CFP: Writing Instructors, Academic Labour, and Professional Development (share widely!)

As increasing emphasis is placed by post-secondary institutions and employers on the importance of writing skills, this special section considers the gap between what writing instructors need to be effective and the supports currently in place, particularly in light of the disciplinary tensions between English departments and writing studies, the reliance on precariously-employed faculty members, the emergence of teaching-stream faculty roles, and the seemingly perpetual restructuring of writing centre work.

Writing instructors’ working conditions reflect multiple tensions, including the professional formation of most Canadian writing instructors in fields outside rhetoric, composition, writing studies, or applied language studies, and the historical tendency to teach writing through literature (Brooks, 2002; Clary-Lemon, 2009); the way that some “Canadian English departments off-loaded writing instruction to other disciplines, through writing centres and ad hoc arrangements” (Phelps, 2012, p. 16); the challenge of justifying small-class instruction and extensive personalized feedback as signature elements of effective writing studies pedagogy (Horning, 2007); the increasing numbers of multilingual students whose language support needs have only been partially accommodated (Marshall & Walsh Marr, 2018); and the expectation that writing instructors will “fix” students’ writing, ideally in first year, before they undertake advanced work in a specific academic discipline (Giltrow, 2016).

Academic labour issues also play a central role. Canadian college and university instructors of writing are disproportionately graduate students and contract faculty members (Landry, 2016; Graves, 1991) who, much like their American counterparts, have limited institutional power (Samuels, 2017; Bousquet, 2008). Similarly, writing centre work is often carried out by staff who do not have the same job security and institutional status as tenure-track instructors (Graves, 2016) and whose academic credentials are not acknowledged by faculty (Alexander, 2005).

In addition, new types of permanent and tenure-track teaching-stream positions have become increasingly associated with writing instruction in Canada; these positions often include heavy teaching loads that limit professional development or research time. The teaching of writing is female-dominated, both reflecting and contributing to diminished status in the academy (Alexander, 2005). Further, pedagogical training and ongoing faculty development have not been evenly available to permanent or sessional instructors of writing (Smith, 2006).

The guest editors for this special section invite contributions of short articles (including theory-based analysis, empirical research, narrative, and opinion-style pieces) that explore these issues, as well as related topics. Our goal is to work with authors to develop articles that are in dialogue with one another and that further the conversation about professional formation and identities.

Questions that could be explored:

  • How does location (by type of institution, within a particular faculty, department, or program, in a writing centre) affect the status and pedagogical support of writing instructors?
  • How do writing instructors who move between institutions or programs negotiate differing (and sometimes conflicting) administrative and pedagogical imperatives?
  • How are the specific needs of multilingual, Indigenous, and international students contemplated and addressed in the professional development of writing instructors, and what is missing?
  • How can writing instructors be supported in accommodating diverse student learning needs, including disabilities, in a changing legal and human rights landscape?
  • How does online writing instruction affect the requirements for faculty preparation and development?
  • In light of the precarious status of many writing instructors, how can faculty development be inclusive, democratic, and participatory rather than managerial?
  • How do writing instructors’ own identities–particularly in the context of the feminization of writing studies, the eurocentrism of the field, and the limited number of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized scholars in Canadian writing studies–affect faculty development needs and shape the institutional status of writing instruction?
  • How can instructors outside writing studies be prepared and supported in writing instruction needs within their own disciplines?
  • What are the institutional and pedagogical effects of the low status of writing instruction and writing instructors, particularly within research universities, and how can this status be challenged?
  • What are the effects (on students, on faculty members and in departments/institutions) of a growing group of instructors teaching primarily in a field they did not train in, especially with little time and support for professional development?

Submission Guidelines

Manuscripts should be in the range of 2,000-4,000 words (including references and appendices), and should be submitted electronically1 in MSword (.doc or .docx format). Please refer to the APA Handbook (6th edition) for style guidelines. Manuscripts that do not follow these guidelines will not be considered suitable for review. Please note: The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2019.

