In collaboration with the Conference on Community Writing, one of our affiliated journals, Community Literacy Journal, produces a special issue stemming from presentations and conversations at the conference.

We are happy to announce the call for Community Literacy Journal’s Fall 2020 special issue.

Community Literacy Journal’s Fall 2020 special issue

Title: Community-Engaged Writing & Literacy Centers: A Critical Field Scan of Theory and History, Practice and Place.

Guest Editors: Mark Latta, Chris Giroux, and Helen Raica-Klotz

Community writing and literacy centers have many names, emerge from multiple disciplinary traditions, and often defy conventional or clean definitions.  Many community writing centers borrow from the scholarly discipline of rhetoric and composition, drawing from the work of the Salt Lake City Community Writing Center (Rousculp) or the Community Literacy Center in Pittsburgh (Flower). Some centers focus on youth education and empowerment, in the tradition of Youth United for Change and Mighty Writers, both in Philadelphia, or San Francisco’s 826 Valencia. Others, such as two of the sites of the 2019 Conference on Community Writing, The Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania and Writers Room at Drexel University, blur boundaries between literacy, literary arts, and social practices. While community-based writing and literacy centers are similar in their desire to support community writing, each does so within diverse spaces, attuned to the unique literacy practices and knowledge of their home communities. Situated in the immediate and local, these centers attend to specific needs, but all still draw from the theories, histories, and practices of our field that span geographies and disciplines.  

Within this special issue, which emerges from presentations, conversations, and work done by attendees of the 2019 CCW, we hope to identify the critical theory that guides community-based writing and literacy center work to make visible both the scholarship and humanizing practices that drive this emergent and growing field (Campano; Fine). Additionally, we desire to trace the history of these centers, grounded in theory and practice, so that we might imagine what might or should come next.  Finally, we hope to showcase the different models of community-based writing and literacy centers, exploring the ways that specific places and communities support this work in a myriad of ways. Our overall goal is to generate a “field scan” of the theories and history, practices, and places in which the praxis of community literacy occurs.

For this special issue on community-engaged writing and literacy centers, we invite proposals that address, and perhaps even complicate, the following questions:  

Theory

  • Which theories, disciplines, and understandings, particularly those that draw from critical, decolonizing, or indigenous traditions, guide the work of community-based writing and literacy centers?
  • What is the role of a community-based writing or literacy center in developing critical consciousness or dismantling structural oppression?
  • In what ways does “writing about, writing for, and writing with” (Deans) or “writing as” (Monberg) the community work to break down—or, at times, reinforce—cultural, social, racial, and economic barriers, and hierarchical relationships?

History

  • Whose histories and which perspectives inform the work of community-based writing or literacy centers? What possible futures are being created?
  • What have tutors and writing center administrators learned from this work? What have community members learned?
  • For those with historical knowledge of community-based writing and literacy centers: what would you do differently? What advice would you offer?

Practice and Place

  • What are the relationships and tensions between place and practice? How do community-based writing and literacy centers sustain or challenge these relationships and navigate these tensions? 
  • How do we negotiate sustainable, authentic relationships (Mitchell) and foster true collaboration (Campano) with our community partners?
  • How do we assess and articulate the efficacy of our work for our community members, our tutors, our institutions, and/or our other partners? What is the role of community within this assessment? 
  • How do we accurately represent and come to understand our various constituencies and their differing needs and desires?
  • For those who work in post-secondary institutions, how does this work with community shape, inform, or influence other forms of advocacy, other disciplines, or practices within campus writing centers?

