Lifeworld Discourse, Translingualism, and Agency in a Discourse Genealogy of César Chávez’s Literacies


  • Clay Walker Wayne State University



translingualism, lifeworld discourse, discourse genealogy, agency, repertoires, césar chávez, community activism, thresholds


Translingual scholarship emphasizes the temporal dimensions of language use, and frame language practices as emergent phenomena shaped by repertories of discursive activities sedimented through prior experience. This essay adapts Gee’s concept of lifeworld Discourse in order to theorize (1) how Discourse competencies are cultivated through the sedimentation of discourse practices over time, and (2) how actors occupy thresholds or dwell on borders while they draw on repertoires sedimented through prior experience in response to emergent rhetorical situations. I activate the lifeworld Discourse conceptual framework in an analytical approach that I call a Discourse genealogy in order to trace out the palimpsestic emergence and blending of Discursive competencies throughout labor and community organizer César Chávez’s life. The argument focuses on the archival record of Chávez’s literacy practices in order to understand his emergent lifeworld Discourses from birth in 1927 through the late 1950s, up to the point at which he began to organize the migrant farmworkers under the auspices of the Community Service Organization in Oxnard, California (1957-8). Using textual analysis of Chávez’s writings and oral history records, the following essay shows how one thread of Chávez’s lifeworld Discourse – responding to social injustice – binds together a number of Chávez’s varied Discursive repertoires. My central argument is that when we occupy thresholds that connect Discourses, our repertoires of practice may be blended with new practices to form emergent potentials for responding to rhetorical situations. The thread of repertoires sedimented throughout a lifetime bind together the various social Discourses we encounter and engage with in our public lives.  

Author Biography

Clay Walker, Wayne State University

Dr. Clay Walker is a Senior Lecturer at Wayne State University where he regularly teaches general education writing courses and works to improve the job and economic security for non-tenure track contingent full-time faculty. His research interests include literacy studies, agency, embodied cognition, and the nexus of literacies, social justice, and social power. Dr. Walker is currently developing a book-length manuscript archival study of César Chávez’s literacies with a focus on literacy and agency.




How to Cite

Walker, C. (2020). Lifeworld Discourse, Translingualism, and Agency in a Discourse Genealogy of César Chávez’s Literacies. Literacy in Composition Studies, 8(1), 21–46.