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Composition Forum 44, Summer 2020

From the Editors: Promoting Social Justice for Multilingual Writers on College Campuses

Christian Weisser, Greg Giberson, Jody Shipka, Jennifer Johnson, Eunjeong Lee, Brooke Schreiber, and Norah Fahim

This volume marks the eighth special issue of Composition Forum. We typically release a special issue in summers, yearly or biyearly depending upon topic proposals and interest from our readers. Much of the success of these special issues is due to the hard work and insight of Editor Jody Shipka, who expanded the frequency and quality of these summer offerings. If you’d like to propose a special issue or suggest a topic, please email Jody. A quick recap of our special issues to date:

Composition scholars continue to cite our first special issue in Spring 2006: Volume 15, focusing on Composition and Location and guest edited by Christopher Keller. Owing to the success and reader interest in that special issue, we offered a second in Fall 2012: Volume 26, addressing Writing and Transfer, guest edited by Elizabeth Wardle. Following that, we published a third special issue in Fall 2013: Volume 28, guest edited by Alexis Hart and Roger Thompson, highlighting the subject of Veterans and Writing. Our fourth special issue, guest edited by Dylan Dryer, focused on Rhetorical Genre Studies and appeared as Volume 31 in Spring 2015. A fifth special issue, edited by Lance Langdon, focused on Emotion in Composition and was released in Summer 2016 as Volume 34. The sixth special issue, Volume 36 released in Summer 2017, focused on Public Rhetoric and Social Justice and was guest edited by Christopher Minnix. Our most recent and seventh special issue, Volume 39, focused on Composition in the Presence of Disability and was guest edited by Annika Konrad, Elisabeth L. Miller, and Stephanie L. Kerschbaum

The special issues of Composition Forum are among our most frequently cited, so we are thrilled to offer this eighth entry in the series focusing on Social Justice for Multilingual Writers. The editors have compiled a diverse and sophisticated collection of interviews, retrospectives, articles, program profiles, and review essays addressing this volume important, complex, and increasingly relevant conversation in writing studies, one that began many years ago. The Guest Editors provide an introduction and overview of Volume 44 below.

We continue to use our blog to disseminate news and updates about the journal more quickly, and we encourage readers to contribute other timely and pertinent thoughts and information to the blog. Add our feed to your newsreader to receive alerts about new volumes of Composition Forum and other news from the field of rhetoric and composition. Please send questions or comments about the Composition Forum website to

From the Special Issue Editors

Jennifer Johnson, Eunjeong Lee, Brooke Schreiber, and Norah Fahim

The fight for linguistic justice in college-level writing education in the U.S. has a long and complex history. From the statement on Students’ Rights to Their Own Language in 1974 to Asao Inoue’s 2019 CCCC Chair’s address calling out White language supremacy, efforts to achieve justice for language minoritized students have been fraught with tension and conflict. At the core of this conflict is a fundamental question: in a world where (standardized) English-only ideology and a deficit perspective towards language minoritized students still dominate (e.g., J. Lee), how can we as writing educators ethically and equitably serve our linguistically diverse students?

This question has become ever more urgent given the sociopolitical climate over the past several years; within the US, we have seen racist attitudes and acts rooted in monolingual and monocultural bias of the nationalist discourse in the daily news cycle. These harmful rhetoric and violent acts pose a constant threat to our students with different linguistic, cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds and migration histories as well as colleagues, such as deportation, the revocation of visas, and enforcing English-only policy. Our multilingual students, both documented and undocumented, and local residents and international students, then continue to experience language injustice, as they have been already, in the inequitable education system.

It was in part this political moment and recognition that motivated the Second Language Writing Standing Group to propose a workshop focused on social justice for multilingual students at the 2019 CCCC, which ultimately shaped a call for papers for this special issue. An overwhelming and heartfelt response to this call showed us a collective drive among writing and language educators to engage in research and conversations that push back against the xenophobic and anti-immigrant discourse at the national level.