Please feel free to contact the section editors if you have questions:

Sara Humphreys (shumphreys at uvic dot ca), Micaela Maftei (MafteiM at camosun dot bc dot ca), Katja Thieme (Katja.Thieme at ubc dot ca), and Heidi Tiedemann Darroch (DarrochH at camosun dot bc dot ca).

Online submissions are made using a registered account here: http://journals.sfu.ca/cjsdw/index.php/cjsdw/about/submissions

References

Alexander, K. (2005). Liminal identities and institutional positioning: On becoming a ‘writing lady’ in the academy. Inkshed: Newsletter of the Canadian Association for the Study of Language and Learning, 22(3), 5-16.

Bousquet, M. (2008). How the university works: Higher education and the low-wage nation. New York: New York University Press.

Brooks, K. (2002). National culture and the first-year English curriculum: A historical study of “Composition” in Canadian universities. American Review of Canadian Studies, 32(4), 673–694. https://doi.org/10.1080/02722010209481679

Clary-Lemon, J. (2009). Shifting tradition: Writing research in Canada. American Review of Canadian Studies, 39(2), 94–111. https://doi.org/10.1080/02722010902848128

Giltrow, J. (2016). Writing at the centre: A sketch of the Canadian history. Canadian Journal for Studies in Discourse and Writing/Rédactologie, 26, 11–24.

Graves, R. C. W. (1991). Writing instruction in Canadian universities (PhD Dissertation). The Ohio State University.

Horning, A. (2007). The definitive article on class size. WPA: Writing Program Administration, 31(1–2), 11–34.

Landry, D. L. (2016). Writing studies in Canada : A people’s history (PhD Dissertation). University of British Columbia. https://doi.org/10.14288/1.0308778

Marshall, S., & Walsh Marr, J. (2018). Teaching multilingual learners in Canadian writing-intensive classrooms: Pedagogy, binaries, and conflicting identities. Journal of Second Language Writing, 40, 32–43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jslw.2018.01.002

Phelps, L. W. (2012). The historical formation of academic identities: Rhetoric and composition, discourse and writing. Canadian Journal for Studies in Discourse and Writing/Rédactologie, 25(1), 25-Mar.

Samuels, R. (2017). The politics of writing studies: Reinventing our universities from below. University Press of Colorado. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt1v2xts5

Smith, T. S. (2006). Recent trends in undergraduate writing courses and programs in Canadian universities. In R. Graves & H. Graves (Eds.), Writing centres, writing seminars, writing culture: Writing instruction in Anglo-Canadian universities (pp. 319–370). Winnipeg: Inkshed Press.

 

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Jay Miller, PhD – Anthropologist, Editor, and Problem

Anyone who works with Mourning Dove’s texts will stumble across this name at least once or twice: “Jay Miller, PhD.” He edited Mourning Dove’s autobiography and also supplied the intro for Coyote Stories (note: read the comments at your own risk should you click the link).

Who is Jay Miller? He is an anthropologist who specializes in indigenous cultures. He was accepted by the University of Nebraska Press as a competent editor, so should he be automatically trusted? Tough question, and based on his definition of his work to “make sense of native North America,” and the description by his colleagues as a classic anthropologist in “the Americanist tradition,” his work is……a problem (v).  The problem is that Miller explains “Indians” through empirical observation, a methodology that Vine Deloria describes in cutting detail in “Anthropologists and Other Friends”:

An anthropologist comes out to Indian reservations to make OBSERVATIONS. During the winter these observations will become books by which future anthropologists will be trained, so that they can come out to reservations years from now and verify the observations they have studied. After the books are written, summaries of the books appear in the scholarly journals in the guise of articles. These articles “tell it like it is” and serve as a catalyst to inspire other anthropologists to make the great pilgrimage next summer (79).

