CLJ 2012

Community Literacy Journal, Special Issue on Writing Democracy

Community Literacy Journal, Special Issue on Writing Democracy (Fall 2012)

The CLJ special issue on Writing Democracy is now available! Articles in this special issue include:

Table of Contents


Writing Democracy: Notes on a Federal Writers’ Project for the 21st Century

Shannon Carter, Deborah Mutnick

Abstract: A general overview of the Writing Democracy project, including its origin story and key objectives. Draws parallels between the historical context that gave rise to the New Deal’s Federal Writers’ Project and today, examining the potential for a reprise of the FWP in community literacy and public rhetoric and introducing articles collected in this special issue as responses to the key challenges such a reprisal might raise.

Rediscovering America: The FWP Legacy and Challenge

Jerrold Hirsch

Abstract: An overview of the history of the Federal Writers’ Project, hitting on critical reference points for our vision of what the project might look like today: the 1930s’ FWP’s cross-disciplinary integration of literature and history; the rejection of strict divisions between high and low culture; and the bottom-up approach to history that had begun profoundly to influence the discipline of history by the 1970s, embracing previously excluded groups, and gave rise to new sub-disciplines of oral history and public history.  Ends with reflections on key questions those of us hoping to see a version of FWP today, many of the very same questions challenges faced by FWP in its first iteration.

Informed, Passionate, and Disorderly: Uncivil Rhetoric in a New Gilded Age

Nancy Welch

Abstract: Little known about the now celebrated 1912 Bread and Roses strike is that prominent Progressive-era reformers condemned the strikers as “uncivil” and “violent.” An examination of Bread and Roses’ controversies reveals how a ruling class enlists middle-class sentiments to oppose social-justice arguments and defend a civil order—not for the good of democracy but against it. For today’s teachers of public writing, the strikers’ inspiring actions to push against civil boundaries and create democratic space can challenge us to rethink civility as an acontextual virtue and consider the class-struggle uses of unruly rhetoric for our new Gilded Age.

Gambian-American College Writers Flip the Script on Aid-to-Africa Discourse

Elenore Long, Nyillan Fye, John Jarvis

Abstract: This article analyzes a group of Gambian-American college writers creating an alternative public to challenge the patronizing norms operating in prevailing “aid to-Africa” rhetorics. These young rhetors evoked performative genres and hybrid discourses so that members of their local public (the African nationals, African American professionals, white educators, fellow students, Muslim elders, conservative Christian community leaders) might themselves embody more productive self-other relations as they considered together the issue that drew them together publicly: the often hidden and insidious ways that cultural gender norms limit young African women’s ability to thrive, whether in the U.S. or in the Gambia.

Shakespeare and the Cultural Capital Tension: Advancing Literacy in Rural Arkansas

David Alton Jolliffe

Abstract: A multi-faceted Shakespeare festival in a small town in rural east central Arkansas, part of a larger Community Literacy Advocacy Project, represented a concerted effort to alter the discourse of decline in this economically troubled region but it also raised some challenging issues about how such projects distribute social and cultural capital among their participants.

What’s Writing Got to Do with It?: Citizen Wisdom, Civil Rights Activism, and 21st Century Civic Literacy

Michelle Hall Kells

Abstract: This article examines what a pedagogy of public rhetoric and community literacy might look like based on an understanding of twentieth century Mexican American civil rights rhetoric. The inductive process of examining archival materials and conducting oral histories informs this discussion on the processes and challenges of gaining civic inclusion. I argue that writing can be both a healing process and an occasion for exercising agency in a world of contingency and uncertainty. To illustrate, I describe several key events shaping the evolution of the post-World War II Mexican American civil rights movement in New Mexico. Taking a case study approach, I begin this chapter by examining the civic discourses of one prominent New Mexico leader in the post-World War II civil rights movement: Vicente Ximenes. As a leader, Ximenes confronted critical civil rights issues about culture and belonging for over fifty years beginning in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is a historical moment worth revisiting. First, I set the stage for this examination about writing, citizenship, and civic literacy by analyzing two critical rhetorical moments in the life of this post World War II civil rights activist. Secondly, I connect the Ximenes legacy to a growing movement at the University of New Mexico and the ways that we are making critical responses to current issues facing our local communities in New Mexico. By triangulating social acts of literacy, currently and historically, this article offers organizing principles for Composition teachers and advocates of community literacy serving vulnerable communities in their various spheres of practice.

A Clear Channel: Circulating Resistance in a Rural University Town

Shannon Carter

Abstract: An extended treatment of two social justice efforts in a rural university town– both initiated by African American students (one in 1967 and another in 1973)–as historical examples of civic engagement with contemporary implications for Writing Democracy and similar projects. As a student at this local college John Carlos, the sprinter best known for his heroic, silent protest against racism with Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics, found his local attempts to mobilize the community against ongoing racism to be relatively unsuccessful. Five years later students established the Norris Community Club (NCC) in partnership with residents of Norris, the historically segregated neighborhood, to provide what they called “a clear channel of communication” between Norris and city officials. This later attempt yielded far more significant community changes. Uses “a clear channel” as both the object of study and interpretive lens to examine these local efforts and their many implications for today.

NOTE: A video complement to this print-based article can be found at “A Clear Channel” (see also Remixing Rural Texas)


Book and New Media Reviews

Book & New Media Reviews

Jim Bowman, Book and Media Reviews Editor

Keywords: Community Publishing

by Benjamin D. Kuebrich

Review: Literacy in Times of Crisis, Laurie McGillivray, Ed (Routledge, 2010)

Reviewed by Patricia Burns

Review: Community Literacy and the Rhetoric of Public Engagement, Linda Flower (Southern Illinois UP, 2008)

Reviewed by Christine Martonana

Review: Writing Home: A Literacy Autobiography, Eli Goldblatt (Southern Illinois UP, 2012)

Reviewed by Rebecca Lorimer

We are particularly excited about the cover image for this issue. Here’s why:



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