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CHAPTER ONE: Introduction: Counter-narratives and Cultural Stewardship
In the late fall of 2014, an Ebola outbreak crossed the Atlantic from Africa and came to America. In its early stages, the disease had seemed remote—a somewhat exotic subject of world news reports, a “problem,” certainly, but one having no direct impact within US borders. But suddenly, Ebola exploded among us. In Texas, no less. And, for the community of Texas Christian University (TCU), where I was teaching in Fort Worth, Ebola became personal, almost tangible, when Nina Pham, one of our own, a nursing program alumna working in a nearby hospital in Dallas, contracted the disease from a patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. Ebola was now local news, not something far-removed.
And yet, even as the disease cried out for our attention—generating real fear, even—our responses also provided a powerful learning opportunity. As an acting dean in the Honors College, I hosted a meeting of alumni on campus just as news of Pham’s illness hit the airways. TCU alumna Linda Newman, one attendee, shared a vivid anecdote with the group: she had just been to the same emergency room a few days before Duncan’s trip to that hospital. As she reenvisioned her near-encounter with contagion, the conversation also led her to a memory of reading: she said that, since the news of Ebola’s arrival in the Metroplex via her own neighborhood hospital, she had been mentally revisiting Albert Camus’s The Plague, which she had first studied as a TCU undergrad. She wondered aloud if rereading it now, and inviting others to join in, might be a way of encouraging all of us to examine some worthwhile questions: How can we cultivate a stronger sense of empathy, perhaps even responsibility, for the pain of others? How would we respond, as individuals and as a community, if the initial outbreak of Ebola in our own homeland couldn’t be contained?
As organically as that, through an informal conversation, a modest humanities-oriented community-building project was born. “Contagion, Quarantine, and Social Conscience,” we called it. I tapped into a small fund that TCU’s teaching and learning center provides to support “global learning” and purchased about twenty paperback copies of Camus’s novel to distribute, first-come, first-serve. Working with graduate student assistant Marie Martinez (who had been studying “contagion literature” for her dissertation on Victorian disease narratives) and with undergraduate student leaders, Linda and I planned a roundtable for an evening near the end of the semester. To promote involvement beyond whoever might be able to attend in person, another doctoral candidate, Tyler Branson, a frequent partner in civic engagement projects, set up an online discussion board.
This short-term project was only a small-scale endeavor. And it was far from fully successful. The residence hall’s main lobby that we chose for the roundtable was loud and distracting. The main doors slammed repeatedly; most of the heavy student traffic that evening exhibited little interest in our gathering, passing through without even pausing to join in, despite the many paper and digital posters we had distributed ahead of time. Most of the undergraduates in attendance were actually students from the Popular Literature class I was team-teaching with grad student Thomas Jesse, so the effort to attract attendees from the dorm didn’t really take off. And, with the weather far chillier than usual for a Texas late-fall evening, we didn’t draw a crowd of area alumni either.
Yet, I’d argue, worthwhile learning certainly happened. Both the panelists for the roundtable and the other participants that night were fully engaged, beyond the scheduled time, in topics that reminded all of us how powerful cross-cultural interdisciplinary learning in a public context can be. One speaker, biologist Giri Akkaraju, started out by apologizing for the (supposed) limits of his literary interpretation skills, then insightfully launched into a series of ethical questions that galvanized the room. Brite Divinity School professor Nancy Ramsey extended Giri’s themes, which were then further complicated by a postcolonial take on Camus offered up by English professor Rima Abunasser. Katherine Fogelberg, who had recently completed a dissertation on enhancing undergraduate science education, pushed us to contemplate how reading Camus’s text in light of current events might encourage a shift in teaching foci in the “hard” sciences to more direct examination of public health issues.
All the panelists, and the thoughtful audience members who responded to their lead, told stories. Many were informed by the gear-up conversations on our virtual discussion board. Ephemeral though this shared moment of learning seemed to be, it nonetheless affirmed the need, as Native/First Nations writer Thomas King has so eloquently pointed out, to tell each other stories when confronting challenging social issues. And this project also, however modestly, reasserted ways in which shared reading and discussion can generate stirrings of empathy—empathy that might, upon reflection, lead to social action.
For my own ongoing scholarship on collaborative learning that blends textual studies with analysis of educational practices, this project resonated with longstanding questions. How can we capitalize on the potential of the humanities—especially when set in dialogue with other fields—to enhance cross-cultural understanding? How can teaching, when conceived as a public enterprise, move learners from engagement with cultural resources to actions supporting social justice aims? And, in terms of guiding and assessing such work, what does narrative inquiry look like and why is it a valuable enterprise? What are the most productive methods for documenting the impact of civic engagement projects—from modest ones like our Ebola-inspired novel study to larger-scale, sustained, and complex ones? This book is part of my ongoing effort—supported by many colleagues—to address such questions.
For the majority of that particular fall 2014 evening’s participants, as well as most who had joined the dialogue online, this project ended with the roundtable. For some of us, however, an archive of activity remains as a source for ongoing analysis. When I reread the postings, they prompt me to reimagine ways of teaching in the future. In that vein, Sam, one of the members of that Popular Literature class that so commendably swelled the roundtable audience, wrote later about the project in an end-of-course narrative reflection: a future secondary teacher, he contrasted that collaborative learning experience with the focus on standardized assessments that he had been observing in school visits and tried to envision approaches for promoting open-ended, interdisciplinary teaching in his own classroom.