Miller is a capital A anthropologist, check out the blurb from a book celebrating his work:

“Jay Miller is an anthropologist in the old-school Americanist tradition, rescuing, researching, sharing, and writing about cultural contexts, archaeology, history, beliefs, kinship, lifeways, and languages of indigenous peoples across North America”

I didn’t know Indigenous cultures needed “rescuing” (the word screams “salvage ethnography“). I was going to write that Miller didn’t mean any harm, but so what? Even if he didn’t know, his empirical approach to Mourning Dove’s work framed her in stereotypical and damaging ways. Here’s how he describes Mourning Dove as an author:

“[Mourning Dove] led two lives – a public one as Mourning Dove and a private one as a woman struggling to make ends meet. Her public life as a writer is all the more astounding because her formal education was scant, her command of Standard English was faulty, and her companions sometimes unsupportive” (xi).

Her public life as an author is not “astounding” and her education was not “scant.” She did struggle with English but still managed to be published in her second language; Nsyilxcən was her first language. She struggled financially, but Mourning Dove had many allies who supported her both financially and professionally. Miller’s description suggests that Indigenous writing in the early 20th century was an anomaly, a claim that is simply untrue. Sure, print forms of Indigenous lit are not plentiful (although published Indigenous authors were not “rare” or “astounding”), but that’s only one kind of story media!!! There are many other ways to share stories and none should be dismissed.

His colleagues write that Miller followed the Boasian model of anthropology (for which salvage ethnography was a central methodology), which I take to mean that he did a great deal of fieldwork and interacted with his subjects of study. While this model is definitely better than a model of anthropology where cultures (other than Euro-settler cultures) are studied from a distance, he still engages in “Indianology” (a real term, unbelievably, and still in use as of 2013). “Indians” are not an “ology” but living peoples who must be respected and consulted.

I guess the upshot is that if you see anything about Native American, First Nations, or Métis peoples by Jay Miller, be highly skeptical.

What I Cited:

Miller, Jay. Introduction. Mourning Dove: A Salishan Autobiography, by Mourning Dove. Reprint. Winnipeg: Bison Books, 1994. xi-xxxix.

Stapp, Darby C. and Kara N. Powers. Rescues, Rants, and Researches: A Re-View of Jay Miller’s Writings on Northwest Indien Cultures. Published by the Journal of Northwest Anthropology: Richmond, WA, 2014.

Editing Cogewea: Part I

I am keeping a research diary about my work editing Cogewea for a couple of reasons:

  1. I am a white academic working with an Indigenous text, and transparency is key.
  2. I like input from others.
  3. Editing this book is complex, and this diary tracks my attempt to edit via Indigenous protocols and practices (such as putting excerpts from Mourning Dove’s correspondence about Cogewea to her editor, Lucullus McWhorter, into the book, thereby reestablishing her voice rather than privileging the editor’s eurocentric approach).

Mourning Dove wrote Cogewea in 1927, the first western written by an Indigenous woman. It’s a cross-cultural story that decolonizes the western, which has been responsible for heinous misrepresentations of Indigenous identity and culture. When I say Mourning Dove decolonized the western, I mean she revised the ideological goals of the western, disabling, countering resisting the goals of this genre (the most popular fictional genre, IMO, ever produced) to reinforce white supremacy, free market capitalism, rugged individualism, anti-feminism (sometimes misogyny), and, yes, toxic masculinity. It’s a remarkable novel.

BUT, her novel was edited through proprietary, individualist, and colonial practices endemic to western publishing. This project is working towards building a collaborative edition of the novel that follows Indigenous editing practices as per Indigenous editors and scholars, particularly Dr. Greg Younging and Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm.

Who still reads Cogewea? This novel is mainly read by undergrads. This is why the project is so crucial. The only edition still in print was published in 1981 and its paratext spreads multiple myths that some (like me) might call racist (e.g salvage ethnography, Myth of the Vanishing Indian, and many more).

(Side note – I was going to link “salvage ethnography” to the Wikipedia article on the subject but it kind of furthers the ends of salvage ethnography rather than position it as a colonizing methodology – beware). 

So far, I have applied for money, so I can keep building an editing team – it’s a massive project with a print edition, digital edition, and gaming edition. I need more help! I have received a huge amount of help from The People and the Text (thank you!), but now I need to build the team for the print edition (which needs to go out first to give instructors another option to order).

If you are wondering why a new edition is necessary, here is just a small sample of the problems with the 1981 edition followed by edits to correct the original editor, Lucullus McWhorter’s interventions.

