporter rather than my more practiced role as instigator. I encouraged myself to let things happen instead of always struggling to make them happen and thereby continued operating from the place of Gearhart’s re-sourcement and enfoldment and opened myself to the experience of being transformed in the presence of similarly passionate rhetors in India. This was an act of Gearhart’s re- sourcement: ‘“going to a new place” for energy and inspiration’ (qtd. in Foss and Foss 44), with the place being both India and new space within myself for more spiritual, emotional, and intuitive response. Invitational rhetoric represents a humanising of rhetorical practice with people-to- people communication and community building. Its scale and scope help counter the omnivorous outlook and juggernaut pace of globalisation focused on economic gain.

Discussion and Summary

It has been enlightening and liberating reading ecofeminist theory and observing and incorporating elements of ecological awareness, feminist communication practices, and heightened response to spiritual elements involved in life’s challenges. Ecofeminism reinforces another power base: the power from within, celebrated in re-sourcement and enfoldment. It is this power that helps sustain the spirit in challenging traditional rhetorical practices and hierarchical leadership, which are

extremely powerful forces seemingly hard-wired into humankind’s communication practices. I continue to be reminded that attempts at altering perceptions or patterns of use are essentially rhetor-invoked and creating alternative strategies with greater options for individual input is consistently difficult. Even the act of trying to empower others constitutes a persuasive action in rather standard rhetorical fashion. The ambiguities and challenges of fostering ecofeminist invitational rhetorical practices are ever-present.

The limitations of such practices seem to manifest themselves in the often extended temporal mode and non-aggressive approach because it takes time to gather and converse and build a foundation for cooperative, collaborative efforts. In a world dedicated to the merits of speed and efficiency, the time required to effect group cohesion and consensus is often maddeningly slow to those whose pace of activity and mode of operation is accustomed to hyper-drive. However, this seeming limitation or weakness of ecofeminist-inspired invitational rhetoric might also be its greatest strength as individuals are offered the opportunity of pausing and assessing the pace, premises, and manifestations of traditional rhetorical structures and deciding about different modes of response, including the more privately created realms of re-sourcement and enfoldment.

I realise the immense relief I feel when I, often in the position of traditional rhetor, am willing and able to lead from the side. I sense more merit and ability to incite change in allowing myself to experience and be experienced as vulnerable than in attempting the traditional rhetorical stance at the apex of the traditional rhetorical pyramid. As I privately plumb the realm of Gearheart’s re-sourcement and enfoldment, I experience the inherent thrill – and chill – of the dynamics of transformative possibilities in myself and the world.


I privately determined during the course of this ecofeminist odyssey that I would craft a blueprint for my future life in relation to energy activism. I am now living an Indo-American venture serving two- thirds of the year as a voluntary independent consultant with COSTFORD offering informal professional operational and communications input

in the field of general architectural practice to extend the COSTFORD model globally. I have also commissioned COSTFORD to design and construct a prototypical energy efficient house to serve as my Indian home base and part of my advocacy model, and am sharing this home with an Indian family of friends spanning three generations. I am continuing to lead from the side in efforts at establishing an educational center sustaining Laurie Baker’s philosophy and technologies at the site of his last project, a small rural retreat in Kerala and am also participating in the South Asia Regional Initiative on Energy’s fledgling “Women in Energy” workshop series for eight countries in South Asia.

In America, I continue making my house available for home tours and support Copper Country Habitat for Humanity. This next weekend I’ll help hang drywall on our latest house, our affiliate’s fourteenth, which will be done by winter. I have also been approached to assist in making our house plans available internationally for high latitude living conditions. Maybe our grassroots efforts can go global.

I am learning Gearhart’s lesson of enfoldment in sensing the difference between ‘wanting things to change and wanting to change things’ (qtd. in Foss, Foss, and Griffin 276) and am choosing to simply walk the talk and follow the paths that are revealed. While concluding this essay, over breakfast I read the following passage from a Philadelphia artist and activist, Lily Yeh: ‘Don’t go in thinking you can solve someone’s problem, that’s arrogance….Go in and receive the experience’ (Scher). I now open myself to embracing a communitarian future of embodied ecofeminist-based invitational advocacy strengthened with the power from within via re-sourcement and enfoldment for assisting in creating an energy renaissance globally.


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MERLE KINDRED. Is Independent Consultant at the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development, Kerala.

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Is Independent Consultant at the Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development, Kerala.

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