By leaving at least a partial record of our shared learning experience behind—in this case, through our record of online conversations—participants in the “Contagion, Quarantine, and Social Conscience” project invited others to join in future narrative inquiry. To accept such an invitation, by writing into the archive or carrying out new social practices inspired by it, would affirm that these kinds of collaborations seek communal more than individual agency.
In a sense, within the framework I’ll be using for this book, we left a “learning legacy”—a story about an intercultural learning process that used collaborative epistemologies toward potential social agency. The knowledge being made was admittedly tenuous and exploratory, grounded in writing linked to questions we had encountered in our daily lives and examined through the lens of shared study. I like to picture others reading through our postings and imaginatively joining our community—maybe even adding to its textual record, so that our online archive grows a bit, expanding its potential reach to others beyond the original participant community. I realize people seeking out that narrative space (or even stumbling upon it) wouldn’t have a full understanding of the transdisciplinary and pragmatic applications that emerged for some of us later. They wouldn’t have access to the reflection Sam wrote at the end of the semester about his future teaching; they wouldn’t have gotten to read Ben’s letter of application to divinity school, where he described future ethical leadership goals by echoing, and also extending, some of his previous online postings. Anytime we study archival records, we catch knowledge in fragments, at a remove from the actual lived experiences that shaped their construction. But any community that self-consciously leaves behind a learning legacy—adaptable accounts of narrative inquiry in process—surely does so as an aspirational act of rhetorical intervention, hoping it will be useful to others in the future. And learning legacies that emerge from efforts at cross-cultural teaching have a particularly crucial role to play today, given the many contact zones of social difference we are all encountering in our classrooms and the larger society.
Fortunately, there are numerous past learning legacies far more extensive and fully realized conceptually than the tiny set of exchanges generated through the brief “Contagion, Quarantine, and Social Conscience” program. Therefore, although I am especially committed to scholar-teachers’ intercultural community-building within and beyond the classroom today, I am eager to tap into cultural resources from prior generations to guide such work.
The three particular instances of learning legacies I will explore in this book come from my longstanding study of gendered social interventions at the turn between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Specifically, I’ll be drawing from archival sources to recover narrative texts responding to three pivotal educational issues in that era: what learning opportunities should be afforded to African-American women in the post-slavery decades; how to acculturate the exploding immigrant population of that time; and what role white and/versus Native cultural resources and teaching approaches should play in educating Indigenous Americans. Focusing here on a specific body of narratives around each of these ongoing debates—from Spelman College’s founding period, from Jane Addams’s leadership at Hull-House, and from the negative model of assimilationist Carlisle Indian Industrial School set in dialogue with alternative Native teaching practices—I will mine generative learning legacies from these knowledge-making sites.
As those three points of research attest, this previous era provides an especially fruitful ground for study. For one thing, in a seeming forecast of our twenty-first-century moment, these earlier decades in US history represented a period of intense social transformation (including increasing urbanization, a rapid rise in immigration, and enhanced educational opportunities across previous class divides). Educational sites both in and out of school—anticipating parallel American settings in the early twenty-first century—brought together learners from widely diverse backgrounds, often crossing generations; regional and national identities; and race, gender, and social class affiliations. Also similar to our current national context, the transition between the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries prompted sustained efforts by powerful groups to maintain social hierarchies (such as Jim Crow tactics directed against African Americans; a rise in anti-immigrant campaigns; oppressive containment strategies used to undermine Native peoples’ own national and individual rights; and continued reluctance to give US women full political and economic access). The echoes of that era’s struggles over educational values and practices resonate quite strikingly today, thereby underscoring how relevant stories of cross-cultural collaborations from the past can be for us now. In particular, I have found transportable models of rhetorical activism in cultural work by the institution-founding women who generated published accounts of Spelman College’s early days, by women settlement leaders recording stories of Hull-House’s Progressive-Era programs, and by students/teachers creating resistant responses to the boarding school movement aimed at Native American youth. I will link these historically situated examples of archive-making with current applications of those legacies by self-conscious heirs today and with my own analysis of stories from both time frames—the past and today. I will analyze these textual records both in their specific historical moments and across time, so as to demonstrate how humanities-oriented knowledge systems and practices from the past can enable meaningful intercultural work in our own day.
Narrative Pathways to Knowledge
To embody this project’s arguments rhetorically, I’ve constructed three layers of narrative writing in the book’s structural content. For each core chapter, I’ve composed a historical narrative about a specific learning legacy; I’ve also shared a story about how those cultural resources are being used in social action today; and I’ve woven in a personal narrative about my own learning process along with that analysis.
I realize that using narrative as my own primary writing mode brings risks. There is a long history of women’s knowledge-making being downplayed or even ignored when that work is situated in everyday experience and language—or, said another way, when women writers and others on the margins of power “story” rather than “theorize” knowledge. Accordingly, throughout this book, I will sometimes foreground analysis, even as I also seek to establish the efficacy of individual stories and, more specifically, counter-narratives developed by knowledge-makers whose marginalized positions initially constrained their access to agency.
