Code-Meshing and the Stretch Course as Anti-Racist Pedagogy (Conference Script)

July 20, 2018 § Leave a comment

Code-Meshing and the Stretch Course as Anti-Racist Pedagogy

Roger K. Green, Metropolitan State University.

Below is a draft of a conference script for a presentation at the CCCC Regional Conference in Denver, CO on July 20-21, 2018.

One of the great benefits of Stretch courses is the ability to move both our pedagogy and our students’ writing habits beyond the inoculation theories of writing embedded in the set and setting of liberal and neoliberal institutional models.  Especially for first generation students and students acclimating to U.S. education systems, Stretch courses allow us the time to give students the tools to confront the cruel optimism of meritocratic thinking and archaic social myths of upward mobility.

Cruel optimism is a term that Lauren Berlant uses to describe the affective nature of historical evental framing.  Put simply, “Cruel optimism is the condition of maintaining an attachment to a significantly problematic object” (Berlant 24).  Berlant describes cruel optimism as “a deictic – a phrase that points to a proximate location,” saying that cruel optimism “attends to practices of self interruption, self suspension, and self abeyance that indicate people’s struggles to change, but not traumatically, the terms of value in which their life-making activity has been cast” (27).

While on a daily basis I think of the ways people attend to the work of composition-rhetoric itself as cruelly optimistic, inoculation theories being but one instance, in this paper I want to focus on some of the theoretical approaches to my pedagogical decisions in the Stretch course itself.  A more practical follow-up will occur tomorrow in a talk with my colleagues Jane Chapman-Vigil and Jessica Parker on the first-year writing program at MSU Denver.

In my Stretch courses, first semester for me is about community-building and trust-building through transparency and anti-racist approaches to writing.  We begin overtly discussing issues of race and code-meshing, usually via Vershawn Ashanti Young’s argument against preserving “Linguistic Double-Consciousness” with in the first two weeks of class.  We have explicit and often uncomfortable discussions about race.

I find Lee Mun Wah’s What Stands Between Us: Racism Conversation Flashcards particularly helpful early on.  It’s useful to play this in the first few days of class, before students know each other. As a moderator, I do not participate, but I let students know beforehand that at the end they are able to ask me my personal thoughts on any of the questions, so I am not free from having to engage but am able to open a transparent dialogue about my own presence and the power relations between students and professors. While uncomfortable at first, students usually respond that it makes class feel “real.”[1]  Many mention they never discussed race in high school.

I begin illustrating code-meshing with Hip hop with readings from Jay-Z’s Decoded.  This echoes Jessica Parker’s strategy of that using Hip-hop as a vehicle for students “to reflect on and acknowledge their own identities and how these identities inform their readings of and writing about African American texts” (195).  And while I do use Hip hop overtly in class, Hip hop pedagogyas KRS-One describes it in The Gospel of Hip Hop (and other places) emphasizes community.  It is important to me that my course is framed argumentatively from the start in terms of current discussions in composition-rhetoric and that I am inviting my students into this discipline.  Students do not have to buy the argument, but we do approach the class as an experiment related to current composition theory discussions.

To confront ill-informed concerns about code-meshing, I am transparent with my students that in my class we work with current scholarship in our field and that other professors on campus may not be clued into that scholarship, just as you would expect to get current scholarship from a genetics course. This means the students may have to either negotiate or choose not to negotiate with their other professors regarding language conventions.  This implies some agency on their part and active concerns with what they want from their writing instead of an abstract implementation of Mainstream United States English (MUSE).

First semester is also about deep inquiry into the rhetorical concepts of framing, ethos, pathos, logos, kairos, and exigence and building a set of analytical tools that emphasize constant reflection. Anti-colonial theory is one of my main strategies to teach why framing matters.  Part of anti-colonial strategy is to turn the colonizing gaze back upon the colonizer, and in my classroom this means overtly owning up to the historically white supremacist legacies that imbricate my own being in ongoing inequity.  I self-identify to my students my whiteness and my masculinity and note the blinders that come with my social positioning.  I stress that students may self-identify as they wish, but as we know with DACA students, some of us would like to keep certain aspects of identity as private as possible.