Dexter Fisher tells us in the introduction that the novel may be “wrenched in parts” and written in “unnatural language,” but the novel should be heralded for the “preservation of those beliefs and stories of the Okanogan culture that may have disappeared” (Fisher xxvi). Here, the introduction places Okanagan culture as in danger of vanishing and in need of preservation. This way of characterizing Indigenous stories as preserving culture rather than teaching how to “think, feel, and ‘be’” is a  colonial misrepresentation of Indigenous knowledge (see Jo-Ann Archibald’s Indigenous Storywork).

As promised, the following excerpts show how the old and new editions compare.

The first excerpt is from the 1927 and 1981 editions by Mourning Dove’s Euroamerican editor, Lucullus McWhorter. In this excerpt, Alfred Densmore – the Euroamerican easterner, who has come west ostensibly for adventure, but ends up wanting to steal the eponymous hero’s land – has been hunting and gives Cogewea’s grandmother game to befriend her. However, the grandmother knows what Densmore is up to and is concerned that her granddaughter may fall into Densmore’s trap:

Densmore often went shooting on the big flats where numerous small lakes were in evidence. To the surprise of all, he proved a successful hunter and bagged a goodly number of both ducks and prairie chickens along with the occasional goose. Badger, a noted wolf-hound and Bringo, were his constant companions on these excursions, ofttimes chasing down a wily coyote and the fleet footed jack rabbit. Densmore had also become handy with the rod, bringing home fine strings of fish. Stemteema was kept bountifully supplied with these delicacies, nor did the sportsman forgo an opportunity of ingratiating himself in her favor. But the ancient women received the gifts with stoic indifference and with doubtful gratitude. Perhaps it was more to please Cogewea, that she accepted the offerings, regarding them as part of her daily food supply. The girl sometimes accompanied the donor in these presentation visits, acting as interpreter. The keen-witted grandmother discerned that her grand child was growing more fond of the hated Shoyapee. (1)

(1) Sho-yah’_pee: denoting “white man.” The etymology is of foreign coinage, and in usage with but slight variation among all the northwestern tribes. The form here given and used throughout this volume is of the Spokanes as being slightly more phonetic than the Okanogan so-yah’-pen. It is the sho-yah’-poo of the Nez Perce, and Yakimas; and the whe-nee_tum of the Victorians, B.C. An intelligent Yakima told me of its introduction among his people. It was brought by the first Jesuistic missionary from some tribe not recalled, where it was applied to the white man, comparing him to the hog because of his greedy nature and proneness to “eat up everything he sights.”

Note how McWhorter offers a linguistic analysis of the word “Shoyapee” without noting who he consulted or where he found this information, which positions McWhorter as expert rather than a cultural outsider who needs to consult with Indigenous knowledge, Elders, and community members. He does cite the usage of the word from a member of the Yakima but has to qualify that this Yakima tribal member is “intelligent,” which implies that not all are (jeez, McWhorter). This note is a prime example of editing as part and parcel of a Eurocentric knowledge system. Here is a draft of the same section for the new teaching edition of Cogewea, but Lucullus McWhorter’s original annotation is revised via Dr. Armstrong’s Okanagan knowledge:

Densmore often went shooting on the big flats where numerous small lakes were in evidence. To the surprise of all, he proved a successful hunter and bagged a goodly number of both ducks and prairie chickens along with the occasional goose. Badger, a noted wolf-hound and Bringo, were his constant companions on these excursions, ofttimes chasing down a wily coyote and the fleet footed jack rabbit. Densmore had also become handy with the rod, bringing home fine strings of fish. Stemteema was kept bountifully supplied with these delicacies, nor did the sportsman forgo an opportunity of ingratiating himself in her favor. But the ancient women received the gifts with stoic indifference and with doubtful gratitude. Perhaps it was more to please Cogewea, that she accepted the offerings, regarding them as part of her daily food supply. The girl sometimes accompanied the donor in these presentation visits, acting as interpreter. The keen-witted grandmother discerned that her grand child was growing more fond of the hated Shoyapee. (1)