Despite its challenges, first-person narrative does bring important benefits to this project. As feminist epistemology has emphasized, whenever we construct knowledge, however hard we try to be fair, our personal standpoints shape our processes and conclusions. Identity is a particularly crucial factor to consider in my authorship of this book, in terms of my writing about educational practices carried out “for,” along with or managed by, marginalized peoples. As a white woman positioned in a highly privileged role as a university professor, I have a clear responsibility to reflect on how my own standpoint restricts my work. I must try to nurture a sensitive and responsive capacity for interpreting the experiences of the educators I am studying from the past, as well as those whose current work I seek to understand, while recognizing that complete empathy and identification with others are never fully achievable. Said another way, I must acknowledge the epistemic challenges to deep empathy that are associated with who and where I am.
Given these inherent limits, I have sought a rhetorical strategy for textually marking the standpoint-based constraints on my own learning and my scholarship. I do so by calling on interpretive methods and stylistic features of autoethnography. That is, I align my writing with this self-reflective research approach to make visible to my readers, rather than to mask, my own struggles with claiming a voice for this project. In employing features of autoethnographic writing, I also hope to affirm that knowledge derived from storytelling carries value, that analysis and narrative can work together productively, and that scholarly commitments to reach broad audiences may require us to write in a more personal way than when discipline-centered researchers talk only to each other. Overall, I’m seeking to represent textually the process of reflection that, I believe, is a necessary step between archive-guided learning and social action.
Therefore, while this book is not, strictly speaking, an autoethnography, it does weave into each chapter techniques from that research method and conventions from that narrative genre. Admittedly, this partial approach makes for some stylistic jumps in my writing—shifts between a voice that takes a distanced, analytical perspective when interpreting textual records from the archive and one that speaks more directly to readers in an “I” voice, narrating personal experiences of using cultural resources to guide teaching, learning, and civic activism. To craft this hybrid language, I’ve drawn on Heewon Chang’s Autoethnography as Method. He advises that autoethnography “combines cultural analysis and interpretation with narrative details,” so that “the stories of autoethnographers” can be “reflected upon, analyzed, and interpreted within their broader context” (46). I’ve also tried to emulate the best storytelling by the women writer-educators from previous eras who originally inspired this project—authors like Carrie Walls and Sophia Packard in the Spelman Messenger, Jane Addams in Twenty Years at Hull-House, and Zitkala-Ša in her stories for Atlantic Monthly and other periodical venues. And I’ve drawn upon models of writing by colleagues currently doing similar work in a range of civic engagement and community-building projects.
In calling upon a narrative epistemology, I affiliate with a gendered tradition but also with values and practices central to Native American and First Nations teaching approaches. As Gail Guthrie Valaskakis has explained in Indian Country: Essays on Contemporary Native Culture: “stories are not just the cultural glue that holds communities together and transports them over time. Stories express the dynamic cultural ground in which individuals and communities are formed through a continual process of adopting and enacting allied or conflicting representations and the ideological messages they signify” (“Introduction,” Indian Country, 4). Drawing on the work of Stuart Hall, Valaskakis emphasizes that both individual and group conceptions of identity are “contested and reconstructed in the discursive negotiation of the complex alliances and social relations that constitute community” (4). Further, echoing Thomas King, Valaskakis notes that taking control of the stories told about yourself and your community represents a vital step toward claiming agency (6–7).
Significantly, this vision of agency doesn’t assume that all problems will be resolved, that irrefutable answers will emerge from story-made knowledge. Given the contingent versions of our individual selves and the communities where we work, knowledge itself is also contingent and fluid. So narrative, given its open-ended qualities, becomes not just an appealing way to convey our understandings; it’s also a mode that acknowledges its own limitations. Like the archive from which many humanities scholars seek to construct meaning, narrative is tentative and exploratory. Similarly, the actions we may be able to take from studying cultural resources need not be definitive to be worthwhile. Particularly when collaborating to create or refine communal stories, part of the value of the enterprise is its ongoing process.
I am well aware that my claims for interactive archival inquiry and associated collaborative enterprises growing out of such study fly in the face of ongoing anxiety about the relevance of the liberal arts. I recognize, of course, that we live in a period when the “practical” hard sciences and technical expertise often hold sway in educational value systems. Just ask our political leaders. The governor of North Carolina, Patrick McCrory, and former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett (in)famously advocated public education’s abandonment of fields like philosophy and women’s studies; and though he later apologized to offended art historians, even President Obama extoled the superior importance of “job training programs” meeting “employer needs” over such liberal arts fields in today’s educational hierarchy.
Meanwhile, quantitative assessment orientations place a premium on “objective” testing over measures such as students’ own reflective self-evaluations of learning or their stories of how they use, in daily life, what they have studied in the humanities’ cultural records. This emphasis on supposedly objective and finely measurable standards undermines the educational value systems and practices for knowledge-making of minority cultural groups, whose members often “score” in lower “levels” on such measures than the white majority. Thus, Marlene Brant Castellano, Lynne Davis, and Louise Lahache have noted, in the context of tensions between First Nations educational curricula and dominant North American practices: “This aggressive gate-keeping of ‘standards’ has repeatedly challenged the legitimacy of Aboriginal knowledge and values, imposing an assimilative cultural agenda that is both pervasive and coercive” (“Conclusion,” Aboriginal Education, 251).
