Literacy Contact Zones: A Framework for Research

Nora McCook


Contact zones are useful for literacy research because they foreground the contexts that recent decades of literacy studies scholarship have deemed essential: history, orality, language difference, and power, with an emphasis on interaction rather than divides. While literacy studies has demonstrated the importance of these contexts for understanding literacy, there is not yet a model that organizes them into a framework for research. Compositionists have paved the way for understanding contact zones not just as spaces to observe and describe but also as spaces in which challenging learning and instruction can occur. In a contact zone, different languages interact through writing, reading, speech, and other expressions because of historical circumstances and with greater and lesser privileges afforded to them on account of these historical circumstances. A literacy contact zone approach calls for researchers to account for the oral, linguistic, historical, and differential power contexts for the literacy phenomenon under investigation. 


contact zones; literacy research; conceptual framework; contexts

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