Owning up to white peoples’ role in colonial oppression is to be distinguished from a narcissistic performance of white guilt, yet as Frantz Fanon noted half a century ago, decolonization is always violent.[2]  In Tinker’s American Indian Liberation, he actually gives a list of actions for white folks that I use as a handout.  One point states: “it will be critical for amer-european (White) people to complete a task largely ignored until now, namely, to identify amer-european (White) culture.  And once Whiteness is carefully identified, it then should be a target for destruction” (161).

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva describes white rhetoric as four frameworks of rationalization to perpetuate existing inequality: 1) Abstract liberalism 2) Naturalization 3) Cultural racism (4) Minimization of racism.  Of these, abstract liberalism is often the most difficult to see as upholding white supremacy in the U.S.  Let me put some of this into pedagogical context of my Stretch course through narrative.

Part of building trust and community means my students have input for course reading subjects during second semester.  Last spring, my students were interested in reading about schizophrenia and mental illness.  I was reminded of Tanya Luhrmann’s ethnographic work in her book, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God, which draws on a career of work on ecstatic states and the long history that psychology has had associating so-called “shamans” with mental illness.

Wanting shorter readings, I turned to an edited collection by Lurhmann titled, Our Most Troubling Madness: Case Studies in Schizophrenia across Cultures, and particularly an essay by Amy Jane Sousa titled: “Diagnostic Neutrality in Psychiatric Treatment in North India.” Sousa argues for the benefits of the technique some Indian doctors use of not labeling patients with the taxonomic designations of the DSM-V, an argument that builds upon an earlier reading we had done from Ethan Watters’ book, Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, which had a chapter on “The Rise of Anorexia in Hong Kong.” That reading had related to a body-image theme my students were interested in, and it was directed at a more popular audience than Luhrmann, so we were able to discuss genre differences too. Putting it first meant we could talk about scholarly versus popular writing while still addressing their interests as well as drawing on anti-colonial themes I had introduced first semester.

My classes meet two days a week, and during second semester day one is always a group discussion led by a group of students on readings that align with their interests.  Everyone discussion-leads at least twice, and extra credit options are available for folks who want to jump in and help out if other students are absent.  I use Critical Discourse Analysis, a technique introduced in semester-one inspired by anti-racist pedagogy in the race cards discussion.  I take notes attentively for class.  Discussions, which I describe as a skill to be learned in community, need to last at least 45 minutes. What we are doing is practicing strategies of invention and rhetorical reading more than trying to get really specific knowledge.  Texts must be dense enough to require a bit of digging and collective effort.  After discussion, I feed-back what I heard and answer any clarifying questions, which includes the students’ chance to ask me point blankly my opinions about anything that came up in discussion.

Then we reflect back on the conversation itself, and with community awareness we ask how we could make our discussion the next week even better.  On the second day of the week during semester two, we collectively develop topoi for essay assignments, then rationales for how the assignment we write directly connect to the Student Behavior Learning Outcomes on our syllabus, then the evaluative criteria and percentages for how I am to assess their writing.  This last step allows us reflective time to consider what our priorities are as writers and the assumptions we tend to have about linguistic performances.

During the week of the schizophrenia articles, my students began to connect the idea of diagnostic neutrality to ways we think about grading writing.  Kathleen Yancey has argued for the rhetorical importance of reflection: “Reflection is a process we use to make meaning and make knowledge, a kind of meaning and knowledge unique to reflection given its intersectionality, its insistence that only through bringing the human and the world together to theorize can reflective knowledge and meaning be made” (303-304).  Regarding connection and transfer, she has drawn on Schwartz, Chase, and Bransford to remind us that “teachers should be mindful not to overuse the typical tell and practice (T&P) format for learning” (in Yancey 26).  Teachers benefit from student reflection as well.  For example, my students’ discussion about diagnostic neutrality occurred about the time the CCC’s call for this conference was due, and so my students’ intellectual interests and discussions are themselves a shadow text underwriting my presence here today.