On a more hopeful front, a growing chorus of voices has been calling into question such assumptions about the limits of learning avenues in the liberal arts and, conversely, the supposed universal superiority of “hard” knowledge fields. In the K-12 arena, thoughtful parent groups and activist scholars have begun to resist the loss of meaningful learning time arising from “test prep” (i.e., teaching to/for the test) and the seemingly never-ending increase in testing days themselves. In university settings, enterprises such as Campus Compact, Imagining America, and local civic engagement endeavors (often combining curricular and cocurricular approaches) are reasserting the “soft” communal responsibilities of higher education. Such projects reenvision how scholars working in the arts, education, social sciences, and humanities can create, sustain, and assess public partnerships. Furthermore, since civic engagement work is inherently complex, too multifaceted to be fully encapsulated in charts, graphs, and numbers, some are saying, it’s time to reassert more qualitative ways to track what we learn through the liberal arts, fine arts, and everyday teaching and learning experiences linked to them.
Accordingly, a subtext of this project might read as follows: let’s quit being defensive about the humanities and affiliated fields of study. It’s time to stop limiting our measures of effectiveness to strategies more suited to disciplines where knowledge is more easily quantified. Instead, let’s foreground knowledge-making and assessment practices best suited to the epistemological systems, tools, and, yes, the aspirations at the core of the humanities and their sister fields of the arts and education. Stories emerging from community-building collaborations offer one such avenue. Therefore, one goal of this book is to interpret legacies from a number of such cross-cultural enterprises, from the past and today.
Knowledge-Making as Public Work
One social efficacy-seeking approach that “soft”-knowledge, liberal-arts-oriented fields have in common when they operate in the public sphere, and thus one framework for tracing their influence, is their rhetorical underpinning. In that context, whereas a hard-scientific drug trial would set up an intervention treatment and a control group, then measure the impact of the medication in question via comparative quantitative data between the two groups, a social intervention project framed through the humanities would assert the impossibility of isolating all variables in daily life. Instead, a story-based avenue to knowledge would draw on admittedly messier but more rhetorical means of evaluating impact. How, for instance, did participants respond affectively to a particular project’s activities? What elements within the language and social practices of the program seemed to impact that audience’s belief systems for day-to-day life choices, and why? What did they do with their learning, in their lived experiences afterward? What aspects of the cultural context shaping the project’s conception in the first place, as well as pathways through which it was experienced, have implications for future work? These are the kinds of questions an educator like Jane Addams, affiliating with narrative ways of knowing, would address in her writings about the Hull-House settlement. Curators working more recently at the Chicago museum honoring Addams’s legacy have asked similar questions about exhibits they developed or public programs they sponsored, as have Native leaders envisioning programming (both on-site and virtual) for the National Museum of the American Indian, and as have planners and performers in the annual Founders’ Day pageant held at Spelman College every spring.
This kind of active questioning around text-making and related social interactions aligns with scholarship in cultural rhetoric. In their introduction to a special issue of Enculturation dedicated to articulating cultural rhetoric’s evolving work, Phil Bratta and Malea Powell noted, “In practice, cultural rhetorics scholars investigate and understand meaning-making as it is situated in specific cultural communities.” Hence, they say, cultural rhetoric is a “situated scholarly practice,” one that responds to calls from voices like Steven Mailloux’s to “‘use rhetoric to practice theory by doing history.’” For my work on Learning Legacies, Bratta and Powell’s description of cultural rhetoric as “More than anything, . . . a practice, and more specifically an embodied practice” is especially helpful, since it reminds me to be vigilant about my own personal standpoint’s impact on my inquiry. Similarly useful, I find, is their assertion that cultural rhetoric examines “issues of power,” particularly when doing comparative work, as I aim for here by bringing together several different case studies of archive-building and archive use. For Bratta and Powell, positioning our scholarly work within cultural rhetoric entails addressing power differentials ethically, attending to interpersonal relations as influencing cultural action, noting the interactive connections (“constellations”) that shape all knowledge-making, and using story as a central form of communication. My project strives to follow this mandate.
In line with such antihierarchical knowledge-building commitments, Learning Legacies affiliates with cultural rhetoric as both a conceptual formulation for scholarly study and a pathway toward political agency. Similar to Steven Mailloux’s self-positioning in a dialogue with Keith Gilyard for Conversations in Cultural Rhetoric and Composition Studies, I see benefits to linking rhetoric with pragmatism. Mailloux, for example, acknowledges the downside of hanging on to “rhetoric” as a term that can elicit negative responses from members of the general public, who may associate it more with verbal performance for effect than with sustained social action (40). Yet he nonetheless argues that there are potentially productive “associative” links between what he terms “rhetorical pragmatism” and “a commitment to radical democracy.” Both, he suggests, “share tropes of conversation and dialogue,” as well as “arguments about the primacy of empowerment and the protection of minority rights” and “narratives about the way that you come up with knowledge of truth: through deliberation” (39).
