MAWCA 2024 Conference
People Power: Community & Care in the Contemporary Writing Center
March 22-23, 2024
George Mason University
What does it mean to build, hold, and use power ethically? Collectively, we have shouldered the weight of a global pandemic, a burden heavier for some than for others. Likewise, we have continued to battle entrenched systemic racism, combining present efforts in support of a centuries-long struggle. Globally, we face the existential threat of a worsening climate crisis. And in what many consider a “post-pandemic” world, we continue to confront capitalist values of productivity and profit at the expense of people.
In the face of so much injustice, how do we resist, persist, and thrive? How can we address these problems within and beyond our institutions without becoming further demoralized, fed up, and burnt out? How do we claim power and remain empowered while dealing with the material repercussions of these crises?
Our answer: we find our power in people. Together, we have found ways to support each other, create joy, encourage rest, and forge connections. Each of these acts require collaboration and communication, both skills writing centers, at their best, foster within their communities. We have found and continue to find hope and strength in our collective efforts and the possibilities they offer for solidarity and radical resistance within our field.
We also remain mindful that our institutions wield their power through us. Writing centers are not new to navigating institutional demands while balancing community needs. As we continue to navigate these conditions, we can and must build powerful communities and prioritize care for each other and ourselves. By following the lead of communities who have historically persisted in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds–communities whose care, rest, and survival has been, and continues to be, a radical act–we can address contemporary challenges and work to create conditions where we all can thrive.
For many of us in writing centers, building community and centering care requires resisting–and ultimately, dismantling–oppressive systems and paradigms that regard certain identities as less-than and urge conformity to norms that erase and exclude those identities. Leaders in the field have stressed the importance of critically examining our practices, recognizing the ways they perpetuate harm, and reshaping them in pursuit of justice and liberation. Efforts persist to advance linguistic justice (Baker-Bell, 2020; Green, 2016; Young, 2011), center marginalized voices (Faison & Condon, 2022; Green, 2018), decolonize writing centers (Camarillo, 2019; Garcia, 2017), and radicalize our practices (Greenfield, 2019). Recent work has also explored how we can draw on antiracist, anticapitalist conceptions of care to work toward more just labor conditions in our centers (Giaimo et al., 2020). In addition, many of us have also engaged in radical community organizing, direct action, advocacy, and care networks outside our centers. As scholars and organizers, we learn from and with each other; radical inclusion and revolutionary care are rooted in practices developed outside of colonial, capitalist institutions by marginalized communities–in particular, Black, Indigenous, trans, queer, and disabled communities. These practices require us to build and nurture reciprocal relationships (Hayes & Kaba, 2023; Maynard & Betasamosake Simpson, 2022) and unlearn toxic orientations toward work and productivity (Hersey, 2022).
This conference asks how we can draw on current conversations inside and outside of writing center studies to create life-affirming conditions in our centers in spite of the systems that engulf us. How do we ensure that our centers are welcoming, inclusive, and accessible for all writers, tutors, and staff? How do we make time and space for rest and care while addressing writers’ needs and facing pressure from our institutions to do more with less? How can we build relationships within our centers and across our institutions? How can those of us with institutional power advocate for our centers and the communities they hold? How can we further decolonize knowledge and center marginalized experiences? And how can we sustain all of this important work without succumbing to the exploitative forces that threaten to break our spirits?
We will accept proposals through Friday, December 22, 2023. We will contact submitters with proposal decisions by the end of January 2024. While we are most interested in proposals that respond to our questions and theme, we also invite proposals that address any area of writing center work.
Vision/Values: What is your vision for a life-affirming writing center? How do you uphold your anti-oppressive values within current conditions? How do current conversations in the field and in social justice movements inform your vision? What social and institutional power do you hold, and how can you remain aware of that power while honoring your responsibility to your communities?
Administration: How can writing center administrators foment community and care at a policy level? How can you make your center as welcoming and accessible as possible for both staff and students? How do you build community with your colleagues within and beyond your center? How do you resist internal or external pressures to produce and perform at unsustainable rates? What do the terms “community” and “care” mean in the face of institutional pressures and budgetary concerns?
Tutor experiences: What do the terms “community” and “care” mean to you? How does your center foster or stifle community? How does your center prioritize or inhibit care? How can your center, or the field at large, better support you and/or the communities to which you belong?
Relationships: How do you build relationships within your writing center and/or across campus? How do these relationships sustain you in the face of difficult conditions? How do you hold yourself and each other accountable?
