Editorial Note: Special Issue on Enacting Linguistic Justice In / Through Writing Centers

The Inspiration for this Special Issue

We (Keli and Emily) connected in our graduate program over a shared interest in exploring language ideologies and how we could enact the abstract concept of linguistic justice in writing center spaces. We have been particularly inspired by the work of April Baker-Bell to think about how linguistic assimilation does not address the needs of Black students, and the need for antiracist language education practices in our work as writing center scholars. We use the term linguistic justice to refer to both the critique of hierarchical perspectives of language that position monolingualism as the norm while minoritizing non-standard linguistic practices, especially those of Black Language, and the integration of more expansive views of language into our practices (Baker-Bell, 2020; Mihut, 2020). 

Many scholars are already envisioning how to bring linguistic justice into writing center spaces,  including Basta and Smith (2022), Faison and Treviño (2017), Fields (2021), Hutchinson and Morris (2020), Kells (2016), Levingston (2022), Raphael (2021), Shapiro and Del Russo (2023), Shelton and Howland (2014), Summers (2020), and Tinoco et al. (2020). These scholars call for more critical discussions of linguistic discrimination that occurs in writing center spaces and how to start to use linguistic justice as a frame to work towards more inclusive and accessible approaches.

As we began to develop the concept of this special issue, we wanted to build on this work by heeding the call to move beyond theorizing linguistic justice, and to focus on how writing center practitioners are enacting linguistic justice on their campuses. We wanted this special issue to be a resource and a source of inspiration by making visible the possibilities and affordances of a linguistic justice approach to writing center work. In doing so, we particularly hoped to center the perspectives of marginalized and oppressed voices on campus (Greenfield, 2019) and to foreground work that demonstrated ways of including diverse language practices while challenging standard notions of academic writing (Krishnamurthy, Del Russo, & Mehalchick-Opal, 2022).

Editorial Process

While we knew that important work toward linguistic justice was happening within and across a variety of writing center contexts, we were pleasantly surprised by the amount and quality of article proposals that answered our call. The pieces that are published in this issue were selected because of their innovative approaches to enacting linguistic justice and the impact the authors’ work is having in their writing centers and their greater campus communities. 

In introducing this special issue, we feel it important to note that as scholars who have privileged linguistic backgrounds, in taking on the role of guest editing this special issue we do not position ourselves as experts or authoritative voices on linguistic justice. Rather, our goal is to facilitate the inclusion of a broad range of voices into this conversation and to highlight the work being done across a wide variety of writing center contexts to not just theorize about our commitments to linguistic justice, but also to put those commitments into action. We also want to note that our approach to copy editing for this special issue–a task which we undertook ourselves–was grounded in an effort to preserve authors’ voice and style to the extent possible, which for us meant being deliberate about ensuring clarity while also avoiding imposing our own white, Western notions of correctness and grammaticality on authors’ language use.

The Articles in This Issue

The articles within this special issue contain work from students, tutors, and administrators, highlighting the fact that regardless of your positionality or amount of institutional power, everyone has a role in enacting linguistic justice. The pieces help demonstrate what work toward linguistic justice can look like in a variety of institutional contexts, and also speak to the need for linguistic justice work to be a team effort–not just with other writing center stakeholders, but also with campus and community partners and allies. They also raise important questions about the need to be critical about who is doing the work toward linguistic justice, who has a voice in linguistic justice initiatives, and how those efforts are compensated. We hope that in reading this issue, you are as inspired as we have been to think more creatively about the role that each of us can play in enacting linguistic justice in and through our writing centers, and that these pieces will help each of you envision how to enact linguistic justice in a way that makes sense for your unique contexts.

Kathy Yan and Faith Thompson start off the issue with a conversation shaper that helps to contextualize the current conversations in writing centers around linguistic justice. Their argument that more scholarship should come from marginalized voices, folks working at non-predominantly white institutions, and tutors themselves, helps to situate the pieces in the rest of the issue that attempt to begin to answer this call. 

