(Re)Writing Local Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Histories: Negotiating Shared Meaning in Public Rhetoric Partnerships

By Grobman, Laurie | College English, January 2015 | Go to article overview

(Re)Writing Local Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Histories: Negotiating Shared Meaning in Public Rhetoric Partnerships


Grobman, Laurie, College English


The student and an 83-year-old Holocaust survivor meet many times over the course of a month; he signs a consent form and talks; she listens, takes notes, and writes a narrative of his experiences. A week later, he withdraws it from A History of the Jewish Community in Reading and Berks County, telling the student he never gave her permission to write it.

An African American student acknowledges that she "felt like the token black kid in the group " and consequently stopped putting her energy into researching and writing for Woven with Words: A Collection of African American History in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

A white student is interviewing a local African American senior citizen for The Future's Past: Life Histories of 17 African American Residents of Berks County, PA. The interviewee tells the student that a local politician has acted in a racist manner; the politician is the student's father.

hese three scenes from an ongoing, multiyear public rhetoric partnership illustrate that students, faculty, and community partners are immersed in pragmatic, ethical, and theoretical questions of discourse, race, power, and history as we uncover, recover, and preserve underrepresented stories of racial, ethnic, and cultural history in Reading and Berks County, Pennsylvania. I view this accumulated (and still accumulating) body of knowledge, hereafter referred to as (Re) Writing Local Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Histories, as "public rhetorical work [that] can result in substantive, even transformational change" (Welch 701). Yet, as the examples that begin this essay demonstrate, central to this work is Eileen's Gunn's assertion that "[i]n the study of history, control of the narrative confers power" (1). From this vantage point, students, faculty, and community partners must negotiate meaning collaboratively, crossing and re-crossing the shared and sometimes contested spaces of communities, texts, and circulating historical and cultural discourses.

In this article, I argue that (Re)Writing Local Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Histories projects are one substantive response to the ongoing, growing demand that English studies teacher-scholars and students participate in purposeful, impactful public work. These projects position students as rhetorical citizen historians, a term I use to signal the convergence of Kathleen Blake Yancey's notion of "citizen writers" (1), Cecelia O'Leary's notion of "citizen historians" (Coventry et al. 1397), and Kathleen Turner's notion of "rhetorical historians" ("Rhetorical History" 8); rhetorical citizen historians produce both original historical and rhetorical knowledge, and promote democracy through conscious, deliberate rhetorical historical work. But these partnerships also raise complex issues of unequal, fluid, and shifting discourses among community partners, students, and faculty, and, consequently, inform ways to enact publicly shared meaning in community literacy partnerships.

Undergraduate Students as Rhetorical Citizen Historians: (Re)"Legitimating" the Discipline of English

The (Re)Writing Local Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Histories projects have included more than 250 undergraduate students in thirteen participating courses over six years, including first-year composition and honors composition, sophomore-level honors writing, and upper-division rhetoric and writing classes for the professional writing major. In each case, students' work has been publicly disseminated through books printed with funds from various local and internal grants as well as through websites and videos. In total, approximately 6,000 books and booklets on local African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Jewish history have been printed and publicly shared. As they work collaboratively with community partners, students become rhetorical citizen historians, a triad encapsulating a rhetorical attitude as well as the implementation of ethical, civically invested citizens and rhetors. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

(Re)Writing Local Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Histories: Negotiating Shared Meaning in Public Rhetoric Partnerships
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.