We are really excited to share this issue that explores diversity, inclusion, and difference in rich ways, from an analysis of how current translingual theory is an insufficient response to monolingual attitudes toward language, to case studies of the literacy practices of African American participants in coding bootcamps, to the literacy practice of reading and throwing “shade” embodied by the literacy narratives of Black queer attendees of Black Gay Pride DC. After previewing the important pieces in this issue, we close by updating readers about ways that issues of diversity and inclusion have played out on a systemic level in terms of our own academic publishing practices. Specifically, we outline efforts we have undertaken to practice anti-racist principles in publishing LiCS. Finally, with this issue, we would like to recognize and welcome Helen Sandoval as our newly appointed Book Review Editor (she previously served as Assistant Editor) and to thank our outgoing Book Review Editor, Iris Ruiz, for her skillful leadership.
Bruce Horner and Sara P. Alvarez’s “Defining Translinguality” is a theoretical exploration of responses and “confusions” attendant to the “epistemological break” signaled by the concept of translinguality. By carefully delineating the meanings that have accrued to the term “translinguality” and other terms frequently associated or substituted for it, such as “plurilinguality,” “code-meshing,” and “translanguaging,” Horner and Alvarez offer a compelling argument that these concepts continue—ironically—to reinforce a monolingualist paradigm. This is accomplished by forefronting the “ideal of clear and untroubled communication” (with “code-switching/meshing and translanguaging” as “a means of achieving that ideal”) and by “reinforcing the reification of language practices in readily identifiable and discrete ‘codes’ available for mixing or meshing.” They argue that translinguality, as they define it, is the concept most able to be used to circumvent this monolingualist paradigm “in terms of language ontology, language user agency, and the kinds of social relations advanced.” For Horner and Alvarez, “a translingual orientation” can act as the “concrete labor in sustaining and revising language, and hence can redefine the social relations between and among language users and language.” Ultimately, they conclude that, “[B]y recognizing the role of language users’ concrete labor in sustaining and revising language, a translingual orientation acknowledges opacity and friction as normal components of social interactions rather than as problems to be eradicated or condemned.”
In “Between Learning and Opportunity: A Study of African American Coders’ Networks of Support,” Antonio Byrd contributes to recent conversations about coding literacy, writing ecologies, and critical race theory by examining the material conditions that shape learning in a code bootcamp designed for low-income adults. Drawing on ego network analysis and prior scholarship asking writers to map their literacy practices, Byrd asks participants to draw maps of support—“the people and objects in their lives that helped them keep learning coding literacy despite racial disparities”—and interviews each participant about the details provided in their maps. From this data, Byrd finds that participants develop processes and “gather resources that help them access coding literacy as a resistant response to inequality in their lives.” Byrd’s research, and the three case studies he presents in his article, opens a path for future research on literacy across the lifespan and provides a deeper understanding of how white supremacist ideology surfaces in and impacts literacy policy development and learning.
In “Shade: Literacy Narratives at Black Gay Pride,” Seth Davis suggests that shade, the complex practice of delivering or reading subtle insults as a part of conversation among Black queer people, is a situated “fierce literacy” practice, a type of engagement that involves “riff[ing] off static ideas of language and literacy both to communicate with and to create community amongst friends.” Building on the work of Eric Darnell Pritchard, who argues for “definitions of literacy [to be] complicated, rhetorical,and embodied,” Davis shares and discusses a set of video interviews he conducted at the Washington DC Black Gay Pride festival. His subjects offer varying nuanced definitions of shade, noting its verbal and nonverbal dimensions and suggesting that reading shade and throwing shade are moves by which Black queer people not only reinforce their relationships with one another but also “have figured out ways to maintain, mix, and mesh . . . in order to survive in hostile spaces.” Davis concludes that shade “is a literacy of kinship and survival” that has roots in Black oral traditions as well as in queer cultural practices, calling for more attention to be paid to literacy practices in Black queer friendship groups, in part to complicate and extend our understanding of fierce literacy practices.
The book reviews in this issue exemplify a range of relevant and timely scholarship in composition studies. These reviews attempt to extend our understanding of important concerns in today’s world—concerns that reflect both historical and modern significance. First, Elisa Findlay reviews Evan Watkins’s Literacy Work in the Reign of Human Capital. Noting that this “work aligns with other literacy studies scholarship concerned with the role and value of literacy skills in our modern economy,” Findlay provides helpful and necessary context for understanding why Watkins’s book is an important addition to past and current scholarship in the field. Furthermore, she suggests that “Watkins’s extensive and interdisciplinary synthesis of scholarship … provides a useful starting point for researchers” in the field.
In his review of Candance Epps-Robertson’s Resisting Brown: Race, Literacy, and Citizenship in the Heart of Virginia,Ryan Skinnell provides a critical look into this timely contribution to the field. He notes that Epps-Robertson “invites [us] to think carefully about how education, literacy, and citizenship are connected to social and racial justice, freedom and critical engagement, as well as to systemic oppression, racism, and injustice.” Ultimately, Skinnell highlights the historical and cultural significance of Epps-Robertson’s work, situating it in the context of today’s American education system, and specifically in literacy education.