The articles by Erika Gonzalez and Antonella Pappolla and by Genoveva Vega, Liliana Silva-Vazquez, and Matthew Louie both share multiple tutor-led projects they undertook at their centers while working towards linguistic justice. In both of these pieces, the authors describe projects that others might replicate, while also sharing how these projects affected their own professional identities. Gonzalez and Pappolla, in their article “Anti-Racism Meets Linguistic Justice: Lessons Learned from Committee Work and Tutor Education,” discuss the importance of centering and learning from lived experiences and not just scholarship while embarking on these projects. In “Sí Se Pudo: Retelling the Stories of Our Consultant-Led Linguistic Justice Projects,” Vega, Silva-Vazquez, and Louie describe finding their own unique voices within the conversations about their language identities as they entered into graduate programs in composition and rhetoric after developing an interest in linguistic justice at the writing center they discuss in their article.

In a time when attacks on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in higher education are increasing, it is necessary to consider how to counter the resistance or even opposition to linguistic justice we may encounter in our writing centers and beyond, an important topic that is addressed in two of the pieces we include in this special issue. Lucia Pawloski’s “Introducing Linguistic Antiracism to Skeptics: A Scaffolded Approach” offers readers a practical framework for meeting audiences where they are at in order to help them engage with ideas around linguistic justice in ways that make sense for their contexts and existing knowledge. And in “Confronting Resistance to Linguistic Justice: Developing White Racial Stamina in the Writing Center,” Kelsey Hawkins reflects on her experiences navigating administrative opposition to linguistic justice in the writing center and working to challenge white fragility through critical reflection.

This issue also includes several articles that explore enacting linguistic justice in unique contexts and share important insights about working with particular populations. In “Between the Lines,” Morgan Linn Zacheus reflects on her experience bringing her Lumbee English dialect into the writing center space and Elise Dixon shares her experience as the writing center director at their minority-serving, historically American Indian University. They offer the term “value-meshing” to help others think through their experience bringing their different identities into spaces like writing centers. In “The Tide that Takes You Out of Prison,” Kimberly S. Drake and Damian V. Busby reflect on a writing center created in a prison with inmates as tutors and how this group complicates the notion of linguistic justice and the values of learning to code switch. And in “Brazil’s First Writing Center: Promoting Global Access and Enacting Local Change,” Thais Rodrigues Cons and Camila Ribeiro de Almeida Rezende reflect on their experience as tutors in the first writing center in Brazil, share insights from research projects conducted while working there as graduate writing tutors, and argue for the importance of research that will help each center understand the linguistic needs of their local communities. 

Many of the authors included in this special issue demonstrate how administrators and tutors alike can work to enact linguistic justice beyond our centers and in our wider institutional communities. Margaret Bugingo and Robert Zatryb’s “Aquí Se Habla Deutsch, Française, Kinyarwanda y ကညီ: Making Multilingualism Audible In Writing Centers” describes how they worked to position their center as a linguistically welcoming space on their campus through such initiatives as workshops and multilingual coffee hours. Erin Green, in “We Outside: Black Queer Writing Center Work in the Community,” describes her experiences navigating the white academy and her community-engaged practices advocating for Black linguistic and literacy practices at her institution. And in “‘Small’ Work: Bringing Translingualism Out of the Writing Center,” Tejan Green Waszak, Isabel Ortiz, Barbara Paulus, Seth Cosimini, Wally Suphap, Jason T. Ueda, Gabriella Etoniru, Elaje Lopez, and Michael Schoch share the lessons they learned in planning an outward-facing event designed to extend their center’s conversations around linguistic justice to other members of their university community. 

Finally, we have included a review of Wonderful Faison and Frankie Condon’s CounterStories from the Writing Center, winner of the 2023 IWCA Outstanding Book Award, by Jennifer Forsthoefel, who highlights how the book’s portrayals of marginalized perspectives offers a much needed resource for working toward linguistic and racial justice through our centers.

Acknowledgements

This special issue would not have come to fruition without the effort and support of many people. We would first like to thank the editorial team of The Peer Review–particularly Wenqi Cui, TPR Graduate Editor of Featured Issues, and Genie Giaimo, TPR Professional Editor–for their continuous feedback and advice throughout this process. We also want to thank each of the reviewers who volunteered their time to provide such generous and thoughtful feedback to the authors in this special issue. And finally, we want to thank each of the authors for their contributions to this special issue–we have been honored to work with them and we are so excited to share their incredible work with you.

