Editors' Introduction

Editors' Introduction

by Brenda Glascott, Justin Lewis, Tara Lockhart, Holly Middleton, Juli Parrish, and Chris Warnick

This issue marks the start of LiCS’ fifth year. The first issue of the journal was built around a symposium featuring scholars who have served on the Editorial Board over these five years. In that first symposium, Allan Luke posed the following question: in a time of transformational change for Composition, “Can the field keep up?” Our answer has been to make room and provide a platform specifically for scholars who want to move Composition forward through an attention to the problems of literacy. The articles, interview, book review, and symposium essays in this issue raise questions we find LiCS continuously revisits: How can we better understand the diverse literacy practices that inform and shape specific populations? How is the foundational concept of sponsorship remade by pedagogical innovations and increased recognition of how literacy practices migrate? How do we move forward in a political and cultural climate that does not value the questions we raise? What will it now mean to “keep up”?

Kaia Simon’s “Daughters Learning from Fathers: Migrant Family Literacies that Mediate Borders” contributes to our understanding of how literacy practices are sponsored within Hmong families in the US. Opportunities for girls and women to access education and enter the professional workforce prompt the fathers in this study to revise traditional Hmong patriarchal constraints on daughters’ literacy acquisition. Simon’s ethnographic study, based on twenty-three Hmong women who came to the US as children, hinges on participants’ descriptions of literacy events in their family contexts. She finds that Hmong fathers were central actors in these literacy events and that the different types of opportunities for literate women in the US led the families to revise Hmong gender roles.

In “Reciprocal Literacy Sponsorship in Service-Learning Settings,” Kara Poe Alexander presents results from a semester-long assignment asking students in an upper-level professional writing course to partner with local small businesses to develop a professional writing identity. Analyzing students’ reflections, written products, oral presentations, and anecdotal data from students’ clients, Alexander illustrates how each group sponsored one another’s rhetorical, technological, social, ethical, and critical literacies. Alexander’s study has important implications for literacy learning and research. By presenting evidence of students sponsoring clients’ literacies, Alexander complicates prior research on literacy sponsorship that, while recognizing the complexity of literacy sponsorship, “forwards a view of literacy sponsorship as a one-way, top-down endeavor where the ‘sponsored’ and the ‘sponsor’ retain fairly fixed roles” (22). Her research also demonstrates service-learning courses’ potential for promoting reciprocal literacy sponsorship. As she argues, “by providing an important avenue to build relationships that can enable the reciprocity and exchange of literacy sponsorship, service-learning courses invite students and clients to seize literacy resources to meet their own goals, motivations, and needs” (27).

As the third feature of this issue, we are delighted to reprint an interview with Harvey J. Graff and Brian Street. The interview was conducted by Ana Maria de Oliveira Galvão, Maria Cristina Soares de Gouvêa, and Ana Maria Rabelo Gomes in Brazil in August 2014, during the V International Colloquium for Literacy and Written Culture. During the interview, Graff and Street discuss the origins of their decisions to study literacy, the influences and experiences that have shaped their work, and the field’s interdisciplinarity. Just two points of emphasis in their wide-ranging discussion are the importance of history and of understanding how epistemology gives rise to method. First published in Educação em Revista, an academic journal published by the Faculdade de Educação at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil, the interview is reprinted here with permission.

Phillip Goodwin’s review essay, “Around the Bend,” synthesizes Frank Farmer’s After the Public Turn: Composition, Counterpublics, and the Citizen Bricouleur, Amy Wan’s Producing Good Citizens: Literacy Training in Anxious Times, and Jonathan Alexander and Jacqueline Rhodes’ On Multimodality: New Media in Composition Studies to offer a glimpse “around our current turn” toward the social in Composition Studies. In Goodwin’s reading, all three monographs “challenge the perceived efficacy of our public engagement and the relevance of the institutional literacies we teach in public life” (74); further, these works foreground multimodality in the work of studying and teaching publics, broadly defined.

We close this issue with another symposium. To mark our fifth anniversary, we invited the Editorial Board and Editorial Associates to reflect on the last five years of the journal and to look ahead. Like the inaugural symposium, this one too is inflected by a question posed by Allan Luke: “considering the current political situation and events . . . and the situation on campuses, the attacks and backlash against minorities, issues of hate speech/academic freedom, and the place/role of literacies, writing and education . . . What is to be done?” Rebekah Buchanan situates her own response by first recounting a debate in NCTE’s Connected Communities on the extent to which a classroom can or should be politicized; Buchanan offers examples of how she is negotiating and revealing the politics of schooling and community writing with pedagogies informed by her New Literacy Studies scholarship. Christian Smith proposes that now more than ever, rhetorical listening and mindful practice offer strategies for our time, both in our classrooms and communities.

In the piece that closes this issue Steve Parks reflects on how the election and its aftermath shifted how he views his partnerships, most notably with Syrians for Truth and Justice, when “it too often felt like much of the progressive inclusive rhetoric that has marked work in literacy in composition had been for naught” (88). In his meditation on the question, “What is to be done?” Parks turns to the primacy of quotidian acts: documenting lived experience, building broken alliances one by one, and preserving facts as the most necessary avenues to achieving justice.

It is our hope that readers submit symposium essays in response to this call and to the pieces published here. We return to the quotidian work of making room.


Brenda Glascott, California State University, San Bernardino
Justin Lewis, Virginia Tech
Tara Lockhart, San Francisco State University
Holly Middleton, High Point University
Juli Parrish, University of Denver
Chris Warnick, College of Charleston


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