The Politics of Faith and Secularism in Writing Centers and Writing Studies (Edited Book)
The Politics of Faith and Secularism in Writing Centers and Writing Studies
As a result of the work of progressive scholars such as Romeo García (2017), Harry Denny et al. (2018), Kendra Mitchell and Robert Randolph (2019), Laura Greenfield (2019), Travis Webster (2021), and Wonderful Faison and Frankie Condon (2021), identity has come to loom large in conversations about writing center work. As some institutions of higher education across the United States are extending their social justice missions and other institutions are dismantling such initiatives, writing center professionals have grown increasingly committed to exploring race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, language, and ability in writing center pedagogy and tutor education. Yet dialogue about faith or lack thereof remains difficult to broach among writing center professionals and WPAs more broadly. As Anne Ruggles Gere (2001) writes on writing program administration, “we have failed to develop sophisticated and nuanced theoretical discourses to articulate spirituality” into our writing curricula (46), and often, writing instructors, too, are left unsure on how to navigate conversations on faith and religious beliefs in their classrooms. Many faculty and staff have perhaps internalized the notion that religion is a private matter that has nothing to do with our secular work, arguably finding comfort in secularist rhetoric that exists beyond the bounds of interfaith dialogue and ignoring the reality of the diverse beliefs that students, faculty, and staff hold at both secular and religious institutions of higher education, as discussed by WPA scholars such as Laura Fitzgerald (2007). Those of us invested in writing pedagogy and learning communities have marginalized or incessantly avoided the subject of religion because, as Sharon Crowley’s (2006) juxtaposition of fundamentalists and liberals suggests, believers and belief are often deemed conservative. Many of us have likewise avoided the subject simply because conversations about faith and secularism are not easy to have. We have left students and professionals on their own, either hiding their religious faiths or forming their own discourses about it without the support of theories and interfaith dialogue practices that can foster learning and further understanding of others to our religious or secular selves.
Although our writing centers and classrooms are not yet equipped to address faith-related dialogic impasses when they build up in a tutorial session, we can transform writing center and writing studies pedagogy and education to enable writing center and writing studies professionals’ agency in difficult moments that involve dialogic impasses involving faith or lack thereof. This edited collection acknowledges that to discuss faith and secularism is to discuss conflict within intersectional identity work, to acknowledge difficulties in coalition building and how religion and faith intersect with and complicate such work, and to embrace discomfort. This collection seeks to intervene at the crossroads of our current political moment, recognizing the absence of religion from social justice work and underscoring the divisiveness that social justice initiatives create. It aims to represent a range of intersectional voices from writing center and classroom spaces including secular and religious students, tutors, teachers, administrators, and other writing center and writing studies professionals who work at both secular and religious institutions. We likewise aim to attend to the politics of faith and secularism in writing center practice in order to underscore the ways in which faiths and secularisms of different kinds manifest as conservative, moderate, and liberal and intersect with race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, language, ability, and other identities. We recognize that students’ and professionals’ interactions with religiously charged subjects and with religious and secular interlocutors in and beyond US institutions of higher education are not neutral. They are politicized by the cultural capital that accompanies them into writing spaces, and that mainstreams and/or minoritizes their power statuses in their social, intellectual, and writing lives. Ultimately, through this collection, we seek to create a heuristic for our writing center and writing studies colleagues, enabling them to initiate conversations about religious faith and secularism when and where it is relevant, when and where environmental exigency calls for it, when and where our writing processes engage with it. We seek to prepare writing center and writing studies professionals to see and respond to impasses about faith and secularism in writing center tutorials and writing classrooms, ask critical questions, prepare to resolve conflicts rather than avoid them, and morph the religiously charged national and global debates that give context to our work into teachable moments of interfaith dialogue.
Prospective contributors should submit 250- to 300-word proposals for book chapters that address the politics of faith and secularism in writing centers and programs—proposals that acknowledge that the act of writing cannot be reduced to the mechanical process of composing when writers routinely respond to political, social, cultural, socioreligious and socioeconomic exigences. As editors, we wish to see essays that discuss the complexity of faith, identity, and social justice work, as we believe that faith—like all aspects of identity—intersects and complicates our discussions, and to sidestep discussions of faith might hinder the type of inclusive work we are trying to do. We are interested in work that examines intersections between faith and our antiracist work, our LGBTQIA+ work, our disability justice work, and other social justice work. Inspired by this exigency, we have come to ask ourselves the following questions, and we ask that prospective contributors consider them as well as springboards for proposals:
How do we engage religious faith within our writing centers and programs and embrace the diversity that exists within the religious spectrum?
In what ways does faith complicate and/or enrich our conversations on race? On gender and sexuality? On disability justice? On social justice work more broadly?
What does discourse on faith and secularism look like at your writing center or classroom and how might such discourse also do the work of writing/ center pedagogy?
How do conversations about faith start in our writing centers and classrooms? Who and what initiates them? How do we respond to them ethically and effectively? How do we engage such conversations to become part of a dialogue rather than engross a conflict?
How do tutors and student writers of different faiths—or who are secular or atheist—feel about and operate within the secular and religious institutions of which they are a part?
How do we create opportunities for tutors and students to bring aspects of their religious or secularist lives to writing center tutorials and writing classrooms to promote visibility, representation, and dialogue without causing harm or insult to others?
How have you revealed or concealed your faith or secularism in a writing center session or in a writing classroom discussion? What types of institutional and/or personal forces/concerns/issues helped to create this moment?
How have conversations about faith caused discomfort in the writing center/classroom? In what ways were these moments silencing? Productive? Empowering?
In what ways do conversations about faith and religious identities help us learn “with and from difference?” How have you prepared yourself to have informed conversations on faith, as it exists on a larger spectrum of identity work?
How do faith and religion intersect and possibly interfere with our anti-racist missions and our social justice missions in our writing centers/programs? How can we integrate conversations about faith into our social justice work and missions?
Because this collection aims to deepen and complicate our understandings and conversations on faith and religious identities in our writing spaces, we are especially interested in such work from BIPOC scholars, LGBTQIA scholars, disability justice scholars, graduate students, tutors, writing instructors, writing administrators, and those at HBCUS, MSUs, HSIs, Tribal Colleges, and two-year institutions.
Please send your 250-300 word proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org. In your proposals, be sure to include your name and contact email, short biographical sketch and/or CV, title of contribution, the overall focus and/or argument of your proposal and its relation to the CFP, and your proposed structure and organization of the piece. Potential contributors are welcome to contact us with any questions or concerns they have throughout the process.
Hadi Banat, Andrea Efthymiou, Liliana Naydan, Anna Sicari, and Lisa Wright
November 30, 2021: Proposals due
January 7, 2022: Notification of accepted chapters
June 24, 2022: Full chapters due
Aug 24, 2022: Editorial feedback to authors with chapters circulated
Oct 3, 2022: Full manuscript completed with submission to press