Editors' Introduction

by Kara Poe Alexander, Brenda Glascott, Tara Lockhart, Juli Parrish, Helen Sandoval & Chris Warnick

At this moment, we mourn George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless other Black men and women who have been victims of police brutality and violence perpetuated by white-supremacist ideologies, and a history of systemic racism in our nation. The themes of activism and action against systemic racism and disenfranchisement run deeply throughout this issue; we hope they will buoy readers, provide sustenance and salve, and engage us in the continued work ahead. For our part, we hold ourselves accountable to continuing anti-racist work. There is still much to do.


This issue of LiCS offers three different articles that explore the importance of position—position as identity, as the accumulation of lived experiences, and as points of access. While Jamilia M. Kareem, Clay Walker, and Matthew Overstreet explore a wide range of subjects, from Black-American-built educational institutions to César Chávez’s literacy genealogy to digital media literacy pedagogy, an attention to where and how one engages with literacy activities threads across these pieces. This same thread can be found in the three book reviews where Sarah Moon considers the various rhetorical and feminist lenses in Melissa Goldthwaite’s edited collection Food, Feminisms, Rhetorics (2017), Keira Hambrick discusses education and placemaking in Brice Nordquist’s Literacy and Mobility (2017), and Nick Marsellas explores helping students understand discursive power differently through his review of Alex Kapitan’s The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People (2017) and Race Forward’s Race Reporting Guide (2015).

The first article in this issue addresses the importance of Black voices in transforming our understanding of our own history. Borrowing the framework of a “unique voice of color” from Delgado and Stefancic, Jamila M. Kareem’s “Independent Black Institutions and Rhetorical Literacy Education: A Unique Voice of Color” speaks to this current historical moment by considering the influence of four Black-American-built forms of institutionalized education: Citizenship Schools and education programs, Freedom Schools, Black Panther Liberation Schools, and pre-college independent Black institutions. Kareem offers a corrective to current histories and constructions in the field by describing the significance of these vastly understudied yet influential institutions. Kareem specifically examines the curricular, pedagogical, and instructional practices of these institutions and offers “counter-stories” to the historical narratives about Black Americans typically gentrified by White and European-American perspectives. By highlighting these institutions—and the Black voices that created them—Kareem argues that these models and the critical race theories on which they are based should be integrated into today’s college literacy and writing education programs to help reduce ignorance of systemic racism. In adopting Afrocentric literacy education programs, literacy and writing education “can create race- and community-conscious writing curriculum, pedagogy, and instructional practices” (2).

Clay Walker’s “Lifeworld Discourse, Translingualism, and Agency in a Discourse Genealogy of César Chávez’s Literacies” examines the literacy history of the labor activist, particularly up until his work with the Community Service Organization in the late 1950s. Walker analyzes Chávez’s experience through the lens of what Walker calls “Discourse genealogy,” a method that expands on James Paul Gee’s concept of “lifeworld Discourse,” or “the way that we use language, feel and think, act and interact, and so forth, in order to be an ‘everyday’ (non-specialized) person” (Gee qtd. in Walker 27). According to Walker, lifeworld Discourse and Discourse genealogy can be powerful tools for translingual theory—despite recent critiques of second-wave literacy theory in translingual scholarship—because they offer “a way for understanding how literacy repertoires or Discourses are accumulated as sedimented resources for discursive agency without categorizing these resources as constituent elements of named languages.” Walker analyzes how Chávez, in his family life and in his community organizing work, blended different literacy repertoires from “across Discourses and social spheres” to act. Understanding further the discursive blending Chávez performed, Walker argues, can help teachers develop threshold pedagogies that encourage students to make meaning from the diverse discourses they use and are learning—as opposed to pedagogies based on bridging and scaffolding metaphors that position students as leaving “behind one discursive world for another” (39).

In “Writing at The Interface: A Research And Teaching Program For Everyday Digital Media Literacy,” Matthew Overstreet argues that “composition studies should do more to understand and promote networked literacy as it manifests in everyday digital media engagement patterns,” and to do so, we must “think the human and non-human in combination” (48). Because of the ways digital literacy is inextricable from the technology that mediates it, Overstreet contends that writing teachers must move from a literacy pedagogy that focuses on “fact checking” to one that teaches students to examine the information ecosystem they are operating within. Overstreet explores three key concepts for a “research and teaching program for everyday digital media literacy: the information ecosystem, the interface, and user as designer." He urges compositionists to engage with media studies scholarship to get the “insight into consumption and cognition" that we need to “teach everyday digital media literacy” (53). Overstreet describes this pedagogy as he has practiced it in teaching in both Europe and the Middle East. Overstreet offers his digital media literacy as an updated critical pedagogy where “[r]ather than signs and symbols and ‘preferred narratives,’ students read interfaces—the places where design is actualized. And they read not to understand what interfaces mean, but what they do” (59).

This issue concludes with three review essays that represent a diversity of research, rhetoric, and pedagogical perspectives on relevant issues within composition studies. First, Sarah Moon’s review of Melissa Goldthwaite’s Food, Feminisms, Rhetorics (2017) explores the various rhetorical and feminist lenses through which this book centers the question: “What rhetoric around food and bodies is most authentically empowering to women?” (67). In her critique of the various articles in this edited collection, Moon reflects upon the ways in which “progressive shifts in food system rhetoric" might intersect with body-related rhetoric, ultimately praising the way this text shows us that “attending more consciously to our choice of words around farming, food packaging, cooking, and female bodies is essential to a cultural shift toward a more feminist conception of food” (70). Next, in her review of Brice Nordquist’s Literacy and Mobility: Complexity, Uncertainty, and Agency at the Nexus of High School and College (2017), Keira Hambrick discusses the ways in which Nordquist, in Hambrick’s words, “interweaves methodologies and methods” “through which students engage ‘education as a process of placemaking in the present’” (72). Finally, in Nick Marsellas’ review essay, “Preempting Racist and Transphobic Language in Student Writing and Discussions,” he analyzes two pieces that are, according to Marsellas, “an invaluable supplement to course materials that ask students to engage with race and gender” (76). Alex Kapitan’s The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People and the nonprofit racial justice organization Race Forward’s Race Reporting Guide. By providing important context based on his experience implementing these texts in his own composition classroom, Marsellas shows how these style guides may “help students to reframe their understandings of writing through the lens of discursive power in ways that carry over into discussions of other writing decisions and style rules” (ibid).