Besides reflection, I believe an overt presencing of code-meshing recurring throughout the year long class is necessary rather than a brief exercise or unit, since decolonizing static and transcendent notions of monolingual English must be routinely practiced by all of us. During first semester I often introduce Aja Martinez’s discussion of counter-narrative into discussion to show how so-called “academic writing” can employ creative genres reflectively, something Doug Hesse argued for in terms of “essayistic reflection” and “the modesty of authors leaving traces of themselves in their writings.”  Although Martinez, Yancey, and Hesse are not explicitly discussing code-meshing, similar thought-moves apply – even though we don’t often talk about them through the racialized assemblages that occur with code-meshing.  Such assemblages are an overt part of discussion in my Stretch courses through anti-colonial pedagogy and identification of whitely rhetoric.

Hip hop scholarship has been a rewarding way to concretize such discussions.  For example, I’ve found a Hip hop unit helpful when students are particularly interested: Students read about Kara Jane Lombard’s “From Subways to Product Labels: The Commercial Incorporation of Hip Hop Graffiti.”  We discuss graffiti as writing and its genre conventions. Then I move to Todd Fraley’s study of Hip hop, authenticity, and whiteness in relation to Eminem’s use of AAVE. We then look at regional variations and subgenres of Hip hop (Sigler and Balaji).  From there we move to more professional linguistics studies of English varieties such as Bloomquist and Hancock’s excellent comparisons of southern regionalism versus urban usages that reflect the influence of the “Dirty Third.”  From linguistic varieties within the U.S. we then turn to studies of globalization of English through Hip hop.  For example, Jamie Shinhee Lee looks at the penetration of AAVE borrowings in Korean Hip hop, and Wale Adedeji has analyzed localized forms of hybridization in Nigerian music used to maintain distinct African musical and linguistic identities within hip hop frames as a means of resisting the globalizing effects of U.S. media hegemony.  Both sonic examples and resources like allow students more concrete engagement and open up ideas of open sourcing and user-generated criticism.  In order for reflective pedagogy to work in the sophisticated ways with code-meshing in second semester of Stretched composition, I stress that it requires building relationships of trust from first semester rooted in anti-racist pedagogies.           

In taking up the motivated term, “anti-racist pedagogy,” I am instantly in the position of pairing writing pedagogy with ideas of social justice and equitability.  Too often, however, the term “social justice” invokes whitely notions of transcendence and eternity.  As I turn toward the theoretical part of my argument, I want to distinguish this point in relationship to an article that Dr. Jessica Parker sent my way.  Jerry Won Lee’s “Beyond Translingual Writing,” describes linguistic social justice as “confronting the inequitable discursive economies that afford disproportionate amounts of social capital to certain language practices over others” (176).  Lee argues for “translanguaging assessment” as a method to move beyond “assessing translingual writing.”  He gives three interrelated principles to support his efforts: 1) negotiating linguistic and institutional expertise; 2) individualizing evaluative criteria; and 3) attenuating the translingual-monolingual binary (177).

With respect to Lee, and building from his work I want to qualify my argument with a friendly critique of what I see as the “shadow text” – a term I take from literary critic Perry Nodelman – of dogmatic liberalism and neoliberalism underwriting Lee’s discursive analytics to promote linguistic social justice. I particularly see dogmatic liberalism at work in the verbs “negotiate,” “individualize,” and “attenuate” – verbs which to me indicate not only liberalism, but Protestant Christian theological modes that are part and parcel of euro-christian capitalist culture (i.e., “I recognize a savior who saves me and await a return”). While I generally agree with Lee’s argument, I suggest that approaches to translingualism and code-meshing need support from overt pedagogical critiques of liberalism and antiracist pedagogy. My hope is that, even if one disagrees with my critiques, I can open a discussion more pointed to toward the value of linguistic social justice that I believe Lee and I both share.

