The Ethics of Giving: Teaching Rhetoric in One Community Literacy Program
AdvisorMountford, Roxanne D.
Committee ChairMountford, Roxanne D.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation is a critical ethnography about the power that storytelling offers in creating sustainable community literacy programs. The research for this dissertation was conducted at a ten year-old grassroots community literacy organization, VOICES: Community Stories Past and Present, Inc., which is based in Tucson, Arizona. Interviews for this project were conducted over a period of two years and includes feedback from thirty-three board members, staff members, volunteers, and youth participants at the organization. The dissertation begins with the assertion that gaps in understanding between theory and practice lead to damaging assumptions about difference and inequality, especially in the realm of community-based programming. I argue that an expanded understanding of storytelling as reciprocal and transformative can bridge these misunderstandings.In order to bridge the divide between theory and practice, this project offers the concept of reciprocity, fleshed out by the work of Ellen Cushman and Pierre Bourdieu, to encourage both participants in community literacy programs, as well as administrators, to be more transparent about their goals by sharing individual experience. This concept of reciprocity is the foundation on which storytelling as an agent of transformation rests. The process of storytelling that this project proposes establishes advocacy journalism and witnessing as a precedent. In the stories about interviewing and storytelling that the narrators from VOICES share, reciprocity is performative in that it can be manipulated to fit the needs of specific rhetorical situations. But this performance is dependent on the audience. I suggest that contrary to many discussions in composition and rhetoric, the tension between "addressed" and "invoked" audiences is an accurate one, and can be used to generate conversation about the assumptions and expectations of low-income youth and community literacy participants. An addressed audience is necessary in order for stories to be transformative; which is ultimately the way that they create large-scale social change. The conclusion of this project argues that administrators and literacy workers must foster an ethic of sustainability, which can be achieved through storytelling in order to both honor difference and challenge inequality in ways that are meaningful to the participants in these programs.
Degree ProgramRhetoric, Composition & the Teaching of English