Charney: “From Logocentrism to Ethocentrism”

Charney, Davida. “From Logocentrism to Ethocentrism: Historicizing Critiques of Writing Research.” Technical Communication Quarterly. 7.1 (1998): 9-32. Web.

Charney’s companion essay to “Empiricism is not a Four-Letter Word” continues a spirited defense of empirical/objective research methods, methods which are, she argues, often essentialized into categories that crumble upon close scrutiny.

Charney explores the history of empirical approaches which she begins with Braddock et al. From the 1960s through the early 1980s, empirical approaches were encouraged (despite relatively few studies) and critiqued. Interest grew in process and, concomitantly, rhetorical theory. Empirical methods employed during this time included:

  • textual analysis
  • rhetorical criticism
  • think-aloud protocols
  • ethnography
  • quasi-experiments

Charney locates a critical turn toward hermeneutics in Barton’s review of CCCC Chair’s addresses. Charney traces a lineage of empirical critiques through the 1980s and postulates Romanticism as the underlying impetus for the humanist study of composition. The critique of empiricism reaches its zenith through the 1990s, spurred strongly by Berlin and social constructionism.

Conclusion: “It seems that the stronger the relativism one adopts with respect to claims about the world (i.e., the more one rejects logocentrism), the more one may be inclined to essentialism about the character of people making claims about the world. In other words, the more one flees logocentrism, the more one may be com- pelled towards an equally unsatisfactory ethocentrism” (28).

“Neither Romanticism nor Classicism is fundamentally true or false, moral or immoral. Both outlooks are legitimate humanist perspectives—and both play a role in scientific discovery. Both may be and have been used to foster political and social justice. Both are capable of misappropriation by ideological tyrants. It is time to stop conflating methods and values. It is time to admit that while facts and methods may never be represented neutrally, the values associated with them are not preordained” (28).


empiricism, humanism, history, rhetoric, composition, logocentrism, ethnocentrism

Bibliographic Notes

Words: ~9,200

Pages: 22

References: 61

Affiliation: Texas-Austin

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