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Situated Knowledge and Public Issues of Shared Concern

A rhetorical model of community literacy affiliates situated knowledge with problem narratives, particularly, the genre that figures prominently in studies of what precisely goes wrong in moments when high-order performances—such as landing an airplane or making a medical diagnosis—go awry. John Flanagan refers to this type of text as the critical incident in his article aptly titled, "The Critical Incident Technique."3 Below, Lorraine Higgins, Elenore Long, and Linda Flower describe the critical incident as a resource for subsequent joint inquiry among people who otherwise have few occasions to listen and to learn from one another:

Yet personal stories alone don't necessarily support intercultural inquiry. The challenge is harnessing narrative's capacity to dramatize the reasons behind the teller's values and priorities (Young, Intersecting 72) and to illustrate the rich contextual background and social conditions in which problems play themselves out. Narratives that elaborate on stakeholders' reasoning, social positioning, and life contexts generate new information and propel discussion that can move people beyond personal expression to public problem solving. When narrative is elaborated in this way and focused around the causes of and responses to problems, it can be used for case analysis. [...] In the context of community-based deliberative inquiry, critical incidents elicit carefully contextualized accounts of how people actually experience problems involving, for instance, landlord-tenant relations, gang violence, school suspension policies, or welfare reform. (21)

In this curated exhibit, we suggest that when the literacy narratives of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Contributors are viewed through this rhetorical model, the situated knowledge that the contributors make available to others not only merits public attention but also has the potential to name, inform, and direct the very terms of public deliberation around questions of what it means to learn to read and write as a D/deaf person in America today and how social institutions could be reconfigured to be more responsive to D/deaf learners.

We ourselves are members of a Hearing culture and thus are in no position to make claims about Deaf culture per se. Instead, we come to the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Contributors' DALN interviews and, thus, to this chapter by way of the invitation that they have extended to us: an invitation to listen for situated knowledge that has something important to teach us and to take seriously the implications it has for public deliberation.

3Other enormously important and rhetorically complex practices that work together to enact Higgins, Long, and Flower's model of public engagement are (1) assessing the rhetorical situation, (2) creating a "local public": a rhetoric space for intercultural inquiry and deliberation, and (3) supporting personal and public transformation through the circulation of alternative texts and practices.

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