By Danielle Koepke and Maria Novotny
Social justice is collective and active. To engage in and with the concept at the heart of the social justice turn, we must work collectively and consider collective forces and effects of oppression, and we must be ready not only to recognize oppression but also to reveal, reject, and replace it: To take action - Walton, Moore & Jones
As a blog team, we’ve been striving to take part in antiracist actions and practices of social justice. Much of this work has been documented and is essential to the mission of the Writing & Rhetoric MKE blog. Coincidentally, this past fall, three of the blog editorial team enrolled in Maria Novotny’s ENG 755: The Social Justice Turn in Technical and Professional Communication course, in which social justice was a central theme. As we discussed social justice readings in the course, we also were actively working as a blog team to develop content emphasizing social justice. As such, when Maria first described the annotated bibliography project to the class and proposed that Writing & Rhetoric MKE host the bibliography, we agreed, as it could be a helpful resource for our readers who may be teaching, researching, or working in TPC. Together, Maria and I (Danielle) contextualize this bibliography within the social justice turn occurring in TPC.
“An Annotated Bibliography of Social Justice Connections to Technical and Professional Communication” is the culmination of a semester-long project undertaken by UW-Milwaukee graduate students enrolled in ENG 755 during the Fall 2020 semester. The bibliography represents an assemblage of how we, as a class, approached, studied, and learned from social justice movements and their relationship to our own research and TPC more broadly. Many in the class did not identify with TPC as their main area of expertise, and for some this was their first experience with TPC (You can find our author bios here, p.91-92). Knowing that the students were emergent learners in TPC and wanting to provide space for their individual research interests and also foster a social justice orientation to their research practices, this annotated bibliography is presented as a series of thematic clusters:
Introducing the annotated bibliography project, Maria explained to the course that the bibliography was an attempted response to embrace two contemporary exigencies facing instructors during the fall 2020 semester: (1) contemporary injustices marked by the murder of George Floyd inciting TPC scholars to call for explicit social justice action and (2) the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in this course being taught synchronously and online. Many of these exigencies were also being actively amongst TPC scholars and leaders in the field.
For instance, circulated after the murder of George Floyd, ATTW President Angela Haas overtly challenged the complacent inaction ATTW members have taken to counter anti-Blackness in “ATTW President’s Call to Action to Redress Anti-Blackness and White Supremacy”. Laying out three charges for the field to take up, the call to action invites critical reflection on how ATTW members may choose “to advocate for systemic justice for Black people at this kairotic moment in history” (n.p.) and suggests, that while action quietly is an option, such a choice re-centers White Supremacy and can fail to meet social justice imperatives.
Shortly after Haas’s statement was released, ATTW Vice President, Natasha Jones, and ATTW Fellow, Miriam Williams elaborated on Haas’s call for action. “The Just Use of Imagination: A Call to Action” critically engages with the work required to support anti-Blackness. Drawing from their perspectives as two Black scholars, Jones and Williams lay out a series of actions —informed through critical imagination — that Black persons have adopted to fight injustice/s and demand change. Yet, they make clear that the use of imagination as a tool to support social justice can no longer be take taken up by those, who, because of the color of their skin, are personally afflicted by injustice. Jones and Williams end with the powerful assertion “We are tired. Dismantling white supremacy requires your work. How might you make a difference?”
Other TPC scholars have already begun engaging and addressing the calls for action echoed by Haas as well as Jones and Williams. Take Cana Itchuaqiyaq’s “MMU Scholar Bibliography” which cites multiply marginalized and underrepresented scholars in technical and professional communication. Originally published in Technical Communication After the Social Justice Turn: Building Coalitions for Action, MMU scholars are encouraged to add to this growing bibliography with their publications so as to increase the visibility and ethical citation practices in the field.
Jennifer Sano-Franchini, Sweta Baniya, and Chris Lindgren have also developed a bibliography in response to Haas, Jones’ and Williams’ work. Their recent bibliography “Bibliography of Works by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in Technical and Professional Communication” serves as another on-going bibliography project attributing to the field of technical and professional communication. As they explain, the purpose of this bibliography is to amplify the perspectives of BIPOC in the field and to serve as a resource for teachers and researchers, whether for course development, research design, writing, development of comprehensive exam reading lists, or other activities” (n.p.). As another “living document”, akin to Itchuaqiyaq’s, TPC scholars are encouraged to add their work to this list.
Collectively, these calls for action and bibliographies have created an urgency for a more national and broader disciplinary discussion. For instance, CCCC chair Vershawn Ashanti Young convened with a coalition of Black scholars to participate in the Black Technical and Professional Writing Task Force. Resulting from this Task Force was the creation of the CCCC Black Technical and Professional Communication Position Statement with Resource Guide, which “contextualizes the experiences and cultures of Black peoples through research, learning, and scholarship” (n.p.). Upon the circulation of the CCCC statement, the Professional and Technical Writing Program at Virginia Tech sponsored and hosted a virtual event featuring CCCC task force members who created the statement and guide. Several students, who are contributors to this annotated bibliography, attended that event. We highlight these moments of coalitional action led (often by BIPOC) TPC scholars as they undoubtedly enriched many of the conversations and lenses by which we, as a class, examined the social justice turn in TPC.
Additionally, more localized university and department events, such as a virtual presentation given by Dr. April Baker-Bell on linguistic justice at UWM as well as broader sociocultural issues (such as the COVID-19 pandemic and presidential election) served as another backdrop which layered the scope of discussions. In fact, the reality that this graduate course would be taught as an online, synchronous course shaped part of the decision to develop this annotated bibliography. Wanting to avoid “zoom fatigue” and ensure that class discussions remained dynamic, we opted to meet for only 90 minutes online rather than the normal 120. To make up the remaining class time, Maria proposed this annotated bibliography assignment. What we present here is an assemblage of how we, as a class, have approached, studied, and learned from social justice movements and their relationship to our own research and TPC more broadly. hat we present here is an assemblage of how we, as a class, have approached, studied, and learned from social justice movements and their relationship to our own research and TPC more broadly.
While not all of the works annotated here are rooted in TPC, the purpose of the annotation invites readers to think inter- and intra- disciplinarily about the resources annotated in this bibliography. We learned throughout the semester that this type of thinking can better inform a social justice lens and can lead to new possibilities for the field of TPC. Social justice work is being done in academia and in communities in important ways that we as scholars can learn from, and that we as community members can amplify, support, and take part in. As the blog moves forward, we hope to incorporate resources that highlight both antiracist and social justice initiatives. To that end, we will continue connecting our readers - and ourselves - with resources that can educate and inform but that can also inspire action. For at its core, the social justice movement is a movement – To fight for social justice is to act. And to act is to be part of the movement.
Curatorial Contributors to the Annotated Bibliography (in alphabetical order):
Daphne Daugherty, Wendy Pawlyshyn Fitch, Gitte Frandsen, Sheila Kilb, Danielle Koepke, Joni Hayward Marcum, Maria Novotny, Kristiana Perleberg, Mohammad Anis Rahman, Amanda Reavey, Juan Rodriguez, Gurkirat Singh Sekhon, Chloe Smith, Angelyn Sommers, Madison Williams, and Emily Zorea.
*Special thanks to Angelyn Sommers and Kristiana Perleberg for copy-editing the annotated bibliography.