What’s wrong with liberalism?  For my purposes here, ‘liberalism’ and its more nebulous offspring, ‘neoliberalism,’ both name a whitely rhetoric imbricated within euro-christian (largely Protestant) culture that presents notions of transcendence to manufacture seemingly “objective” positions of inquiry, discourse, and justice.  The Rawlsian veil (which Lee refers to) is but one famous example of this manufacturing at work, where “justice as fairness” means supposing a “veil of ignorance” with respect to questions of inequity.[3]  The “original position” / “state of nature” always performs a kind of leveling to theoretically proceed from a more equitable base.  In that sense, it often acts as a fictional tabula rasa.[4]  Such a veil is an example of a liberally utopic space or “state of nature” whereby we may press an atemporal “reset button,” a replaying of the cruel optimism of liberal secularization theories that seek to disavow ‘religion’ while remaining part of an ideologically euro-christian social movement.

Much of this has not been interrogated enough in Composition Studies and its turn toward civic engagement, although Deborah Brandt has explicitly argued, “A weak civic tradition for mass writing means that courts these days find it easier to uphold the free speech rights of corporations than free speech rights of individuals who work for them” (164).  Writing as unacknowledged labor, whether in the corporate world or on Facebook is of great concern when we think of code-meshing as an actuality of daily communication instead of a marginalized way to talk about linguistic varieties in our classrooms.  Drawing on Vershawn Young and Suresh Canagarajah, Vivette Milson-Whyte has argued for the linguistic resources made available by code-meshing approaches (117), but there is something more pointed in my argument here.

With respect to anti-racist pedagogy, perceiving a “pure” form of English or even MUSE is closely tied to conceptions of utopic spaces that risk perpetuating andminimizingexisting racial inequities that arose during the early modern primitive accumulation of capital that worked through the invention of a racialized “other.”  In the same ways, “post-race” rhetoric is motivated by relegating inequities like its racial others to categories of extinction and cultures without histories, to a past that progressive society has “overcome” and a liberal utopic basileiaor kingdom.[5]As Aja Martinez has noted, Critical Race Theory has sought to place racism as a social constant rather than a solvable problem, a constant that must be confronted even if it will not be solved. Such theory challenges liberal racial progress narratives.

With respect to both race and religion, Osage historian of Native traditions, Tink Tinker, often expresses the sentiment of colonized people in phrases like: “white people often want to get rid of their own constructions of race, now that they don’t serve them anymore, just as they want to steal the spiritualities of indigenous peoples now that they’ve stolen everything else they had…too bad.”  I take from Tinker my categorization of euro-christian, presented in lower case letters to remind us of the historical power still at work in those terms.  As I often must explain to my white students (who like many white Christians appropriate rhetorics of inclusivity to bemoan their marginalization),[6]an anti-racist pedagogy is not anti-white; it is anti-white-supremacist, and so drawing attention to legacies of what George Lipsitz has called the “possessive investment in whiteness” becomes part of any classroom promoting anti-racist pedagogy.  The important rhetorical point here is that an anti-colonial and anti-racist pedagogy that names the colonizing forms of whitely rhetoric rather than simply “including” variants into neoliberal multicultural rhetoric allows us to see white supremacy at work in ways that reveal the appropriation of once progressive rhetorics employed to give marginalized citizens more democratic representation by white nationalist appeals to their marginalized traditions and their rights to be racial supremacists.

