“Desire fleshes out that which has been hidden or what happens behind our backs. Desire, because it is an assemblage of experiences, ideas, and ideologies, both subversive and dominant, necessarily complicates our understanding of human agency, complicity, and resistance” (Tuck, 2009, p. 420)
Survivance is a key component to a framework of desire. Gerald Vizenor’s (1994) concept of survivance is distinct from survival: it is “moving beyond our basic survival in the face of overwhelming cultural genocide to create spaces of synthesis and renewal”
Welcome all y’all joining Elaine and me for this journey we call the Baltimore Writing Center Project! This series of (un)training sessions is not a linear pathway packed with workshops, lectures, and discussions. In fact, this series attempts to draw from the nonlinear, twisty-turny, choose-your-own-adventure ecology of the multimodal, digital mediascape we’re all traveling as we navigate the Covid pandemic and so many other real-time challenges to our communities’ lives.
In response, we’re innovating rapidly in how we engage these problems and one another–and ourselves–as we continue as writing center folks to keep showing up for writers. Many of the writers we collaborate with–and many of us, ourselves–face financial fallout from employment reductions or loss, emotional and even physical displacement from our spaces of belonging, as well as a host of new bureaucratic, time-consuming requirements as we all attempt to arrive in online educational spaces, including those of writing centers. Finding and affording internet services, carving out spaces and time to concentrate, reorienting to resurgent conservative and oppressive political realities, talking back to the neoliberal university’s insistence that we return to in-person work without adequate Covid mitigation procedures and protections, and managing precarious professional futures weigh on us heavily.
So, in response to these exigencies, the “un” in (un)training means that we’re charting approaches away from predictability and traditions typically framing these kinds of peer writing tutor/consultant conversations. We’re drawing from research, our lived experiences, social and other digital media to reclaim these online spaces for our wellbeing and strength of heart and so refusing to allow precarity to undermine our commitments to a better world and more responsive and humble writing center spaces through practices that “exceed” (Greenfield, 2019) what we have always known and assumed about writing, writers, language, digital writing and rhetoric, and ourselves as writing educators.
By understanding the power of our work as residing not merely in some kind of location but instead as operating across systems, we’re going to explore possibilities for “intervening in the systems that limit us” (Greenfield, 2019). One of these “systems” involves how we writing center folks gatekeep through notions of insiders and outsiders, necessarily preventing a radical definition of community, which focuses on the “boundaries where communities overlap” and borderlands membership is constantly changing through fluid processes of hybridization of culture and language. We’re living a moment in history where these rapidly shifting processes call on us to (un)train ourselves from status quo thinking and practices–and lean in to listen and act more radically.
Together, in many ways, this journey is going to be unlike anything we’ve done. I mean, sure, we’ll read and talk about research. We’ll lay hands on media, summarize and comment on learning, and talk back to scholars. We’ll engage in difficult conversations around racism and bias and identity. While doing so, we’re aiming to hold ourselves answerable to ourselves and the lives of writers we serve by imagining ourselves and our practices otherwise, beyond, anew.