This special issue aims to highlight social justice work that centers multilinguals’ rich and dynamic language practices and lived experiences (Canagarajah; García and Li) as an important site to learn from, rather than a problem that needs fixing. Our goal, more specifically, is to offer readers a variety of visions and strategies for bringing about social justice via advocacy for language justice for multilingual students, from classroom pedagogy and writing center practices to administrative policies and teacher professional development. In doing so, we seek to recognize and honor the work of writing educators and multilingual students themselves who contend with the oppressive language ideologies in varied campus spaces across the country.

Moving towards Social Justice for Multilingual Writers

The ways language and literacy are conceptualized, drawn on, and judged are never neutral, apolitical practices. From the critique on the dominant monolingual, English-only ideology in the US writing classrooms (Horner and Trimbur; Watson and Shapiro), its impact on the myth of linguistic homogeneity on college campus (Matsuda), and racialization of language minoritized students (Baker-Bell; Flores and Rosa; Kynard) to recent advancement of translingualism (Bou Ayash; Canagarajah; García and Li; Horner and Tetreault; You), many scholars have turned to the role language plays in sustaining social inequality and inequity in our classrooms. While varied in theoretical frameworks and methodologies, these scholars have foremost called for a shift in the way we understand, read, and listen to our students, their languaging and writing, away from the deficit perspective—the product of the monolingual, monocultural, White gaze (Alim and Paris)—but with dispositions that perceive language difference as a communicative norm, and therefore, language difference in writing as a space with meaning potential (Alvarez and E. Lee).

Yet, such dispositions need to be enacted in actions to be more meaningful. In working towards a more just reality in teaching and doing of college composition, scholars have more actively called for concrete actions and labor beyond the critique in our theoretical and epistemological frameworks. In his 2019 CCCC Chair’s Address, Asao Inoue firmly demands that writing teachers and scholars work to destruct White language supremacy—the condition which our teaching and labor of language and writing continues to uphold, which continues to inflict the linguistic and racial injustice among our students of color. Inoue states, “If our goal is a more socially just world, we don’t need more good people. We need good changes, good structures, good work that makes good changes, structures, and people” (7). Similarly, Mihut has also pointed out that tolerance for linguistic pluralism is not sufficient in changing the way we teach and do composition. Horner and Alvarez, too, argue that the shift in our epistemology also demands our persistent labor in reading and listening to students’ languaging from a justice-oriented perspective.

As editors, we humbly recognize the long and continuous history of scholarship of our fellow composition, language, and literacy educators and scholars who have been working toward justice for language minoritized students (Baker-Bell; Kinloch et al.; Kynard; Tuck and Yang). We see articles for this special issue build and expand on the calls to act upon linguistic inequity and advocate for multilingual writers in writing classrooms, writing centers, and other pedagogical and administrative spaces on campus, with commitment to social justice for multilingual writers. These articles show not only what advocacy work for multilingual writers looks like in different pedagogical and administrative spaces, but also what it means and takes to do this work under a range of material constraints and ideological frictions (Horner and Alvarez). As these articles are situated in different locales and material conditions, written from different positionalities, readers will find examples of how work towards building a more just campus for multilingual writers can take place on different levels. Yet, what is shared across these articles is the plea to take up this work by shifting our perspectives, as changing “conditions” of writing for multilingual students—to borrow the language from Sarah Blazer and Brian Fallon in this issue—requires much more concerted efforts across the entire institutional ecology—the responsibility that everyone bears, as Iris Marion Young reminds us: “To say that responsibility is shared means that we all bear it personally in a form that we should not try to divide and measure” (124).

Overview of this issue

We open this special issue with an interview with Gail Shuck, whose two decades of work at Boise State University provide a model of how to advocate for refugee students. In conversation with Emily Simnitt, Shuck describes her administrative strategies for creating more equitable access to education—in particular, how she built and leveraged partnerships across the campus to expand linguistic support beyond the most visible visa-holding international students to specifically include multilingual refugee students and institute early assessment of students’ needs during the admission process.