Translingual approaches, as Lee notes, attack the “ideology that contains languages from contact with each other, associating language mixing with contamination and lack of proficiency” (178).  Lee points to Vershawn Ashanti Young’s arguments for code-meshing as a strategy for addressing linguistic double-consciousness[7]among African American Vernacular (AAVE) speakers as well as Canagarajah’s work on global Englishes.  Lee notes that “it is important that translingualism locates spaces for language practices that are generally pathologized in institutional contexts such as academic writing, including those of multilingual writers.” Yet Lee also correctly points to the cruel optimism at work in code-meshing approaches that do not avow the historical inequities and the critiques made by “pragmatist position” occupied by Lisa Delpit and Richard Scott Lyons (179). One of the risks of the idealistic position, which foregrounds code-meshing in the classroom is “linguistic tourism.”  I would argue that the necessity to combine anticolonial pedagogy with concepts of code-meshing are necessary to address both issues and can be employed pedagocically by using the classroom space as research-informed and thesis-oriented.  My Stretch students know very well the ways they’ve been marginalized.  Against the pragmatist’s claims, I do not think I am offering a panacea or alter utopia.

I am particularly sensitive to Lee’s discussion of linguistic tourism, echoed in Milson-Whyte’s call for “legitimation” rather than “valorization” of language varieties[8], since I use Hip Hop actively in my Stretch courses. Especially for non-AAVE speakers, reading Jay-Z’s Decoded as an example of a literacy narrative can be a trip into othering fetishism. This depends, of course on one’s perspective of popular culture.  In one sense, the celebrity status of Jay-Z allows a class to discuss concepts of ethos not readily available to them by beginning with Aristotle.  In another sense, ethical approaches to Hip hop’s emergence from Black and Puerto-Rican communities in the South Bronx makes white scholars of Hip hop “guests in someone else’s house,” to use a metaphor of my colleague, Jessica Parker’s.

One mistake I hear in concerns about code-meshing from my composition theory students usually begins, “If I allow code-meshing in my classroom, then what about…”  For me, it is not about whether we “allow” code-meshing; it is about the fact that, as Young says, we are already code-meshing.  I don’t have the power or authority to allow or disallow linguistic phenomena.  It is a matter of being attentive to the richness of register in the languages we already use and choosing when and where to bring our community knowledge to our classroom work against monolinguistic forms that imagine a transcendentally “pure” form of language.  If MUSE speakers code-mesh less, it is a cultural and linguistic deficit rather than a privilege.  It is only privileged by white supremacist attempts to naturalize monolingualism.

Attention to code-meshing implicitly demands attention to the rhetorical situation, which takes us out of the individual performance in writing and moves toward the conceptual tools university students need to compose across mediums and in a variety of rhetorical situations, and indeed to moments of communicative failure that can be learning situations, such as when white male students in my literature courses feel entitled to call Sherman Alexie’s work “uneducated” when it does not present as linear narrative, yet call Lautréamont’s Chants of Maldoror “different” in their lack of narrative because they are attempts at “pure” language, never minding  the fact that we’re reading English translations of French.  Contrast this with Young’s persevering approach to his term, “code-meshing” : “too many teachers still on the one hand praise African American students for their creative voice and renderings of black rhetoric when they write poetry but then condemn those same students when they both un-self-consciously and strategically employ those same features when speaking to non-black people, particularly white people, or to professionals of any race, or when they produce critical, academic, or journalistic writing” (“Keep Code Meshing” 140).

Addressing code-meshing centrally instead of peripherally means different things for students with different backgrounds and bring attention to the existing social inequities associated with particular linguistic performances.  It requires MUSE speakers of English to become aware of other variations and give up any sense of linguistic superiority.  It requires all students to recognize the very real fact that people dojudge others based on linguistic performances but that we have some agency as a community, together to strategically address inequity when we can by relying on our scholarship.  It requires pointing out when whitely rhetoric presents itself as “natural” or “universal” or simply “better.”  For me, code-meshing as a strategy ought to be framed within both arguments such as Young’s, which are indeed liberal and optimistic about creating a secularized yet presumably infinite space of inclusion in the midst of fear-based retreats into nationalism and limited territorialism. But I would say we should not stop there.