References

Baker-Bell, A. (2020). Linguistic justice: Black language, literacy, identity, and pedagogy. Routledge.

Basta, H., & Smith, A. (2022). (Re)envisioning the writing center: Pragmatic steps for dismantling white language supremacy. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 19(1), 58-68. https://www.praxisuwc.com/191-basta-and-smith

Daut, A., & Rebe, T. (2022). Training writing tutors about language and identity. Axis Special Issue: Imaging the Decolonizing Center. https://www.praxisuwc.com/axis-si-5-daut-and-rebe

Faison, W., & Treviño, A. (2017). Race, retention, language, and literacy: The hidden curriculum of the writing center. The Peer Review 1(2). https://thepeerreview-iwca.org/issues/braver-spaces/race-retention-language-and-literacy-the-hidden-curriculum-of-the-writing-center/

Fields, A. (2021). Composing an anti-racism and social justice statement at a rural writing center. The Writing Center Journal, 39(1/2), 169-190.

Greenfield, L. (2019). Radical writing center praxis: A paradigm for ethical political engagement. Utah State University Press. 

Hutchinson, B., & Morris, L. (2020). Mesh it, y’all: Promoting code-meshing through writing center workshops. The Peer Review 4(2). https://thepeerreview-iwca.org/issues/issue-4-2/mesh-it-yall-promoting-code-meshing-through-writing-center-workshops/

Kells, M. H. (2016). Writing across communities and the writing center as cultural ecotone: Language diversity, civic engagement, and graduate student leadership. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, 14(1), 27–33.

Krishnamurthy, S., Del Russo, C., & Mehalchick-Opal, D. (2022). Valuing language diversity through translingual reading groups in the writing center. In Schreiber, B. R., Lee, E., Johnson, J. T., & Fahim, N. (Eds.). Linguistic justice on campus: Pedagogy and advocacy for multilingual students (pp. 89-104). Multilingual Matters.

Levingston, E. (2022). Linguistic justice in peer tutoring [Master’s thesis, Hamline University]. DigitalCommons@Hamline.

Mihut, L. A. (2020). Enacting linguistic justice: Transnational scholars as advocates for pedagogical change. In A. Frost, J. Kiernan, & S. Blum-Malley (Eds.), Translingual dispositions: Globalized approaches to the teaching of writing (pp. 269–294). The WAC Clearinghouse. 

Raphael, S. T. (2021). Why we need translingualism: An antiracist approach in the writing center [Honors Theses, Bates College]. https://scarab.bates.edu/honorstheses/340

Shapiro, R., & Del Russo, C. (2023). Working towards racial justice in the writing center: Five strategies for translingual tutoring. In T. Haltiwanger Morrison & D.A. Evans Garriott (Eds.), Writing centers and racial justice: A guidebook for critical praxis (pp. 120-138). Utah State University Press.

Shelton, C. D. & Howland, E. E. (2014). Disrupting authority: Writing mentors and code-meshing pedagogy. Praxis: A Writing Center Journal 12(1).

Summers, S. (2020). Developing translingual dispositions to negotiate gatekeeping in the graduate writing center. In A. Frost, J. Kiernan, S. B. Malley (Eds.), Translingual dispositions: Globalized approaches to the teaching of writing (pp. 249-268). The WAC Clearinghouse & University Press of Colorado. https://doi.org/10.37514/INT-B.2020.0438.2.11

Tinoco, L., Herman, L., Rana Bhat, S. R., & Zepeda, A. (2020). International writing tutors leveraging linguistic diversity at a Hispanic-serving institutions writing center. The Peer Review, 4(2). https://thepeerreview-iwca.org/issues/issue-4-2/international-writing-tutors-leveraging-linguistic-diversity-at-a-hispanic-serving-institutions-writing-center/

Treiber, S., & Best, K. (2023 July 11). Linguistically diverse writers’ experiences guide linguistic equity training. Another Word: From the Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. https://dept.writing.wisc.edu/blog/linguistically-diverse/

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