Some Anti-Neoliberal Community Partnership Principles



The other day, in the midst of being interviewed, I was asked “How do you know that your community partnership work doesn’t just support neo-liberal policies? That you aren’t just helping the university fulfill a neo-liberal social role?”

While answering the second question is the topic for a much longer essay, I answered the first question by asserting a set of “principles.” Among the principles were the following:

  1. The particular project must support a local community organization’s larger efforts to produce systemic economic or political change in the neighborhood within the context of a demand for state/government intervention.
  2. The organizational leadership must be community members, working within a democratic sense of leadership. 
  3. The organization must be a non-profit, registered within the state in which the work is taking place. 
  4. The project must understand literacy work as a tool to produce a collective identity, based on community insights, and pointed toward linking that identity to concrete political action. 
  5. Involved students will be positioned as researcher allies, providing the data/information from which particular policies by the organization can be decided. 
  6. Involved students will gain insights into how literacy work can produce a collective identity and plan for action; projects based on individual volunteerism will not be considered. 
  7. Any writing/publication project must be overseen by a community-led editorial board, consisting of organization members and non-aligned community members. 
  8. Any writing/publication project which is circulated beyond the writing/publication group must be approved by those involved in the specific project, with individual participants having final say over the circulation of their writing, as well as the sponsoring community organization. 
  9. Funding for the project can come from university or community sources, as long as the community has final approval.  Project expenses should be kept at a level which allows sustainability as well as independence from non-community based organizations.

While I am sure more could be added and those listed expanded upon, my sense is this is at least a beginning – a tentative framework from which to develop future work.

The Political Turn: Writing, Democracy and Activism — Call for Papers

Occupy Wall Street


The Political Turn

Writing, Democracy, and Activism

Eds: Shannon Carter, Ben Kuebrich, Deborah Mutnick, Steve Parks

There have been numerous theoretical “turns” in Composition/Rhetoric – linguistic, social, cultural, and public, to name a few (Rorty; Berlin; Geertz; Trimbur and George; Mathieu; Warner). Each turn related to the current moment faced by scholars and students generated an expansive body of work and profoundly influenced the field. In our historical moment, a “political turn” capable of addressing the economic and material concerns of the students in our classroom, writing teachers of all rank, and the communities we live in, seems necessary given the large-scale political upheavals and economic collapse that have marked the past ten years – think Wall Street 2008, the Arab Spring of 2010, and Occupy Wall Street in 2011. Yet, in this moment of disruption and transformation, we are not very clear about the purview of politics in the writing classroom. Nor has there been sufficient theorizing on the political role of the writing teacher outside the classroom in response to issues ranging from the exploitation of contingent labor and the impact of neoliberal policies on higher education to climate change, skyrocketing income inequality, and increasingly aggressive U.S. foreign policies. Disciplinary identity trumps our role as politicized, public intellectuals. Continue reading