As Alexander Weheliye has eloquently argued in his book, Habeas Viscus, modern European constructions of ‘Man’ seek to both deracialize and assimilate racial and gendered “others” into whitely notions of citizenship and legal notions of humanness in which to “become a fully human citizen” is to become “white.”  Indigenous people know this danger very well, as Glenn Coulthard has eloquently argued in his amplification of Fanon, Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition.  Weheliye describes habeas viscus as, “The conjoining of flesh and compound habeas viscus brings into view an articulated assemblage of the human (viscus/flesh) borne of political violence, while at the same time not losing sight of the different ways the law pugnaciously adjudicates who is deserving of personhood and who is not (habeas)” (11).

To ground this within the writing classroom and build on Lee’s call for attention to translingual assessment, we might ask how the language of habeas viscus might me made primary in composition classrooms rather than something “other” which is “included.”  In other words, how might we centralize the viscus interior body of language that code-meshing expresses as opposed to one externalized monolingual performance? Such work is not the work if ever-new neoliberal identity categories of individuation but the socialized memories of the ancestries and affective conditions that gave us these bodies.  Although this perhaps implies a more critical view of liberalism than Young’s argument in Other People’s English[9], as well as the liberal qualities I see in Lee, it does not reject them outright.

The materiality of the habeas viscus metaphor might help us see the “trans” qualities of translingual not in the terms of a globalizing condensation of languages so much as the embodiment of ethical correctives to flawed systems that can only answer their limitations by appealing to infinite transcendence, whether as the transcendent Langue for the immanent paroleor English and englishes.  It is, in Hortense Spillers’ notion of “ungendering” (not a “degendering”) as Weheliye summarizes, a refusal to accept the genders and monolinguist categories that expect to deracinate humans by making them into post-racist subjects.

I have suggested that the space of the Stretch classroom is an opportunity to build communities in which these issues are explored by both teachers and students.  It is that community element, core to Hip Hop pedagogy whether or not students discuss Hip Hop in the classroom.  Grounded in the historical ownership of past oppression rather than a whitely rhetoric of exclusive exceptionalism, such an approach would help alleviate the cruel optimism of seeing certain linguistic performances as gateways to individualistic professional achievement that so many worry about with respect to code-meshing. Beyond the politics of integration alone, it would signal attention to a reframing of the “runaway slave,” as Ruby Sales recently notedat with respect to maroons, as political activist who started a social movement rather than a “fugitive.”[10]


A Sample Stretch Course Layout

Semester 1: Rhetorical Analysis

Community Building

  • Overt discussions about race early on
  • Invitation to engage with current debates in composition studies (i.e., Young)
  • Discussions of code-meshing along with NCTE’s Students Rights statement (while Jay-Z is an example, it is important to stress that we all code-mesh regularly)
  • Song and ethos exercise (each student brings in a 500 word statement with a song that tells something about their identity.This is a balance for those who don’t listen to hip hop. In one case a conservative Islamic woman wrote a response about why she did not listen to music and did not bring a song, but explained how her religion was part of her ethos…another Islamic student in the same class brought in Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”)
  • Colonial history and anti-colonial theory (i.e. Frantz Fanon)
  • Critical Discourse Analysis followed by Reflection on how our conversations could be better, more engaged, etc.
  • Sharing low-stakes writing regularly
  • Always follow Critical Discourse Analysis for students to engage me as a peer
  • Inclusive rhetoric versus exclusive (“whitely”) rhetoric (i.e., “my family never owned slaves” – an inclusive answer might be: “people have done horrible things to each other in the past, knowing that history is our history, how do we confront and remember those problems so they don’t happen again?”)
  • Transgenerational approaches to rhetorical framing & history
  • Ask students to write you a statement about what kind of feedback they find helpful on their work