If Mailloux admits to both drawing on and resisting some aspects of his training in American literature in order to affiliate with the field of rhetoric, so will I. If the legacy of New Criticism gave me an intellectually appealing tool kit, it has sometimes seemed divorced from one-half of the mandate promoted by the nineteenth-century American women writers whose work has driven much of my prior scholarship: writing both to delight and to improve—that is, to use language in inherently artistic ways, but also to have a meaningful impact on daily life. Fortunately for those of us trained first as literature scholars in the New Critical perspective, Ottmar Ette’s calls for reconceptualizing our work’s relationship to lived experience have provided a useful vision for maintaining such skills as close, careful reading of the “literary” (however one defines that category), but not solely for the purposes of aesthetic analysis. Urges Ette: “For literary criticism and critical theory, knowledge for living is intrinsic to the very process of knowing: it is part of the object of study and of the subject’s (the scholar’s) individual life contexts” (“Literature,” 987). Ette argues that such a vision for the literary scholar moves us from feeling we should “confront the natural sciences” to “initiat[ing] a serious dialogue,” one that, by including “literary and cultural knowledge,” will enable “a more complex understanding of life and of the humanities as part of the sciences for living” (983, emphasis in original). In setting up the cross-disciplinary conversations around media coverage of the Ebola outbreak as potentially illuminated through (re)engagement with Camus’s philosophical novel, the collaborative “Contagion” programming I described above was seeking just such a “serious dialogue” toward a “sciences for living,” in Ette’s terms.
In this book project and within the civic engagement programs I’ve joined across my academic career, two other scholarly frameworks play a key role: American Studies and studies of communities of practice in education. In the first case, I affiliate with the longstanding commitment of American Studies Association presidents such as Paul Lauter, Mary Helen Washington, and Karen Halttunen to partnering with K-12 educators and community activists. Further, I embrace mandates such as Barbara Tomlinson and George Lipsitz’s to enact an “American Studies as Accompaniment,” so that, in collaborating with colleagues from different backgrounds than our own, we position ourselves for “traveling the road with them,” while learning “to listen” and craft “more cosmopolitan and critical conversations” (27). Accordingly, the historical case studies I present here all involve women rhetors who were also activist educators in their own day, capitalizing on connections to learning communities they helped construct and nurture. From those networks of narrative inquiry in action, shared stories emerged. On a parallel front, my analysis of contemporary applications of those women leaders’ past stories will show how the heirs of their work are constructing new communities of practice in day-to-day and project-based teaching. Networks of educators sharing praxis-based knowledge, with the National Writing Project’s interconnected local communities and nationwide programming being a prime example, offer compelling evidence of the efficacy in such collaborations. My own involvement, for over a decade, in helping build the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project in metro Atlanta has certainly had an impact on my scholarship and on communities of teachers and learners there.
Studies of women’s educational rhetoric in action invite a mixed methodology, given the need to examine the original context of textual production as well as later transmissions and reconfigurations. Therefore, in this book, I begin each historical case study by recovering particular instances of archive-building through stories of teaching practice and then shift to tracing ways that twenty-first-century educators have used those textual legacies to guide their own work. My method is “text-based,” with my analysis grounded in cultural records—some inscribed, some performed, some enacted in conversations. This focus on textual records of learning as a social resource is one feature of my project that aligns it with traditional scholarship in the humanities, including cultural rhetoric’s studies of narrative writing as an activist genre. But I also hope to expand the way we conceptualize such archives to embrace texts that are often excluded, to encourage strategies of interpretation that are under-utilized, and to apply archival resources to our own social agency today. To clarify this goal, which links my methodological commitment to aspirations for how others may be able to use my work, I will now explicate several of this book’s key terms.
Counter-Narratives as Resistance
One concept essential to this project is counter-narrative, a politicized discursive strategy: when marginalized people are denied full access to social agency, they sometimes construct stories that push back against a constraining ideology’s textual power. As my English Department colleague Richard Enos suggested in an email after reading this introduction: “counter-narratives figure prominently in social movements,” partly because “they are used to provide a (counter/alternative) view of reality.” They are also useful in cross-cultural storytelling “because they provide diachronic accounts of issues centering on value and preference.”
In particular, the counter-narratives at the heart of the upcoming chapters are inscribed and/or enacted stories strategically constructed to claim agency by mimicking some features of dominant narratives while simultaneously resisting other features of expected generic form and the belief system shaping it. In that sense, Molly Andrews has defined counter-narratives as “stories which people tell and live” in order to “offer resistance, either implicitly or explicitly, to dominant cultural narratives” (“Opening,” 1). Andrews describes the interrelationship between dominant (or master) narratives and the resistant texts that sometimes emerge in response: “master narratives” express “what is assumed to be a normative experience,” so that “such storylines serve as a blueprint” for understanding ourselves and social practices in the world around us. Accordingly, she argues, “the power of master narratives derives from [our] internalisation,” as “we become the stories we know, and the master narrative is reproduced.” However, Andrews suggests, particularly among members of marginalized groups, alternative visions may develop. In such cases, individuals who see themselves as outside the dominant pattern may choose to create “personal stories which go against the social grain,” and, through that process, generate “new possibilities” available to others as well. Andrews argues that such narrative-making has particular appeal for those outside the mainstream, whose perspective has been undervalued or even ignored. Self-consciously positioning their alternative stories on the margins, individuals who generate counter-narratives also do an important service for others, as the new storylines can eventually be adopted by larger communities (1–2). If dominant narratives offer maps reflecting “the social construction of normalcy,” with related patterns of “inclusion and exclusion” creating “pressures of social expectation” (3), counter-narratives open up alternative possibilities based on resistance to those constraining norms.
