Multilingual Literacies

This kind of “a-ha” moment should not, admittedly, be such a big “a-ha,” but our moments of surprise, followed by the dismay of what that surprise says about us, is a reflection of a wider process of recognition occurring in our disciplinary discourses. Scholars in rhetoric and composition have increasingly begun to question the adequacy of focusing on proficiency in Standard Written English (SWE) and to acknowledge the faults and the distortion of the monolingual and “deficit” model, which has historically underpinned our pedagogies and practices with multilingual writers (Canagarajah; Hawisher et al.; Horner). At the same time, researchers in Applied Linguistics are interrogating their own long-held monolingual perspectives, working to revise the assumption that native speaker proficiency is the standard by which language learners should be measured and instead acknowledging the hybridity of language and language systems and the rich rhetorical resources that multilingual speakers bring to transnational communication (Canagarajah; Kramsch and Whiteside).

The growing interest in the complex dynamics of multilingual literacies makes our investigation of the literacy narratives of multilingual contributors to the DALN a valuable resource for understanding and appreciating the linguistic and rhetorical versatility with which multilingual composers creatively navigate a variety of contexts, discourses, and modes of communication.  Indeed, it is the linguistic versatility, the display of linguistic resources that can be tapped "to promote biliteracy and multilingualism” (Horner 572), available in the DALN that we hope to highlight in this exhibit. We introduce Alix Escote, Medarka Murip, Keunho Shin, Sky (Tian Wei) Wang, and Sofia Gomez, all former students and current DALN contributors, and explore their literacy narratives as a means of illustrating what those narratives have to offer for our understanding of our multilingual students’ work, of our own pedagogy, and of what scholars are increasingly articulating in regards to globalization and multilingualism in the composition classroom.

Given the exciting contemporary pedagogical conversations about multilingualism fueled by the work of Canagarjah, Horner, Trimbur, Pavlenko, and Hawisher et al., to name a few, this curated exhibit is guided by the following questions:  What can our sample of literacy narratives collectively tell us about multilingual and multimodal literacies and composing strategies?  What do the students’ positions, topics, interests, and choices mean for multilingual literacy narrative production? What do these things offer to teach instructors who assign such narratives? What can they tell us about what the DALN might offer investigations of multilingual and multimodal composing? Finally, what can composition teachers and scholars learn by attending to the local and global contexts of literacy narrative production? Throughout this exhibit, then, we argue that exploration of both literacy narrative performances themselves, in print and multimodal form, as well as the context of the production of those narratives is essential work for instructors who believe that literacy narrative assignments are valuable and instructive.

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