Next, six research articles offer models for reimagining teaching and doing of composition through destabilizing and disrupting language ideologies, academic genres, and traditional pedagogical practices across different spaces of writing. We begin by looking at the writing practices of students, then at pedagogical models concerned with translingualism and accessibility, and finally at advocacy on campuses more broadly.

The first article examines the agentive writing practices of multilingual students who actively contest the limitations of monolingual writing expectations. In Critical Translation and Paratextuality: Translingual and Anti-Racist Pedagogical Possibilities for Multilingual Writers, Nancy Bou Ayash describes how two students take advantage of paratexts (such as forewords and footnotes) as a space in which authors can push back on limiting categories of racial, linguistic, and gender identities. She outlines a pedagogical approach which combines a focus on the transgressive opportunities of paratexts with translation as an active, agentive process.

The next two articles outline two distinct pedagogical approaches which aim to promote linguistic justice and inclusivity, the first drawing on translingualism, and the second focusing on multimodality. In their article Confronting Internalized Language Ideologies in the Writing Classroom: Three Pedagogical Examples Jennifer Slinkard and Jereon Gevers offer concrete activities for developing students’ meta-awareness of “standard” or “normative” conventions in academic writing. Adopting what they term a “critical-pragmatic” approach, the authors make the case that social justice pedagogy must offer opportunities for students to engage with and critique standard language ideology, especially in assessment practices, without insisting that students adopt teachers’ views. Drawing on the work of Christina Cedillo, Laura Gonzales and Janine Butler highlight the embodied nature of languaging and writing, and thereby, the importance of bodily diversity in a social justice approach. In their piece, Working Toward Social Justice through Multilingualism, Multimodality, and Accessibility in Writing Classrooms, Gonzales and Butler bridge the disciplines of writing studies and disability studies scholarship and argue for embodied pedagogies that “intentionally connect, rather than separate, students’ histories, languages, abilities, and composing practices.” Their pedagogical models ask students to use intersectional accessibility as a lens to review and then redesign technological platforms, to work with community advocacy groups, and to explore individuals’ communication practices.

The final three articles address the enactment of social justice beyond the individual classroom. In an innovative interactive and multimodal piece entitled Embracing the Perpetual ‘But’ in Raciolinguistic Justice Work: When Idealism Meets Practice, Nicole Gonzales Howell, Kate Navickas, Rachael Shapiro, Shawna Shapiro and Missy Watson share moments of conflicts and tensions, or the “the perpetual but” in their raciolinguistic justice work, in their own institutional contexts. More specifically, the authors reflect on how they negotiated with complex ideological and material constraints in their work with students of color, writing center tutors, pre-service teachers, faculty in the department and across campus, given each of their own positionalities.

Turning to the writing center in metropolitan New York City, Sarah Blazer and Brian Fallon in their article, Changing Conditions for Multilingual Writers: Writing Centers Destabilizing Standard Language Ideology examine their tutors' developing understanding of the role of standard language ideology, their evolving sense of responsibility for as well as the confidence to advocate for multilingual writers. The authors emphasize that a shared blog space not only mediated tutors’ learning from each other, but it also supported both a vital practice-oriented “cosmopolitan dialogic” and reflexive tutoring practice, which can prepare tutors for communication far beyond the writing center.

Barbara George and Ana Wetzl, in Addressing Erasure: Networking Language Justice Advocacy for Multilingual Students in the Rustbelt, take us to Northeast Ohio to demonstrate their cross-institutional collaborative advocacy work in predominantly white resource-tight small regional universities where student multilingualism can easily go invisible. Focusing on their network building and creative partnering practices, the authors conclude by emphasizing the campus as a site to promote multilingualism of both students and the local community.

The four program profiles featured in this issue all showcase various uptaking of social justice in writing program administration grounded in anti-racist practices scaled up from individual classrooms via curriculum building and faculty development.

