Dr. Melba Velez Ortiz, Grand Valley State University School of Communications professor, contributed to the American Society for the History of Rhetoric (ASHR). The ASHR offers rhetoricians multiple points of entry and enthusiasm. The common purpose of this particular society is the study of rhetoric as a historically situated cultural practice.
Her article “Medu Nefer (Ancient Egyptian) Rhetoric” was published on October 8, 2020, as part of the ASHR’s Teaching the History of Rhetoric series. The article makes a case for why Ancient Egyptians as African people had already developed a distinct rhetoric style two thousand years before the Greeks.
“I aim to add my voice to those who seek to bring about some justice to the intellectual history of communication studies by finally acknowledging ancient non-western canons of rhetoric ignored or concealed until now,” Dr.Velez Ortiz said.
Dr.Velez Ortiz uses this same approach when teaching communication ethics at GVSU. Rather than starting with the Greeks’ contribution to the study of ethics and rhetoric, she begins with Ancient Africa. She believes there is quite a bit of cross-pollination between ancient cultures regarding the definition of excellent speech.
Dr.Velez Ortiz believes that this article is an essential read for GVSU students and Communications scholars because “successful leaders in the communication field communicate ethically and understand the importance of ethics in the contexts of human history.”
The inspiration for “Medu Nefer (Ancient Egyptian) Rhetoric” is the references made by ancient Greek scholars and historians to the heavy influence of ancient African people to Greek philosophical, political, and communication theory in the form of footnotes and passing references. After observing this, Dr.Velez Ortiz saw it as her job to remind us of something ancient Greeks acknowledged without shame or hesitation.
“The research that is done in this area, including mine, helps to dispel myths about the lack of contributions of ancient African people to our intellectual history and morality,” Dr.Velez Ortiz said.
This article’s research began with a book she published with Routledge press titled “Maatian Ethics in a Communication Context.” She plans to continue to develop these ideas in other articles and books.
“Dr. John Henrik Clarke once said, “All history is a current event;” I agree with this view and hope eventually, the field of communications revises its curriculum to reflect these ancient African foundational approaches to the practice and study of communication,” Dr.Velez Ortiz said. “If we started to take ancient African thought and communication seriously, future undergraduate students would both take speech classes and listening courses that honor the more ancient intellectual tradition.”