(1) Shoyapee

Mourning Dove’s collaborator, often called her editor, Lucullus McWhorter states frankly in his notes for the novel that the meaning of this word is shared across tribes of the Pacific Northwest: the word “shoyapee” describes white people as greedy hogs who consume everything in their path. Although McWhorter genders the word as “he,” Dr. Jeanette Armstrong, Okanagan scholar, activist, and storyteller, explains that gender is not an issue in oral stories because “it is the role that provided a focus and is embodied in a relationship and acts to reference the characteristics represented in the captikʷɬ or oral story” Armstrong agrees with McWhorter about the definition of the word but adds that the Shoyapee is also a representation of the malevolent greed and arrogance endemic to the colonial process, and is, therefore, not necessarily a racial epithet to be applied to an individual (204).

The above excerpt decenters McWhorter as the authority figure and repositions Indigenous knowledge as key to understanding the text. This example shows how Indigenous editing practices can decolonize a text from its entrapment in Eurocentric knowledge systems (I hope, anyways).

This is where we are headed. Again, BIG thank you to The People and the Text and Dr. Jeanette Armstrong.

The Tyranny of The Wikipedians

 

Transparency: I am a white, CIS academic, who currently holds a contract from Wilfred Laurier Press to edit a print and digital edition of Mourning Dove’s western, Cogewea (1927) using Indigenous editing practices and protocols. In keeping with being a white person working with Indigenous texts, I am and will collaborate with Indigenous scholars and community members. If I am asked not to work with a particular text, document or object, I won’t. It’s neither mine nor part of my culture.

I am having a hard time with a Wikipedian, who goes by the name of Cordless Larry. This Wikipedian takes their job very seriously, and their job is very much akin to the role of a peer reviewer. Peer review has been taking a beating lately and for good reason, implicit bias is one problem, but the other is the anonymous nature of peer review. A reviewer like Cordless Larry is given a model for knowledge dissemination (which seems like an invitation to be a guardian or gatekeeper), and then they defend that model. The Wikipedia model claims to be a repository for all of “human knowledge,” but is it? My experience shows that the rules are western oriented at best and at worst, Eurocentric.

Let’s get back to Larry. If you go to my Talk page on Wikipedia (I’m not a regular, exactly because of Wikipedians like Cordless Larry), you’ll see the argument in full. Check this out: I was refuting the claim that Indigenous peoples  have “vanished,” otherwise known as the “Vanishing Indian Myth.” Larry gets to claim that stating the Okanagan Nation Alliance and Colville Confederated Tribes are thriving is “original research.” I removed the word “thriving,” because I thought Larry might be (correctly) thinking that it was too evaluative. Not good enough and the  statement was called “original research.” They didn’t ask for a reference. “Original research” according to Wikipedia are claims that cannot be verified by reputable and reliable sources. I could have easily done this, but by saying that this statement is “original research,” Larry is virtually erasing Indigenous identity.

I am not saying that their suggestions about tone were not correct and other small edits – indeed, Larry clearly knows what they are doing at the level of language. My issue is with the inability to see other kinds of evidence as vital to bringing balance to Wikipedia’s clear bias. The majority of Wikipedia’s editors are white, male, and have a post-secondary eduction, and these are the editors who get to tell the stories of marginalized others often excluded from privileged forms of knowledge (I hear the irony calling: I am a person of privileged editing an Indigenous text). The assumption of privilege is pretty damn clear when Larry is able to lower the rating and quality of the article by flagging it as containing “original research” and not enough reliable references.

Yep, that’s right Larry is a prominent Wikipedian who has rated the page as not having enough references. If you visit the page, you’ll see that each and every statement beyond plot summary has one or more peer reviewed references. If I dare add anything to the article that is outside Larry’s boundaries, he swoops in and ensures that any and all evidence meets a criteria not of “all human knowledge” but of the knowledge that Larry deems is useful. But “rules!,” you might say, “we need rules to keep things in order!” This claim is true, but what if the playing field is not level?