Major assignments

  1. Literacy Narrative (Jay-Z’s Decoded chapter 1 is an example text)
  2. Rhetorical Analysis of a Visual Text (Sheldon Wolfchild’s Doctrine of Discovery helps teach anti-colonialist framing)
  3. Rhetorical Analysis of a Written Text (I have increasingly been using the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples along with other course readings)
  4. End of the semester reflection and projection


 Semester 2: Argumentation

  • Build reading assignments based on students’ discussions and suggestions in their reflections (for me, many of these are scholarly articles so that we may gain genre knowledge for the kinds of research writing students will do in ENG 1020)
  • Practice rhetorical reading strategies from semester one (i.e., identifying a thesis, identifying rhetorical situation)
  • Introduce argument model (i.e., Toulmin, also fallacy discussions)
  • Day 1 of week student groups lead discussions of articles, everyone writes reading responses which practice summary and reflection
  • Day 2 of week students develop their own writing assignments and justify their topics and genres with respect to our student behavior learning outcomes. Students write three 4-5 page papers and are encouraged to differentiate writing goals and genres
  • Students make rubrics to articulate how they should be graded, including a percentage break down
  • Have overt discussions about why we value what we value in our rubrics when it comes to writing (attempt to demystify knee-jerk claims about “grammar”)
  • After spring break begin discussing and showing multimodal compositions (i.e., video essays and podcasts)
  • Assign digital essay with loose parameters of “digital” (it can be as simple as a PowerPoint or as complex as a video or song)
  • Have the students adapt the argument from one of their three previous essays into the digital format along with an argument outline
  • Build a mock conference for presentations of digital essays, each 7-10 minutes long (a loose translation of 4-5 page essays), let students create taxonomies to determine presentation schedule
  • Presentations begin two weeks before the end of the semester, allowing for spill-over into the day of the final if necessary


Works Cited

Adedeji, Wale. “Negotiating Globalization through Hybridization: Hip Hop, Language Use and the Creation of Cross-Over Culture in Nigerian Popular Music.” Language in India, vol. 14, no. 6, 2014.

Bloomquist, Jennifer, and Isaac Hancock. “The Dirty Third: Contributions of Southern Hip Hop to the Study of African American English.” The Southern Journal of Linguistics, vol. 36, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1-27.

Brandt, Deborah. The Rise of Writing: Redefining Mass Literacy.  Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Hesse, Doug. “Reflection and the Essay.” A Rhetoric of Reflection. Utah State University, 2016, pp. 288-302.

Fraley, Todd. “I Got a Natural Skill…:Hip-Hop, Authenticity, and Whiteness.” The Howard Journal of Communications,vol. 20, 2009, pp. 37-54.

Lombard, Kara-Jane. “From Subways to Product Labels: The Commercial Incorporation of Hip Hop Graffiti.” Visual Communication Quarterly, vol. 20, 2013, pp. 91-103.

Luhrmann, T.M., and Jocelyn Marrow. Our Most Troubling Madness: Case Studies in Schizophrenia across Cultures. University of California Press, 2016.

Martinez, Aja. “A Plea for Critical Race Theory Counterstory: Stock Story vs. Counter-story Dialogues Concerning Alejandra’s ‘Fit’ in the Academy.” Composition Studies, vol. 42, no. 2, 2014, pp. 65-85.

Parker, Jessica. “Writing and Unwriting Race: Using Hip-Hop in Writing and Literature Classrooms.”  Performing Antiracist Pedagogy in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication. Ed. Vershawn Ashanti Young and Frankie Condon.  University Press of Colorado in 2017.

Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Belknap, 2005.

Sigler, Thomas, and Murali Balaji. “Regional Identity in Contemporary Hip-Hop Music: (Re) Presenting the Notion of Place.” Communication, Culture, and Critique, vol. 6, 2013, pp. 336-352.

Tinker, George E. “Tink.”  American Indian Liberation: A Theology of Sovereignty. Orbis, 2008.

