Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Relive Differences through a Material Flashback

Academic journal article College Composition and Communication

Relive Differences through a Material Flashback

Article excerpt

Although I tried to suppress the voice of one discourse in the name of the other, having to speak aloud in the voice I had just silenced each time I crossed the boundary kept both voices active in my mind.

-Min-Zhan Lu, "From Silence to Words: Writing as Struggle"

"We ordinary people usually have the inner impulse to hold back the culture we were born with. It is a wise way, though, to avoid being attacked by another culture we are unfamiliar with. But we have a tendency to be self-complacent and to lose our passion of moving forward." Gallingly overgeneralizing and intuitive as it may seem, this is the thesis of the first reading response I practiced seven years ago during the time I took my first English writing class in the United States. It was a first-year composition course at Missouri State University, where I studied for one year as an international exchange student from the People's Republic of China. As a junior English major in college coming to the United States fresh off the boat, I was "recommended" (as opposed to "required") to take an entry-level writing course. The quoted thesis statement was written in that course roughly a month after I came in direct contact with the foreign culture and began to unfold my experiences of negotiating, repositioning, and becoming. Seven years have passed since that moment of my grappling with the notion of culture, language, and differences, and I have undergone the transition from learning to write in English to learning to teach writing in English and to learning to research the teaching of writing in English across multiple geographical and institutional contexts. Yet irrespective of the spatiotemporal changes, "difference" has remained a constant theme, or in Min-Zhan Lu and Bruce Horners term, the "norm" ("Introduction" 208). The notion of "difference," in my case, is represented in language, cultural, and disciplinary practices and identity (re)construction. This article reflects my attempt at tracking, connecting, interpreting, and contextualizing the notion of difference as it materializes in a digital archive of my own writings composed throughout my years in the United States as an ethnic and linguistic minority.

A renewed scholarly interest in the rhetoric of difference has surfaced in the field of rhetoric and composition at the dawn of the new millennium, as suggested by increasing conversations on and narratives by writers historically deemed different from the mainstream racially, ethnically, culturally, or linguistically. These narrative accounts and theoretical discussions ofthe underrepresented, unrepresented, marginalized, or even invisible groups contribute to our collective understanding of how the notion of difference is perceived and conceptualized, and in practice, pedagogically treated, by unveiling and deconstructing the way in which the groups of "difference" navigate their subjective positions, resisting the discourse of diversity and difference and leveraging their rhetorical power. For example, some scholars have documented writers' wrestling with their voice and identity in relation to their nuanced racial differences (Canagarajah, "Safe Houses"; Royster) and proposed the adoption of critical race inquiry in the era of post-multiculturalism (Barlow). Others have explored Native Americans' rhetorical sovereignty, the control of their collective rhetorical power (Lyons); Appalachian working-class women's self-positioning between individual voice and communal voice (Sohn); Native American scholars' self-representation in response to their different practice of identity politics (Cushman); and Native American rhetorical devices in a writing classroom (Cole). The rhetoric of difference has also found its manifestation in the recent translingual scholarship to justify a crusade against the prescriptivist view of standard written English and an English-only monolingual ideology in rhetoric and composition, both of which have translated or are yet to translate into course policies, teaching materials, pedagogical practices, teacher feedback, and assessment in U. …

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