For years, Mourning Dove’s authorship or her own book was questioned, and by Wikipedia’s standards, this information is accepted knowledge, even though it was patently wrong. Mourning Dove’s Cogewea is a book that has been misunderstand and misrepresented, because the author is an Indigenous woman. Therefore, an article written from an Indigenized perspective is another form of knowledge production that privileges certain ways of knowing outside of Larry’s sphere. But his sphere is the centre from which all other knowledges must genuflect.

If I sound somewhat bitter, it’s been a long couple of weeks trying to fight against an editor determined to undermine rather than uplift. There is no negotiation or debate. What Larry says goes. Look! He has over 35 000 edits! And for this work, which I am sure is excellent within his sphere of understanding, he is given power. The way to level up in the game of Wikipedia is to edit, edit, and edit some more.  But it’s not to seemingly mentor or support. It’s a militaristic enterprise with a strict hierarchy – not really conducive to the governance by consensus that plays a major role in Indigenous philosophy. Wikipedia needs to state openly that it is NOT a repository of human knowledge but western ideals of knowledge production. Sure, it’s community edited, but that community seems awfully limited to a certain type of person.

Finally, Cordless Larry really did not like my inclusion of Indigenous editing practices in the Cogewea article. I want to share the section he removed with you. This is not original research, but an attempt to show the interconnectedness of knowledge production, which is part and parcel of Indigenizing. However, Larry did not see the connection and removed this section without asking why it’s there or inviting debate:

Indigenous editing

Editing as a western cultural, economic, and epistemological practice is grounded in systemic discrimination and colonization [12] This fact has led to a long-standing movement to have Indigneous texts, like Mourning Dove’s Cogewea edited using Indigenous protocols and practices. More examples of such systemic discrimination include the resignation of Write magazine’s editor Hal Niedzviecki (Write magazine is the quarterly publication of the Writers’ Union of Canada). Niedzviecki edited the manuscripts of several Indigenous authors as part of a special issue of Write; subsequently, in his introduction, he argued that there is no such thing as cultural appropriation: it’s a writer’s prerogative to represent and articulate the voice of any culture or people. Subsequently, a number of prominent journalists, including Jonathan McKay, former editor of The Walrus and Steve Ladurantaye, formerly managing editor of CBC’s The National (TV program), publicly denounced Niedzviecki’s firing, questioning those who opposed Niedzviecki’s point of view, which included many of the authors whose work he edited.[13]

The Niedzviecki scandal is not an isolated case. Indigenous authors are often framed by colonial discourse, which has necessitated a general call for an Indigenous approach to editing Indigenous texts.[14] [15]

 

If Wikipedia is about sharing information and educating readers, then this information, which is not original research, should have been left in. True, this information is not fall neatly in Cogewea’s chronological history, but it is linked to Cogewea as a novel that suffered from Western editing practices. If there is an irony here, it’s that Mourning Dove’s novel was embroiled in yet another battle with a controlling editor. I would have appreciated suggestions to improve this section rather than Larry telling me this has nothing to do with Cogewea as a novel. I would have appreciated an actual discussion rather than demands, notifications, and punishments.

 

Gaming the Edition

Twine is a digital storytelling tool that most people have heard of or maybe even used? I actually think that Twine’s capabilities have yet to be fathomed outside of building compelling games like Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest. Twine has the capacity to be a great remediation tool, transforming print books into text-based games. But why in the world would anyone do such a thing?

Lots of reasons, but certainly no reasoning that assumes “print is dead.” In fact, following Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s lead, discourses of obsolescence and decline have more to do with shoring up cultural hierarchies than any actual “end of days” for a particular medium (2). That is, this project is not about proving that print is dying, but much more to do with supplementing and even correcting some of the limitations of print. This kind of work can be tough when print texts have been romanticized to the point where most readers do not recognize that a book is really nothing more than a portable data container (with a whole lot of cultural baggage). books are heavy, man.

A book is a tool – a form of media technology designed to contain text in a particular way, after all, “texts are linguistic and as such do not have a fixed physical form,” meaning that texts can expressed across many different kinds of media (Kelemen 29). Yep, text is transformable, but when working with digital mediums, things get sticky. Digital mediums fundamentally change how text is managed, stored, read, and even understood, which makes the work of the editor even more important.

