Sponsoring Literacy Studies
AbstractIn this short essay, I want to consider, first, how literacy studies as a field has been sponsored—What work has been foundational, transformative, and innovative?—and second, to reflect on how my own study of literacy has been sponsored. In particular, I want to think about how Brandt’s concept of “sponsorship” has not only been transformative in conceptualizing the dynamics of literacy, but how it is also useful in addressing questions of equity and diversity within literacy studies. As defined by Brandt, “sponsors of literacy” are “any agents, local or distant, concrete or abstract, who enable, support, teach, and model, as well as recruit, regulate, suppress, or withhold, literacy—and gain advantage by it in some way” (19). It is the first part of this definition that is key to my discussion: How have sponsors who “enable, support, teach, and model” informed what we do as a field broadly, and what I have done in my own work specifically? In theorizing a deep understanding of how literacy is enacted, Brandt has helped us to see that literacy does not simply empower or provide access to resources for individuals, but perhaps most importantly creates a complex web of relationships that may sustain literate action. We might think of sponsorship itself as a literacy practice and as literate action, marshalling resources in order to create opportunities for literacy development.
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