First, Lizbett Tinoco, Sonya Barrera Eddy, and Scott Gage’s piece, Developing an Antiracist, Decolonial Program to Serve Students in a Socially Just Manner: Program Profile of the FYC Program at University of Texas at San Antonio, discusses rebuilding of their first-year composition program grounded in antiracist and decolonial frameworks via revisiting their program documents, assessment practices, labor equity, and professional development. The authors offer an in-depth exploration of how they navigated the challenges posed by limited institutional support and resources, and restrictive state-level policies by way of comadrismo—a feminist approach to mentoring for Latinas.

Next, Creando Raíces: Sustaining Multilingual Students’ Ways of Knowing at the Developing HSI from authors Lisa Tremain, Jessica Citti, Natalie Giannini, Libbi R. Miller, Nancy Pérez, and Corrina Wells, shows what collaboration across different campus programs can achieve for multilingual writers. The authors outline an innovative set of linked courses, academic support, and professional development which work together to promote students’ critical awareness of race and power at the university. Drawing on theories of transfer of knowledge and culturally sustaining pedagogies, this program profile presents pedagogy that pushes forward alternative narratives about students of color in the academy.

Julia Kiernan, Joyce Meier, and Xiqiao Wang, in Promoting Linguistic Equity through Translingual, Transcultural, and Transmodal Pedagogies, describe their efforts to implement a program-wide shift away from monolingual ideologies to framing students’ diverse linguistic and cultural knowledge as an asset. They focus on the reshaping of a freshman “bridge” writing course by incorporating novel translingual and transmodal assignments exploring students’ movements across languages and cultures, in response to a rapid increase of transnational student enrollment in their program.

Finally, Maya Poe and Qianqian Zhang-Wu’s profile, Super-Diversity as a Framework to Promote Justice: Designing Program Assessment for Multilingual Writing Outcomes, demonstrates how our assessment structures, linked with monolingual ideologies, can be reformed to better serve multilingual students. The authors describe how viewing students as “a highly mobile population with complex linguistic identities” moved Northeastern University’s writing program to redesign program assessment for multilinguals to make linguistic diversity more visible and valued, adding traits for evidence of linguistic or discourse diversity and awareness of diverse perspectives.

We conclude the special issue with Holly Shelton’s review of the edited collection Writing Assessment, Social Justice, and the Advancement of Opportunity, which examines the insights of individual chapters for understanding and combating linguistic imperialism, identifying disparities in placement practices, and shifting towards more just assessment for diverse writers.


The meaningful research, pedagogies, and initiatives presented by the authors above collectively make visible ways to strive towards creating more just campuses for our multilingual students. As Lee Anne Bell emphasizes in her understanding of social justice as a process and a goal, this work demands persistent and constant labor and ongoing reflection on our work and the space it creates for our students. This is particularly so, as our process of creating the special issue has been marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, and our understanding of how to labor toward linguistic justice for multilingual students has been challenged by the changing reality in the COVID time. Yet, the pandemic, and the rise in nationalist rhetoric and shutdown of borders that has followed, has shown us the imperative to fight against anti-racism, and to value and center multilingual students’ rich experiences, in our classrooms and on our campuses, as we learn to live and labor with a new, radical shift necessary in our work of social justice. While we acknowledge that the majority of our authors’ work was conceived and performed in the pre-COVID time and space, and therefore, may need to be enacted differently, we see such negotiation and consideration of material conditions is also an essential part of justice work. We invite readers to take up these efforts in their own contexts, in full recognition that social justice work is fraught with individual and structural challenges, not the least of which is institutional resistance and adherence to the status quo, and even the unpredictable material conditions in which we work. This commitment to social justice is a vital path forward in a time of divisive rhetoric and destructive national policies that inflict harm on our students.

Finally, no matter what we face as administrators, faculty, and tutors, it is crucial to remember the creative and critical labor that our students engage in to navigate and negotiate harmful monolingual, English-only ideologies, which often goes unrecognized and unacknowledged (Bou Ayash; Kynard; Lee, E., et al.). This is precisely why we call upon our colleagues to take up the work of building a more just campus for our multilingual writers, learning with and from our students.

