“I Hear Its Chirping Coming From My Throat”: Activism, Archives, and the Long Road Ahead
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My initial entry in the field of composition and rhetoric was to explore the history of the “Students Right To Their Own Language,” an effort to link classroom practice, institutional resources, and broad calls for social change in support of non-traditional students. As a result of this work, I have become increasingly interested in the ways in which the academy defines and relates to its surrounding communities, exploring what it might mean to draw the resources of the university into alignment with community-defined needs. It was this work that lead to the creation of New City Community Press (newcitycommunitypress.com) in Philadelphia, an effort to use community publishing linked to grassroots activism – a model which was deeply indebted to the practices of the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers, located in the United Kingdom. These scholarly efforts which have been expanded through my work at Syracuse University, resulting in explorations of how service-learning and community partnership work provides a rich model to understand the nature and goals of political and social movement rhetoric. More broadly, my community and publishing work has led me to study the connections between political action, political theory, and “politics” within the field of Composition and Rhetoric.
Given this combination of historical research and on-going community practices, the central themes in my work explore how the field has authorized a particular type of “community” and “non-traditional” student as one means to support a disciplinary identity. As a writer and publisher, I try to produce work which asks us to consider what types of individuals, groups, knowledges, and literacy practices and partnerships are left behind within the narrow confines of our field. In this sense, I am endlessly exploring how my scholarly identity supports or diminishes the possibility of writing serving larger social aims.
My current research involves the ways in which community partnership work has been embedded within a pragmatism that fails to address the educational and political needs of the resource-poor communities. To this end, I have been helping to organize a community advocacy group in Syracuse, linked to community publishing efforts, as a way to explore the ways in which writing/narrative can foster direct grassroots activism and change. I am currently writing a series of articles on this work.