Weheliye, Alexander.  Habeas Viscus: Racializing Assemblages, Biopolitics, and Black Feminist Theories of the Human.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake. A Rhetoric of Reflection. Utah State University, 2016.

Young, Vershawn Ashanti. Other People’s English: Code-Meshing, Code-Switching, and African American Literacy. Teacher’s College Press, 2014.

[1]It’s also interesting to play the game again early second semester when students know each other to compare discussions.


[2]I struggle daily with my role as a “functional liberal,” initiating young people into discursive situations that exploit them through debt and promises of social mobility.  I am speaking of economic liberalism here, not left-right party distinctions. Despite support from my director of composition and department chair, I do not feel institutional cohesion around my pedagogical approaches and so always feel a bit “rogue.”  I am generally pretty skeptical about claims to “transformative pedagogy” unless by that we mean changing the ways we teach rather than “liberating” our students.

[3]In A Theory of Justice,Rawls describes his “original state” as like the state of nature and even claims that, “[c]ontract theory agrees, then, with utilitarianism in holding that the fundamental principles of justice quite properly depend upon the natural facts about men in society.  This dependence is made explicit by the description of the original position” (159).


[4]See also, George “Tink” Tinker, “John Locke on Property,” Beyond the Pale: Reading Ethics from the Margins, Louisville, WJK P, 2011, 49-60.

[5]“The synoptic gospels’ metaphoric paradigm for the good, the goal of all life, the basileia tou theou (the so-translated kingdom of God) is consistently interpreted in individualistic terms. The basileia, we are told, has to do with the individual’s relationship with God or with the individual’s call to decision.  Any communitarian notion of it being many people together, or all peoples, or all of creation, is little mentioned” (Tinker 77).

[6]This rhetoric is more strongly employed in the traction of ideas such as The Benedict Option, which makes a cameo appearance in Patrick Deneen’s recent book Why Liberalism Failed. In this line of argument, religious conservatives see themselves increasingly in line with religious conservatives from other faiths. So, for example, Christian conservatives seek “multicultural” or “interfaith” alliances with conservative Islamists and Jews because they share a common fear that a culture of “secularization” has made us devoid of moral values. My critique of liberalism comes from a wholly different direction in which I see secularization as an extension of a euro-christian social movement; indeed, I see the very concept of ‘Religion’ as Christian invention.  For scholarship on this view see: David Chidester’s Empire of Religionand Savage Systems; Tomoko Masuzawa’s The Invention of World Religions; Jeremy Schott’s Christianity, Empire, and the Making of Religion in Late Antiquity; and Brent Nongbri’s Before Religion.


[7]See also Vivette Milson-Whyte’s discussion of Kachru and Nelson’s “attitudinal schizophrenia” with respect to Jamaican Creole (in Milson-Whyte 119).

[8]See also Paul Kei Matsuda’s critique of “feel-good liberalism” in “It’s the Wild West Out There” (132).

[9]Compare to Vivette Milson-Whyte’s concerns with sameness and difference in Young (123).

[10]From Wikipedia:The American Spanish word cimarrón is often given as the source of the English word maroon used to describe the runaway slave communities of Florida and of the Great Dismal Swamp on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, on colonial islands of the Caribbean, and other parts of the New World. Lyle Campbell says the Spanish word cimarrón means “wild, unruly” or “runaway slave”.[1] The linguist Leo Spitzer, writing in the journal Language, says, “If there is a connection between Eng. maroon, Fr. marron, and Sp. cimarron, Spain (or Spanish America) probably gave the word directly to England (or English America).”[2] The Cuban philologist José Juan Arrom has traced the origins of the word maroon further than the Spanish cimarrón, used first in Hisapaniola to refer to feral cattle, then to enslaved Indians who escaped to the hills, and by the early 1530s to enslaved Africans who did the same. He proposes that the American Spanish word derives ultimately from the Arawakan root word simarabo, construed as “fugitive”, in the Arawakan language spoken by the Taíno people native to the island.[3][4][5][6][7]


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