Care Practices: How do you care for the students and staff in your center? How do you care for yourself? What scholars, organizers, and other leaders inform your care practices, and how do you apply their wisdom in your center?
Justice/Liberation: How do you advance justice in your center? How do you work toward liberation in the midst of current conditions? What barriers are you up against, and how can you resist, circumvent, or erode them?
University Context: How does your institution's values enhance your writing center’s practice? What resources and tools do you have to complete your work? What does administrative/student labor look like at your writing center? What are your institution's opportunities for advancement? How does your writing center provide equitable opportunities to thrive?
Hope: Where do you find hope in your writing center? How do you practice it? What writing center initiatives, communities, or practices give you hope?
Panel Discussion - 3-4 presenters, 10-15 minutes per presenter plus Q&A/discussion time
Individual Presentation - 15-minute presentation grouped with 1-2 similar presentations
Workshop - 60-minute interactive learning session on an aspect of writing center practice; may include reflection, hands-on activities, small group work, and group discussion
Roundtable Discussion - 60-minute facilitated discussion of an issue related to writing center theory and/or practice; may include initial short presentations and guiding questions from facilitators
Community Builder - 60-minute facilitated conversation explicitly designed to create community among a subset of writing center practitioners; may be designed as an affinity group (e.g. BIPOC tutors, queer and trans tutors, neurodivergent tutors) or around a specific theme (e.g. anti-racist writing center pedagogy) or type of institution (e.g. HBCUs, community colleges)
Feedback Time - 30 minutes to introduce and receive feedback on a research project, writing center initiative, or other writing center work in development; oriented more toward works in progress than individual presentations or panel discussions
Baker-Bell, A. (2020). Linguistic justice. Routledge.
Camarillo, E. (2019). Burn the house down: Deconstructing the writing center as cozy home. The Peer Review (3)1. https://thepeerreview-iwca.org/issues/redefining-welcome/burn-the-house-down-deconstructing-the-writing-center-as-cozy-home/
Faison, W. & Condon, F. (2022). Counterstories from the writing center. Utah State University Press.
Garcia, R. (2017). Unmaking gringo centers. Writing Center Journal 36(1), 29-60. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44252637
Giaimo, G., Murray Costello, K., Villareal, B.J., Brentnell, L., Dixon, E., Robinson, R., Mattingly, M., Helakoski, C., Lundberg, C., Walz, K., Brown, S., & Hashlamon, Y. (2020). Wellness and care in writing center work. Press Books. https://ship.pressbooks.pub/writingcentersandwellness/
Green, N. A. (2018). Moving beyond alright: And the emotional toll of this, my life matters too, in the writing center work. Writing Center Journal 37(1), 15-34. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26537361
Green, N.A. (2016). The re-education of Neisha-Anne S. Green: A close look at the damaging effects of “a standard approach,” the benefits of code-meshing, and the role allies play in this work. Praxis 14(1). http://www.praxisuwc.com/green-141
Greenfield, L. (2019). Radical writing center praxis. Utah State University Press.
Grimm, N. (2011). Retheorizing writing center work to transform a system of advantage based on race. In L. Greenfield & K. Rowan, eds., Writing centers and the new racism: A call for sustainable dialogue and change (pp. 75-99). Utah State University Press.
Hayes, K. & Kaba, M. (2023). Let this radicalize you: Organizing and the revolution of reciprocal care. Haymarket Books.
Hersey, T. (2022). Rest is resistance: A manifesto. Hachette Book Group.
Inoue, A. (2015) Antiracist writing assessment ecologies: Teaching and assessing writing for a socially just future. WAC Clearinghouse. https://wac.colostate.edu/books/perspectives/inoue/
Maynard, R. & Betasamosake Simpson, L. (2022). Rehearsals for living. Haymarket Books.
Spade, D. (2020). Mutual aid: Building solidarity during this crisis (and the next). Verso Books.
Young, V. A. (2011). Should writers use they own English? In L. Greenfield & K. Rowan, eds., Writing centers and the new racism: A call for sustainable dialogue and change (pp. 61-72). Utah State University Press.
Friday, March 22
2:30-5 p.m. Registration
3:30-5 p.m. Opening Workshop
5-7 p.m. Reception & Tutor Social
6-7 p.m. Executive Board Meeting
Saturday, March 23
7:30-9 a.m. Registration and Breakfast
9 - 10:15 a.m. Welcome and Keynote Presentation
10:30-11:30 a.m. Session 1
11:45-12:45 Session 2
12:45-1:45 p.m. Lunch
2-3 p.m. Session 3
3:15-4:15 p.m. Session 4