Andrews does offer this vital caution: “Counter-narratives exist in relation to master narratives, but they are not necessarily dichotomous entities” (2). Thus, though operating in tension with dominant narratives in a culture, and basically from an oppositional stance, this genre does not always respond from an entirely resistant position and, in fact, may participate in some ways with discursive features that mark a more dominant form. For example, in this book’s treatment of writings by Native students who themselves became teachers in White-run boarding schools for Indigenous pupils, I’ll take note of ways that an author like Zitkala-Ša or S. Alice Callahan could invoke features of the familiar “uplifting savages” narrative as part of an overall strategy for undermining that very position.
The major counter-narratives recovered and interpreted here emerged from collaborations that enacted communal more than individual agency. For instance, stories that Jane Addams and her Hull-House colleagues wrote about settlement house work deemphasized individual leadership and, in its place, asserted shared endeavors as a means toward social change. In doing so, these counter-narratives offered an antidote to the rhetorical model of individual heroic influence, on the one hand, and the seeming erasure of personal agency from detached “scientific” analyses of social problems, on the other. Indeed, one trait the progressive educators whose writings are highlighted here share is a persistent investment in narrative itself as a knowledge-making process, particularly through stories grounded in everyday experience. Recovering and interpreting examples of such stories in action is a crucial step to asserting the humanities (and the liberal arts more broadly) as a meaningful route to knowledge today. And, through that process, an expansive concept of the archive and a multilayered Archive emerges.
Archives as Resources
In this project on learning legacies, I use “archive” to refer to a specific collection of artifacts and/or observable practices associated with an identifiable community, historical movement, or site of inquiry—as in “I worked in an archive” of, say, periodical publications or public records or personal letters at a community-affiliated research site, or “I gathered an archive of oral histories” from a particular group of people. I use “Archive,” in contrast, for the multilayered set of cultural resources that accrue, over time, through assembling, saving, and sustained, culture-making use of texts and social practices linked to communities’ shared agendas. In particular, this project explores how an archive of learning legacies, over time, can grow into an Archive.
In general, whereas I see counter-narratives as basically oppositional responses to dominant ones, I propose that the “archives” we analyze to understand learning legacies represent an expansion (not a rejection) of traditional meanings of the term. I aim to apply the kind of careful cataloging and analyzing associated with studying traditional archival documents to an expanded range of materials and records of social practices so as to surface their cultural meanings, in past historical moments and today. Thus, given the wide readership I hope to reach with this project, it’s necessary to explain my own use of the term.
Explication of the term archives by the Society of American Archivists (SAA) on its website points to some areas of agreement around the term, but also variations, including ongoing shifts in meaning within different informal, vernacular uses. The SAA’s first-given meaning for “archives” (which they denote in plural) is “materials created or received by a person, family, or organization, public or private, in the conduct of their affairs and preserved because of the enduring value contained in the information they contain or as evidence of the functions and responsibilities of their creator, especially those materials maintained using the principles of provenance, original order, and collective control; permanent records.”
My use of “archive” here does represent a discursive intervention, of sorts, into ideas about what “counts” as archival cultural resources, who assembles them and why, and how they are used. That is, I affirm long-recognized commitments to stewardship of resources such as official public documents. But my application of the term “archive” here also operates as a logical extension of prior scholarship by members of marginalized groups who have already done important work to expand our understandings of its meaning and purview. In terms of archival research techniques, I honor methodological guidance from longtime leaders of archival studies such as T. R. Schellenberg, who emphasized the need for attentive care in assembling and managing archives, and whose in-service training of staff members working in the National Archives, along with his influential 1954 series of lectures in Australia as a Fulbright fellow, helped establish the field’s professional identity in the context of preserving official public records. Schellenberg’s commitment to organized method arose in part, I suspect, from his realization that archives play a crucial role in the stewardship of culture. Thus, in honoring Schellenberg’s foundational vision, I affirm an insightful assessment by his Australian colleague H. L. White in an appreciative forward to Modern Archives: that a society’s commitment to maintaining archives “is a measure of our faith in the future.”
Schellenberg’s Modern Archives, which brought together principles and techniques from his Fulbright lectures, initially approached his subject from the perspective of someone striving to establish the value of the National Archives both as a support for governmental efficiency and as a keeper of cultural resources, a role which, at that point, he argued could be fulfilled only by the government. That is, if the archive was made up of public documents produced by the government, then only a public agency could maintain them: “The care of valuable public records,” he averred, “is a public obligation” (8).
In a second book, The Management of Archives, originally published in 1965, Schellenberg would revise his definition of archives “on the assumption that the principles and techniques now applied to public records may be applied also, with some modification, to private records, especially to private manuscript material of recent origin.”  But he continued to distinguish between what he called “records for research use” (which he classified as “archival”) and items intended for “current use,” which would not be (xxix). Thus, though his definition by then incorporated private as well as public materials, and though he included “textual, cartographic, and pictorial” materials (xxx) and not only government documents in the narrowest sense, Schellenberg’s framework, at least in the context of this project, ultimately envisions a relatively limited conception of “archive” on two counts. First, it fails to assert, specifically, a potential value for materials and practices from outside the mainstream. (Like Jennifer Sinor, who recovered a family member’s writing and applied techniques of archival analysis to that text, I join other feminists in recognizing that official archives have been dominated by male figures’ records, both in content and in documentation approaches; like Francisco Jiménez, whose frustrated search for signs of his own Mexican-American heritage in a range of formal “permanent records” (to use the SAA’s terms) underscored patterns of exclusion—I call for a vision of “archive,” in the kind of collaborative enterprise I promote here, that extends beyond the materials already safely tucked away and carefully catalogued in a sanctioned and professionally managed collection.) Second, it falls short of encompassing the new and emerging materials that are now generating cultural resources every day, that is, the textual products and practices that Schellenberg could not have anticipated in his own time. (For instance, the archives I study now could include blog postings about the Spelman College Founders Day; or an audio recording available, via touch screen, as part of an exhibit at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum; or a YouTube video record of a powwow dance; or a sequence of associated comments posted by web visitors who viewed that event online.)