With this issue, we would like to report on the efforts LiCS has undertaken to renew and deepen our commitment to anti-racist publishing practices. Three scholars in particular have helped shape our thinking, and we are grateful to them for their efforts and generosity: Carmen Kynard, Eric Darnell Pritchard, and Iris Ruiz. The founding editors wanted to build a journal ethos that opened new space for inquiry and exchange and for emerging and underrepresented voices. We decided our editing philosophy would be grounded in mentorship and transparency. Essentially, we wanted to create the humane publishing experience we ourselves wished to experience as writers. We have been trying to enact the values we hold, with varying degrees of success and failure. Below are the activities we’ve undertaken.
1. Diversifying the Journal’s Editors and Editorial Board. Prompted by Carmen Kynard’s “Teaching While Black: Witnessing Disciplinary Whiteness, Racial Violence, and Race-Management” (LiCS 7.1), in February 2018 we conducted a demographic survey of our editors, reviewers, and editorial board, which helped us identify the need to diversify our editorial board and editorial team. We created and implemented a procedure to stagger terms of editorial board members and recruit new board members; the new board was finalized in January 2019, with additional updates made in June 2019.
In fall 2018, we developed a plan to replace the current six-person Editorial Team. This November we implemented the plan by issuing a call for individuals and teams of editors to rotate into LiCS leadership. The application, available on our announcements page, specifically asks applicants to demonstrate their commitment to anti-racist work in their institutions, their communities, and/or their published scholarship.
In 2017-2018, we created book review editor positions to ameliorate the haphazard way we were publishing book reviews and to further diversify participation in the journal’s leadership. Prior to these positions, most of the books that were reviewed were those for which we received unsolicited manuscripts. We intentionally prioritized publicizing the call for the book review editor positions among networks for scholars of color.
2. Revising Our Review Processes. In response to the important conversations on the WPA listserv and elsewhere about citation politics, we drafted a statement November 2018 requesting potential authors to consult and cite relevant work by underrepresented scholars; we reached out to the SIGs and CCCC Caucuses to share the draft statement and request bibliographies to post in support of potential authors in December 2018. Our former book editor Iris Ruiz shared Cruz Medina’s Latinx bibliography with us as a model, and Dr. Medina gave us permission to post that bibliography to the LiCS website this summer; Dr. Ruiz also provided important feedback that shaped the policy statement. We are grateful to both Dr. Ruiz and Dr. Medina. Efforts are underway to publish or link to additional annotated bibliographies to serve as resources for scholars in our field. We have revised our review form so that readers offer authors feedback on the diversity of scholarship cited in the submission.
In spring 2019, we developed and implemented new procedures for vetting special issue proposals through the Editorial Board to ensure that these proposals were carefully reviewed by scholars representing a range of perspectives.
In response to questions raised by Eric Darnell Pritchard, in fall 2019 we started the IRB process for a self-study in which we ask authors we’ve published to complete a demographic survey. We also plan to gather statistics about peer review and analyze reviewer reports on rejected manuscripts to identify what issues led a manuscript to be rejected and to pinpoint how we could work more effectively in moving authors toward publication.
3. Diversifying the Journal’s Reviewers. In fall 2019 we implemented staggered terms of service for reviewers. We solicited suggestions for new reviewers from the Editorial Board in August 2019, asking the board to intentionally seek to diversify the pool in every way possible, from making sure that diverse backgrounds and perspectives are represented to ensuring we have expanded areas of specialization. We will be inviting new reviewers in the coming months.
4. Reviewing the Journal’s Communication Practices. Prompted by Dr. Ruiz and Dr. Pritchard, the Editorial Board created an Ad Hoc Subcommittee to create guidelines/policies about fostering inclusive meeting practices, working culture, and editorial/board structures. We hope both to examine and recommend local practices that will help us be more inclusive (in terms of access, roles, making meetings more welcoming, supporting grad students, addressing the risks of editing) and sustain systemic anti-racist practices that impact academic publishing on a larger scale (self-studies, efforts to partner with other journals in the field). We endeavor to continue this work as we bring on new editorial team members with diverse backgrounds, institutional homes, and intellectual and methodological commitments.
Several issues and questions guide the ongoing work described above, and we would like to share them here, perhaps to help others in pursuing substantive and equitable answers:
- How can we ensure representation of scholars of color, trans* scholars, feminist scholars, etc.?
- How can we be accountable to all communities, their histories, and their labor?
- How can we establish and promote citation practices that foster deep engagement and not “rhetorical tokenism”?
- How can we implement communication practices that help us to be transparent and responsive at every stage of our work?
- How can we as a journal and as individuals do the above work consistently without assuming or relying on people of color to do the work of inclusivity?
- How can we adopt specific working practices that ensure that our meetings are inclusive of and welcoming to all, including by increasing awareness and sensitivity in all of our interactions to ensure that microaggresions are not committed?
- How can we use our specific work on anti-racist and inclusive publishing practices to prompt or continue field-wide change?
These questions build on earlier efforts we have made in terms of LiCS’s publishing practices. Although we have a history of mentoring early-career authors to revise manuscripts suitable for review and/or extensive revision, seeking out literacy-related presentations by underrepresented scholars at CCCC and other conferences to invite them to submit work to the journal, and beginning conversations with our peer journals about the racist structures which underwrite academic publishing, there is more work to be done.
These are necessary, but not sufficient, steps to diversify participation with and publication in LiCS. In all of these efforts, we welcome feedback, resources, or partnership with our readers, our authors, and our larger academic community.