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sara.gladwin's picture

Rewriting Confinement: Feminist and Queer Critical Literacy..

Tobi, Jacobi, and Becker L. Stephanie. "Rewriting Confinement: Feminist and Queer Critical Literacy in SpeakOut! Writing Workshops." The Radical Teacher 95 (2013): 32+. ProQuest Education Journals. Web.

Right away, this article made me wonder about the title of our reading group, and whether we’ve titled it incorrectly the enter time. If we had called it a writing group as well as a reading group, would we have drawn in people who really wanted to write? Maybe we’ve actually been pushing something that we didn’t really advertise, specifically be calling ourselves a book club and not something that suggested the intent of writing. We’ve definitely drawn in people who are interested in reading and talk about the reading, but I’m not as sure that we’ve gotten a strong majority of people who came into a group with any initial interest in writing.


I was also struck by the avoidance of traditional “classroom language” such as words like syllabus and class- I liked this and thought maybe we could think a little more about consciously avoiding classroom language to avoid associations with negative educational experiences. Similarly, I liked the invitation to “discussion of group ground rules” (30). I have been thinking for a while that it might helpful to discuss as a group, at the beginning, “ground rules”- not for the sake of classroom management (which I think is an ugly phrase with negative implications) but more for the sake of naming the group as an attempt to create a safe space.


“As facilitators, we are often torn… our critical goal puts us at odds with the regulations imposed by our community partnerships… The staff members had taken particular issue with LL’s writing that wondered why she ended up in a rehabilitation facility when her friends had not, telling us that LL had “difficulty accepting the consequences of her actions.” (31)


I thought this related to my thinking about the ways in which institutions perpetuate a narrative of “guilt” under the guise of “personal responsibility.” This was a perfect example of redistribution of blame… “LL” addresses a potential systematic issue with the seemingly arbitrary nature of incarceration regarding drugs but staff instinctively redirects the blame to her. This paragraph also really put into perspective how much freedom our group has had with our reading group. I think this is partially Riverside itself, or Major Moore, but I also think it has to do with us “flying under the radar” to a certain extent. We are a small group, and we aren’t managed or treated like a large program might get treated. I think it’s worth considering just how much we want to “institutionalize” our program. I would like to see it carried on at Bryn Mawr, but I’m thinking now that maintaining a small size might actually be to our benefit, as so far, we haven’t had the kind of imposition from people who work at Riverside….


“Perpetuating such absences by navigating the dual pressures of responsibility to writers and institutions can diminish the possibility of critical pedagogy. An ineffective response to LL creates a rupture in the community SpeakOut seeks to foster- and for some writers, interrupts the possibility for literacy to function as a viable tool for understanding their life experiences…” (31).

Institutions attempts to censor content as a way of having women “reflect” on their experiences actually may disrupt productive reflection and instead produce a reiteration of dominate rhetoric intended to shift blame/responsibility from an institutional level to an individual level. 


“… it is a reality that such work may not be of interest to teens and adults; they are often physically and psychologically restricted in their movement and so pressed to focus on themselves and individual change so consistently by housing staff, counselors, the judicial system, and other organized institutions… that they have little motive or incentive to think about participating in systematic change. Who could blame them?” (33)


and finally- this was under the suggestions for using a queer/feminist lens in critical pedagogy- “contribute to abolitionist efforts through public awareness…” (34).

This reconfirms my sense that we need to be doing some activist work outside the walls as well! Just how and when, is the better question!



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