Similarly, for this project, which calls for imagining archive-making as a widely participatory social action, a traditional perspective on the term is too restrictive when it explicitly or implicitly isolates archival resources from lived experiences that make meaningful use of cultural resources. In this context, for instance, several of the definitions proffered by the SAA would be too limiting if held as the only operant meaning: one by envisioning an archive as a “division within an organization responsible for maintaining the organization’s records of enduring value,” since this would assume an archive must have an institutional affiliation; a second for seeing an archive as a “building (or portion thereof) housing archival collections,” since this meaning would locate “archive” in a particular physical location; and a third for casting an archive as a “published collection of scholarly papers, especially in a periodical,” as this meaning assumes public circulation. Because I argue here for a concept of “archives” that emphasizes active culture-making through ongoing, communal cultural work, I favor a more generative vision for my use of the term.
That said, in previous projects and for this book, I have certainly done extensive work in traditional archives. On one very basic level, for each of the case studies presented here, I have researched literal archives like those designated by the SAA’s first definition, outlined above, namely, materials that have been preserved because of their “enduring value.” Diana Taylor has offered up a relevant catalogue of examples of what such an archive might incorporate, materially speaking: “‘Archival’ memory exists as documents, maps, literary texts, letters, archaeological remains, bones, videos, films, CDs, all those items supposedly resistant to change” (Archive/Repertoire, 19). In this sense, the historical “archive” that undergirds this particular project is a set of tangible records bequeathed to us by women (and men) who used their teaching to enact a vision of social justice in their own day. For example, when Sophia Packard and Harriet Giles journeyed from New England to the postbellum South to found what became Spelman College, they had a clear view of the potential benefits to be derived from documenting their work—and enabling students to contribute to that narrative—in print stories aimed at cultivating a network of stakeholders. That archival record, represented in part as a periodical named the Spelman Messenger, today exists in material form in the Spelman College library, as a retrievable account of institutional history.
However, this archive is actually only one part of a multilayered Archive of cultural resources going back to the liberal arts knowledge Packard and Giles brought with them from their own previous schooling, a heritage they would redesign for (and with) their African American women students, through iterations of a legacy both celebrated and revised strategically in the pages of the student-and-teacher made publication. And within the Spelman Messenger stories (many of them covert and some of them overt counter-narratives), later generations of students and their teachers have found authoritative resources for identity-shaping performances of that institutional history in an annual Founders’ Day celebration. Those very performances, in turn, have become part of a larger Archive of ever-adjusting cultural resources that promote gendered and race-based agency for Spelman community members today.
For Diana Taylor, such performances represent part of a rich cultural repertoire that enables social change across time. As she notes, an individual performance, drawn from and/or shaped by an available archive, “enacts embodied memory: performances, gestures, orality, movement, dance, singing—in short, all those acts usually thought of as ephemeral” actually produce knowledge through the doing. Meanwhile, an adaptable, archive-based repertoire of cultural forms also “allows for individual agency,” partly because it “requires presence: people participate in the production and reproduction of knowledge by ‘being there,’ being a part of the transmission” (Archive/Repertoire, 20).
Within the framework of my own project, therefore, while one meaning of “the archive” invokes literal textual records from the past, another is more layered, interactive and evolving. This Archive constitutes a growing body of cultural resources continually reshaped through use—and also, even now, through my own interpretations. As Carolyn Steedman has pointed out in Dust: The Archive and Cultural History, archives are places from which a “resurrectionist historian creates the past that [s]he purports to restore.” Steedman argues that an archive “is made from selected and consciously chosen documentation from the past,” but that without the researcher’s work, “it just sits there until it is read, and used, and narrativised” (38, 68, my emphasis). Scholar-activists, my project assumes, want to draw from and transform archives into Archives of agency or at least to study how others have done so.
In the Spelman College documents under review here, the initial archive of stories made for the Messenger embodied a positive force that, in turn, generated new layers of a socially enabling Archive. That shared cultural memory both evolved over time and maintained a strong, purposeful connection to communal history. From Spelman’s original counter-narratives resisting the marginalization of African American women, a powerful learning legacy continues to operate, illustrating both the pragmatic and the aspirational potential of humanistic study. So, in the case of the learning legacy examined in chapter 2, we can see how the gradual accretion of stories in this Archive helped contribute to and, over time, strengthen the institution. That is, we might argue that the institution of Spelman, which still operates and continues to refine itself and its mission today, was socially constructed from counter-narratives—or, to be more precise, counter-narratives that eventually became this college’s empowering dominant narrative.
