Composing Social Identity in Written Language

Composing Social Identity in Written Language

Composing Social Identity in Written Language

Composing Social Identity in Written Language


This volume constitutes a unique contribution to the literature on literacy and culture in several respects. It links together aspects of social variation that have not often been thus juxtaposed: ethnicity/nationality, gender, and participant role relations. The unifying theme of this collection of papers is that all of these factors are aspects of writers' identities -- identities which are simultaneously expressed and constructed in text.

The topic of social identity and writing can be approached from a variety of scholarly avenues, including humanistic, critical, and historical perspectives. The papers in the present volume make reference to and contribute to such humanistic perspectives; however, this book lies squarely within the tradition of social science. It draws primarily upon the disciplines of linguistics, discourse analysis, anthropology, social and cognitive psychology, and education studies.

The constituent topics of social identity, style, and writing themselves lie at the intersections of several related fields of scholarship. Writing remains of peak interest to educators from many fields, and is still a "hot" topic. The instructional ramifications of the particular issues addressed in this volume are of vital concern to educational systems adjusting to the realities of our multicultural society. This publication, therefore, should attract a substantial and diverse readership of scholars, educators, and policymakers affiliated with many fields including applied linguistics, composition and rhetoric, communication studies, dialect studies, discourse analysis, English composition, English/language arts education, ethnic studies, language behavior, literacy, sociolinguistics, stylistics, women's studies, and writing research and instruction.


Michael D. Linn University of Minnesota, Duluth

The 1992 video tape of the Rodney King beating, the verdict of the White Los Angeles police officers, and the subsequent riots, once again riveted the attention of the nation on the plight of the poor, especially inner-city African Americans. One had to wonder whether any genuine progress in race relations had been made since the assassination of Martin Luther King. In fact, there is much to suggest that the last 12 years have been a move backwards in race relations, because poverty, violence, and alienation in the inner city have increased. A kinder, gentler nation does not seem to have emerged.

However, there is continued, genuine concern for the plight of those forced to live in the inner city. Since the 1960s, linguists, rhetoricians, and educators have been trying to alleviate the conditions of African-American students through enlightened education. Unfortunately, all too often, even with well-meaning intentions, success has been minimal. Certainly the position of College Composition and Communication expressed in The Students' Right to Their Own Language (1974) was such a well-intentioned act. But it is questionable how much it has helped. On the one hand, no one can or should prevent any group from using its own dialect. To do so would require an elimination of that group. It is preposterous to even seriously propose it. On the other hand, this policy has often been interpreted to mean that the teacher should do nothing and that anything should be allowed in the classroom. This also seems an unworkable solution to an important and complex problem. The intent of this policy statement was noble in its attempt to extend the bounds of racial tolerance into the classroom; the results have not lived up to expectations.

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