As every editor knows, the actual history of the book is vital to understand how to deal with a book in an ethical manner. An editor I greatly admire, Zailig Pollock, makes this point pretty damn clear in his essay “The Material and Cultural Transformation of Scholarly Editing in Canada” that when we are editing texts (particularly scholarly forms of editing) we are grappling with forces of authority, legitimacy, and power. No one understands these forces better than Indigenous authors and editors who have had to engage (grapple?) with western-style militaristic practices of editorial control and power, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so much:

[w]hen Indigenous authors in Canada submit their work to a publisher it is always in the context of a colonial history built on exclusion, segregation, abuses of authority, domination, and official policies of assimilation meant to destroy Aboriginal languages and cultures, remove Aboriginal peoples and their lands, disrupt family relationships, and eliminate the special legal status of any remaining “Indian” peoples (Akiwenzie Damm 30)

This is what I mean when I say BOOKS ARE HEAVY – they carry the weight of their own contents and all the history that came with it. For a great many Indigenous writers, this weight includes the structural racism of academic publishing and editing. My question is this: is the book itself as a technology also a medium designed to oppress? If the paratext, which is meant to complement the contents, operates to neutralize (or neuter) the author’s cultural voice, ethos, and position, then the scholarly edition exerts colonial control.

For this reason, we are building (I use the pronoun “we” because this project has received loads of help) a scholarly social knowledge edition of Mourning Dove’s Cogewea. This  edition incorporates Indigenous editing practice and digital gaming paradigms to create an interactive text that actively engages the reader. We are following groundbreaking work by Sonja Sapach, Jon Saklofske and the Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE) Modelling and Prototyping Team who created a “Gaming the Edition” text model to challenge the private practice of scholarly editing. Through this project, they ask questions about how to create a rigorous open access model that is somewhat akin to the Wikipedia model of editing, but once a reader edits the text, they “level up” and continue on their reading and editing journey.  

While the digital Cogewea edition will not engage open access editing in this form, gaming an edition can create spaces of learning, participation, and interconnectivity in previously restricted print text editions where only those with exclusive knowledge could access and understand the form and content. Digital paradigms offer a means to realize active, energized textual engagement between reader and text, overlapping and blending Indigenous orature, community, and kinetic vitality in a digital textual space. In other words, it’s a good idea to at least test out new forms that can offer a more respectful way to share Indigenous stories with a wide audience. Twine is the testing ground, but it’s not like we are the first! There have been interventions into colonial editing and publishing practices ( The People and the Text and Theytus Books comes to mind). 

The director of Diversity and Inclusion for Riot Games, Soha Kareem, describes Twine as a tool for reimagining and redefining modes of storytelling; it can help to give voice to lesser-heard voices. The digital scholarly edition of Cogewea will follow a tradition of interactive fiction to engage the user not simply through reading, but teaching the user how to read in order to proceed (Montfort 3). This aspect of interactive fiction is crucial to our project. As Deanna Reder and Linda Morra make clear, it is not uncommon for postsecondary students, staff, and teachers to lack knowledge of Indigenous histories and knowledge. Interactive fiction, therefore, offers users or “interactors,” to borrow Janet Murray’s term for readers of interactive fiction (or text-based games) new ways to engage with the text. Nick Montford explains that interactive fiction teaches “by offering a new way of seeing” (4). Our goal is to use interactive fiction to create an Indigenized way to read a scholarly edition of an Indigenous text.

Now to finish the game (check out the Beta. The link is a pinned Tweet on my Twitter profile @smhumphreys)

What I cited….

Akiwenzie-Damm, Kateri. “‘We think differently. We have a different understanding.”: Editing Indigenous Texts as an Indigenous Editor.” Editing as a Cultural Practice in Canada. Dean Irvine and Smaro Kamboureli, ed. Waterloo: WLU Press, 2016. 29-40.

Kelemen, Erick. Textual Editing and Criticism. W.W. Norton, 2009. Print.

