This We Believe: A Project of FWP 2.0

 Writing Democracy 2013

This We Believe

A Project of FWP 2.0

Seventy-five years ago during the Great Depression, a division of the Works Progress Administration called the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) employed writers and researchers to create “a new roadmap for the cultural rediscovery of America” via local guidebooks, oral histories, and folklore. Today, college writing programs, service-learning programs, and scholars across the disciplines are engaging in university-community partnerships that might together create a similar roadmap for rediscovering 21st century America.

After the 2008 crash, numerous commentators suggested the idea of a new FWP. Although it became clear by late 2009 that Obama’s stimulus package would not fund such a project, the idea inspired a conference, Writing Democracy: A Rhetoric of (T)here, in March 2011 at Texas A&M-Commerce. Over 150 scholars, students, and community members convened to examine concepts of place, local publics, and popular movements in an attempt to understand and promote democracy through research, writing, and action. Since that time, those involved have continued to talk and develop strategies for linking writing to democracy.

“This We Believe” is an attempt to expand and archive those conversations. Over the next year, FWP 2.0—our name for a fledgling 21st century Federal Writers’ Project—will be reaching out to students, teachers, and everyday citizens asking them to record a short, two-minute response to any of several questions. Their answers will be made available on this site, where others can respond and expand upon the conversation. Ultimately, we hope to take representative conversations and produce a book for use in classrooms across the country –bringing the peoples’ concerns and hopes for democracy directly to students. We also hope to host another Writing Democracy Conference in 2013.

We invite you to take a moment and record a response to one of the following questions.

1. To paraphrase Raymond Carver, “what do we talk about when we talk about democracy”?

2. What does U.S. democracy in 2013 look like to you? How do its realities compare to your dream of democracy in our nation and in our world?

3. How does writing, as cultural work, serve the project of democracy as you’ve described and dreamed it above? What possibilities does writing hold for helping us to reimagine and reinvigorate U.S. democracy locally and nationally?

4. In this time of growing interconnectedness and economic globalization, what opportunities and challenges face democracy beyond national borders?

We look forward to you joining the conversation. To do so, contact us at or one of our addresses below to set up a recording session at CCCC 2013 in Las Vegas. We also welcome any recordings (video, audio, or text) you may wish to conduct yourselves. Upload them at YouTube, Scribd, or another hosting site and send a link to We will curate them and include as part of our FWP 2.0 feature right here.

This We Believe Project Directors

Shannon Carter

Timothy Dougherty

Deborah Mutnick

Steve Parks

Rachael Shapiro

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