Call for Book Chapters: Circulating Communities: The Tactics and Strategies of Community Publishing

Circulating Communities:
The Tactics and Strategies of Community Publishing

Eds: Paula Mathieu, Steve Parks, Tiffany Rousculp

As the field of Composition/Rhetoric continues to undertake its “public turn,”  “comp/rhet” faculty and writing programs have moved beyond the university curriculum and student paper as the singular focus of work. Individual writing faculty, select writing courses, and entire programs are being joined in partnership with the “community” in an effort to develop writing projects and publications that are intended to circulate not only within the university, but within local neighborhoods, identity-based communities, and national debates. These publications can vary in size and scope from a one-page flyer to a full-fledged book, the imagined “community” can vary in size from the intimate setting of a writing group to the entire cities, but almost universally, all these publications are imagined as making an “impact.”

Indeed “community publishing” has become short hand for such public writing, intending to mark how such work is designed to do more than just circulate, but to also alter or expand the rhetorical context in which it enters – shifting the framework of debates about a community center’s mission, the emergence of a new immigrant community, or the politics of a particular urban school reform. And while these collaborative efforts have expanded the scope and ambition of writing faculty and programs, to date, there are no anthologies that trouble this over arching framework of “community publications” – investigating the imagined promises of this form of collaborative scholarship, tracking the multiple domains in which such publications circulate, or developing a framework to assess its true “value.” That is, while such work circulates “outside” our classrooms, there has been no vehicle to initiate a discussion within our field about the importance of such work – a singular text which would allow the diversity of this “community publishing” to read, studied, and replicated by Composition/Rhetoric scholars.

To fully understand the value of such “community publications,” such an anthology would have to move beyond the disciplinary framework of Composition/Rhetoric. For these “public turn” publications should not be seen as emerging full-born from the head of our disciplinary scholars, but as part of a longer organic tradition of communities organizing to formulate and circulate their voices through flyers, broadsheets, community bulletins, and small local newspapers. Composition/Rhetoric’s recent public turn, that is, should be seen as one of the more recent iterations of local communities using writing, rhetoric, and publication to circulate their voices across numerous domains of power and influence. Yet despite calls to study the “extra-curricular” of composition, there is also no anthology that publishes and analyzes these networks of existing community writing/publication.

Circulating Communities proposes to address this dual problem through presenting multi-voiced case studies of publishing projects representing the continuum of community-based to university/community-based projects. The collection will begin with an introduction which frame the need to unpack the history and scope of “community publishing,” embedding the recent work within composition/rhetoric within the longer tradition of community-based publications. The introduction will then attempt to further complicate “community publishing” by asking what constitutes a university/community partnerships – cracking open the idea that only large scale partnership work counts and, in the process, creating a more subtle framework in which to understand recent developments in the field.

The collection will then present a set of case studies which not only represent the type of issues typically undertaken by such work (school reform, prison-based, etc,), the range of partnerships in which such work occurs (institutional alignments, community-driven, classroom-located, faculty-based, etc.), but also the different genres of publication (flyers, policy papers, books, and multi-media projects).

For this reason, each case study will have the following features:

•    an opening essay, written by publishing project participants, which discusses the history/goals of a particular project, why a publication was undertaken as a tactical  move, the imagined goals of the publication, and how the publication worked (or failed to work) within larger strategies deployed to achieve the project goals.

•    the complete (or extended excerpts) of the discussed publication

•    a collage of responses to the publication which will track the history of the publication through its intended and unintended recipients

The collection will end with an essay that discusses whether it is possible to generalize a set of principles that seem to mark the work of  “successful” publishing projects – “success” being a fraught term. In addition, an appendix will be included which provides “nuts and bolts” information on how to create a variety of publications – from advice on software programs, isbn numbers, to print on demand options.