Works Cited

Alim, H. Samy, and Django Paris. What is Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy and Why does it Matter? Culturally Sustaining Pedagogies: Teaching and Learning for Justice in a Changing World, edited by Django Paris and H. Samy Alim. Teachers College Press, 2017, pp. 1-24.

Alvarez, Sara. P. and Eunjeong Lee. Ordinary Difference, Extraordinary Dispositions: Sustaining Multilingualism in the Writing Classroom. Translinguistics: Negotiating Innovation & Ordinariness, edited by Jerry Won Lee and Sender Dovchin, Routledge, 2019, pp. 61-72.

Alvarez, Sara. P. et al. Cultivating Multimodality from the Multilingual Epicenter: Queens, ‘The Next America.’ Multimodal Composition in Multilingual Contexts, special issue of Journal of Global Literacies, Technologies, and Emerging Pedagogies, forthcoming, Web.

Baker-Bell, April. Linguistic Justice: Black Language, Literacy, Identity, and Pedagogy. Routledge, 2020.

Bell, Lee A. Theoretical Framework for Social Justice Education Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook, edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, Dianne J. Goodman, and Khyati Y. Joshi, Routledge, 2016, pp. 3-26.

Bou Ayash, Nancy. Toward Translingual Realities in Composition: (Re)Working Local Language Representations and Practices. Utah State University Press, 2019.

Canagarajah, Suresh. Translingual practice: Global Englishes and cosmopolitan relations. Routledge, 2013.

Flores, Nelson and Jonathan Rosa. Undoing Appropriateness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education. Harvard Educational Review, vol. 85, no. 2, pp. 149-301.

García, Ofelia, and Li Wei. Translanguaging: Language, Bilingualism and Education. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Horner, Bruce, and John Trimbur. English Only and US College Composition. CCC. vol. 53, no. 4, 2002, pp. 594-630.

Horner, Bruce, and Sara P. Alvarez. Defining Translinguality. Literacy in Composition Studies, vol.7, no. 2, 2019, pp. 1-30.

Horner, Bruce, and Laura Tetreault, editors. Crossing divides: Exploring translingual writing pedagogies and programs. Utah State University Press, 2017.

Kinloch, Valerie et al., editors. Race, justice, and activism in literacy instruction. Teachers College Press, 2020.

Kynard, Carmen. Vernacular Insurrections: Race, Black Protest, and the New Century in Composition-Literacies Studies. State University of New York Press, 2013.

Inoue, Asao. How Do We Language So People Stop Killing Each other, Or What Do We Do About White Language Supremacy? Conference on College Composition and Communication, 14 March 2019, Pittsburgh. Keynote Address.

Lee, Eunjeong. et al. Cultivating Multimodality from the Multilingual Epicenter: Queens, The Next America. Multimodal Composition in Multilingual Contexts, special issue of Journal of Global Literacies, Technologies, and Emerging Pedagogies, forthcoming, Web.

Lee, Jerry W. The Politics of Translingualism: After Englishes. Routledge, 2017.

Matsuda, Paul K. The Myth of Linguistic Homogeneity in U.S. College Composition. College English, vol. 68, no. 6, 2006, pp. 637-51.

Mihut, Ligia A. Linguistic Pluralism: A Statement and a Call to Advocacy. Reflections, vol. 18, no. 2, 2019, pp. 66-86.

Tuck, Eve and K. Wayne Yang, editors. Toward What Justice? Routledge, 2018.

Watson, Missy, and Rachael Shapiro. Clarifying the Multiple Dimensions of Monolingualism: Keeping Our Sights on Language Politics. Composition Forum, vol. 38, 2018, Web.

You, Xiaoye. Cosmopolitan Literacy and Transliteracy. Southern Illinois University Press, 2016.

Young, Iris R. Responsibility for Justice. Oxford University Press, 2011.

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