To begin to answer these questions–and provide a better sense of this growing field–we seek proposals for full-length articles that discuss concepts, provide case studies, offer theoretical perspectives, and advance qualitative or quantitative research. Proposals that offer a concise “loving critique” (Paris and Alim) of current practices and issues in community-based writing and literacy centers will be considered for the “Issues in Community Literacy” section of the special issue. We also invite practitioners and community writers to submit proposals for the “Project and Program Profiles” section, which showcases descriptions of community-based writing and literacy centers, along with their related initiatives. While we hope to capture, catalog, and explore the many ways that universities, high schools, and other literacy centers have maneuvered their “public turn” (Mathieu), we are very interested in submissions from community voices who represent writing and literacy centers that are unaffiliated with traditional post-secondary institutions of learning.

Authors who wish to contribute to this special issue of CLJ should submit a 500-word proposal that briefly describes the nature and scope of the planned, full-length article to Mark Latta at mlatta@marian.edu. Within the proposal, contributors should indicate the section of the special issue for which their final article will be best suited: 

  • Case study, research, or conceptual article: 15-25 pages. 
  • “Issues in Community Literacy”: 8-12 pages. 
  • “Project and Program Profiles”: 8-12 pages. 

Timeline

  • Article proposals due: November 15, 2019
  • Invitation to authors: December 15, 2019
  • Article drafts due: March 15, 2020
  • Reviewer feedback and revision requests to authors: May 15, 2020
  • Revisions due: July 15, 2020
  • Special issue published: November 2020

About the Editors:

Mark Latta directs the Marian University Writing Center and Flanner Community Writing Center in Indianapolis, IN. His teaching, scholarship, and public narrative projects are framed around critical literacy perspectives and the use of writing as a social practice. He is currently assisting Tania Mitchell, Ph.D., with a special issue on critical service learning through the Journal of Community Engagement and Higher Education, and he is the guest editor for an upcoming issue of The North Meridian Review: A Journal of Culture and Scholarship.

Chris Giroux, Ph.D., is a member of the English Department of Saginaw Valley State University in Saginaw, MI. He serves as the co-director of the school’s Center for Community Writing and as the assistant director of its Writing Center. Giroux is also the co-editor of the community arts journal Still Life, is the author of numerous published poems, and is interested in issues related to tutor training, community writing, and representations of trauma in contemporary American literature.

Helen Raica-Klotz directs the Writing Center at Saginaw Valley State University located in Saginaw, MI, and is the co-director of its Center for Community Writing, which supports two community-based writing centers, the first of their kind in Michigan. Raica-Klotz is also the director of the Saginaw Bay Writing Project, a National Writing Project site. Her scholarship focuses on embedded tutoring and on university and community writing centers.

Works Cited

Campano, Gerald. Immigrant Students and Literacy: Reading, Writing, and Remembering. Teachers College Press, 2007.

Deans, Thomas. Writing and Community Action: A Service-Learning Rhetoric with Readings. Pearson, 2002.

Fine, Michelle. Just Research in Contentious Times: Widening the Methodological Imagination. Teachers College Press, 2018.

Flower, Linda. Community Literacy and the Rhetoric of Public Engagement. Southern Illinois UP, 2008.

Mathieu, Paula. “After Tactics, What Comes Next?” Unsustainable: Re-Imagining Community Literacy, Public Writing, Service-Learning and the University. Edited by Jessica Restaino and Laurie JC Cella, Lexington Books, 2013, pp. 17–31.

Mitchell, Tania. “Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning: Engaging the Literature to Differentiate Two Models.” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, Spring, 2008, pp. 50–65.

Monberg, Terese Guinsatao. “Writing Home or Writing as the Community: Toward a Theory of Recursive Spatial Movement for Students of Color in Service-Learning Courses.” Reflections: A Journal of Writing, Service-Learning, and Community Literacy, vol. 8, no. 3, 2009, pp. 21-51. 

Paris, Django, and H. Samy Alim. “What Are We Seeking to Sustain through Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy?” Harvard Educational Review, vol. 84, no. 1, 2014, pp. 85-100.

Rousculp, Tiffany. Rhetoric of Respect: Recognizing Change at a Community Writing Center. National Council of Teachers of English, 2014.

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