Montfort, Nick. Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2005. Print.

Pollock, Zailig. “The Material and Cultural Transformation of Scholarly Editing in Canada.” Editing as a Cultural Practice in Canada. Dean Irvine and Smaro Kamboureli, ed. Waterloo: WLU Press, 2016. 93-104.

Tending tenderness and disrupting the myth of academic rock stars

Can we imagine academia without rockstars? Extreme individualism? I’d like to think so. Read this for more.

Urbane Adventurer: Amiskwacî

IMG_3870

In euro-american academia, the arts, media, politics, and literature we are enthralled, obsessed with two things: ‘innovation’ and individuality. The triumph of individual will to manifest something new new new trumps everything else. Granting agencies often focus on a single Principle Investigator to the exclusion of whole teams of human and more-than-human beings who make certain projects or ideas possible. News reporters want to find the new voice, the emerging voice, the singular representative of a community to demonstrate the raw will of a single body, mind, and spirit. They want us to believe that these achievements are not the product of the blood, sweat, and labour of myriad co-convenors, co-thinkers, collaborators, and co-dreamers who lift each other up in often dreary, cold, and impossible (impassible) academic systems and structures. They want us to believe that there is no village of academic aunties (as per Erica Violet Lee’s brilliant…

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We Are All Bunnies

Indeed, I have been a bunny who was drowned by a former institution. Protect your rights.

Tales Told Out of School

I’m sitting at my desk today watching the reactions and commentary about the situation at Mount St. Mary pour in via Twitter and Facebook.  In case you haven’t read about it yet: here’s the latest.  Those of us who recognize the value of tenure, still believe there is a place for respectful disagreement in higher ed, and want better things for our own students and institutions are a bit speechless (which would be a wise strategy if you were at Mount St. Mary).  Horrified and shocked and saddened seem the most common emotions.

I’m guessing that this drama isn’t over yet.  I expect lawsuits, alumni protest (at least the president can’t fire them), and hopefully, some response from the college’s Board of Trustees.  But in the meantime I think we faculty and administrators at other institutions need to do three things.

The first is to engage in some self-education. …

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Ok, let’s talk: A response to the Bell Let’s Talk campaign

Vision Passion Action

This post was written by Danielle Landry. She teaches Mad People’s History as part-time instructor with the School of Disability Studies.

A drawing of a road side stand with the words "psychiatric help 5 cents" on top. Inside the stand there is a person with a blue text box. The bottom of the stand reads "The corporation is in"Ok, let’s talk.

Let’s talk about how those two new workplace scenario commercials only reinforce the idea that it’s unsafe to talk about mental health to your boss or co-workers, instead of establishing that employers in Ontario actually have a duty to accommodate disabled workers, including those with psychiatric disabilities.

Let’s stop positioning disabled people as charity cases through a-nickel-for-every-text campaigns.

Let’s talk about the erosion of our social systems through corporate greed.

Let’s ask why Bell hasn’t instituted any programs to support its low-income customers, such as if they need a reprieve from paying their bills during a hospital stay.

Let’s talk about why it’s not okay that we have to rely on corporate sponsorship to sustain our mental health system. Let’s ask if corporate influence serves to…

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Billboard knows best

An insightful “both/and” reading of Dove’s ad campaign.

Be beautiful...or else

Dove’s campaign calls women to action: choose beauty. Do it, just do it! Their campaign seems to claim that if you choose their products, boom: you’ve gone and chosen beauty. Images of women all over Dove’s Tumblr  depicts them choosing between doors labelled “average” or “beautiful”. The firming lotion in the billboard below becomes a confidence-in-a-bottle product, rather than  just another drugstore product. The general idea behind the Real Beauty campaign may well be a good one, but tying it together with a company and their brand in this way leads less to women feeling good about themselves in general, and more to them feeling good about that last purchase they made. This billboard shows how Dove is drawing the female gaze rather than the male, and then using that to sell happiness.

In his work, Écrits: A Selection, Jacques Lacan redefines the classic Descartes quote from “I think therefore I am,”…

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research, teaching, and a little angst