Community Writing as Community Listening:
A Special Issue of the Community Literacy Journal to Celebrate the Second Biennial Conference on Community Writing

Community writing depends on community listening, which we define as deep, direct engagement with individuals and groups working to address urgent issues in everyday life: issues anchored by long histories and complicated by competing interpretations as well as clashing modes of expression. This position is informed by many perspectives, starting with feminist scholars of rhetoric and composition/writing studies who value listening prominently (Royster, Ratcliffe, Royster and Kirsch). Our understanding of community listening is equally informed by Linda Flower’s work on rhetorical agency and rivaling, acts of interaction and reflection between people who do not always listen easily to one another or themselves. The idea of community listening is capacious and nuanced. It involves what Paul Feigenbaum calls a “listening stance,” and it resonates with Eli Goldblatt and Steve Parks’s reminder that none of us inhabits only one identity. Instead, when we do community writing work, when we enact community listening, we may be academics and activists, students and organizers, community members and leaders, and more.

At the Conference on Community Writing in 2017, a primary example of community listening comes from the Highlander Research and Education Center. Throughout its 85-year history, Highlander has developed an educational model that is based on listening and the ways that listening can be turned toward change. Inspired by the pre-conference workshop with Highlander, we want to create an occasion for exploring their belief that “the problems facing society and the keys to grassroots power lie in the experiences of ordinary people” (Highlander). In that spirit, we invite proposals that reflect the listening engagements and challenges that arise in community-engaged work, from everyday exchanges between community partners (expressed through conversation, writing, and other formats) to long-standing projects and publications.

Echoing Jacqueline Jones Royster, we are interested in contributions that explore questions of listening in community contexts. Namely:

  • When do we listen?
  • How do we listen?
  • How do we demonstrate that we honor and respect the person talking and what that person is saying, or what the person might say if we valued someone other than ourselves having a turn to speak?
  • How do we translate listening into language and action, into the creation of an appropriate response? (“When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own” 38)

That is to say, this issue of CLJ will call for work from CCW that studies listening as a community writing practice. Contributors should show how community listening can help us (either briefly or over time) confront power relations, cross locations and situations, and attend to failures, successes, or ongoing conundrums. All conference participants are welcome to submit 500-word proposals for academic articles or alternative genres and formats (2500-8000 words or the equivalent). All conference participants are also welcome to submit one or more original, high quality images to be considered for cover art. Please contact us with ideas and questions. We look forward to receiving proposals via email between the close of the conference and November 15th.

Jenn Fishman and Lauren Rosenberg, special issue editors.

Timeline for Submissions & Publication

Proposals Due: November 15, 2017
Invitation to authors: November 20, 2017
Article drafts due: February 9, 2018
Revision requests to authors: April 16, 2018
Article revisions due: June 15, 2018