To track this process of making and using learning legacies, chapter 2 will combine analysis of counter-narratives from the early Spelman Messenger with a parallel reading of the college’s Founders’ Day performances in our own time. Reuse of Spelman’s shared stories about itself as an institution reaffirms its identity to its community members. In addition, consistent with the way liberal arts learning can happen through study of cultural resources, others can actually draw on that heritage to do additional cultural work. To suggest how this expanded Archive provides cultural resources extending beyond groups like the yearly pageant participants themselves, I will also revisit my own experiences as a learner encountering Spelman’s recurring stories through collaborative study and, I hope, as a teacher now positioned to pass those narratives on productively and respectfully to others from a stance of still-learning student. In other words, by generating a story of my own earlier learning and current teaching about Spelman’s counter-narrative heritage, I will show how that Archive has expanded its cultural force beyond the institution’s insider audience (Spelman’s own students and alumnae) to others (like me) eager to draw from its example. These stories of women learning to claim socially significant agency exemplify the ability of humanistic study to cross cultural boundaries (for instance, in my case, racial identity) and to encourage affiliations fostering shared value systems for leadership in the public sphere. In other words, one aim of revisiting my own learning about the Spelman Messenger’s early counter-narratives, as well as their reconfigurations for contemporary audiences more recently, will be to document how these learning legacies have had an impact on my own worldview, enabling me to teach with enhanced intercultural awareness.
Chapter 3’s analysis of counter-narratives created by Jane Addams and her colleagues at Hull-House offers a similarly positive account of women moving from marginalized positions to social agency through collaboration. Like Packard and Giles (Spelman’s women founders), Addams benefited from access to liberal arts traditions herself—specifically through attendance at Rockford Seminary. She self-consciously drew on that learning legacy when developing educational opportunities that the settlement made available to its middle-class residents and the Hull-House immigrant “neighbors” who joined its reading groups, enrolled in its creative array of courses, and participated in its public projects. From building playgrounds and launching kindergarten programs to organizing political debates and operating a coffee house that provided healthy foods for working-class families, Hull-House transitioned early on from a hierarchical enterprise seeking to transmit cultural training to a far more participatory—even reciprocal—endeavor. Ultimately, the settlement neighborhood’s community members increasingly guided Hull-House’s arts- and humanities-oriented learning activities themselves. Addams herself focused more and more on the creation of stories about the settlement as a democratic educational program that could enable similar enterprises beyond that particular site. To extend that history forward, chapter 3 outlines ways in which the multidimensional legacy of cultural rhetoric from Addams’s leadership-through-writing (grounded in collaborative learning) still offers up efficacious guidance for civic engagement projects today.
As my analysis will establish, Hull-House produced, and is still producing, a vibrant Archive of stories in multiple genres. Addams and the others living at the Chicago settlement, like the well-to-do men residing at London’s Toynbee Hall (her role model for the settlement), were white, college-educated, and well-connected members of a highly privileged social class who might have been expected to place as much social distance as possible between themselves and the city’s burgeoning immigrant population. Instead, adapting the London example of Canon Samuel Barnett and his wife Henrietta in England, Addams and Ellen Gates Starr turned the former Hull mansion into a magnet of proactive learning programs that eventually spread all along Halsted Street and beyond, as Hull-House became the United States’ national model for settlement work.
Small wonder, perhaps, that Addams and her colleagues generated such a rich archive of published and unpublished accounts of the Hull-House program. Addams’s own individual writing archive is vast. Though for a long time Twenty Years at Hull-House was virtually the only one of her many books to glean much scholarly attention, editions of additional texts she penned across the many years of her life have become available for study through both print projects allied with the feminist recovery movement and digitization efforts involving many institutional entities. Chapter 3 takes advantage of this enhanced accessibility to Addams’s published oeuvre by focusing, in part, on one underinterpreted text, My Friend, Julia Lathrop. My analysis of this late-career narrative by Addams complements archival research I’ve done in the Special Collections of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). There, I’ve retrieved such records as stories associated with Addams’s own education at Rockford Seminary; letters she exchanged with Henrietta Barnett, cofounder of Toynbee Hall; and scrapbooks where Addams built a hybrid account of settlement history from others’ newspaper and magazine clippings on Hull-House. Here, I place this individual archive of writing in dialogue with the multifaceted Archive of the settlement’s longstanding cross-cultural teaching (including copies of the Hull-House Bulletin, memoirs by residents like Alice Hamilton and “neighbors” like Hilda Satt Polacheck, and material culture items such as photographs and everyday objects).
Addams’s individual archive remains at the heart of this Archive. Casting her numerous publications on settlement programs as stories accessible to a broad readership, she produced a deeply reflective record of cross-cultural work that resisted many of the conventions for Progressive-Era writing affiliated with academic discourse in the emerging social sciences. As such, her personal record of teaching represents a counter-narrative that exalts both the reciprocal learning of daily settlement life and the residents and neighbors whose ongoing engagement with urban social issues she foregrounded in her storytelling. That is, by subsuming her own identity into an overarching counter-narrative of collaborative learning, Addams generated an archive of adaptable stories. For instance, because she consistently positioned her self-depictions within a “we” context of shared action rather than in a first-person singular, heroic-type voice, readers seeking a similar social leadership role could draw upon her narratives about teaching without being overwhelmed by a disempowering sense of her individual celebrity status. Further, in supporting the writing of other women at the settlement, as well as storytelling by her immigrant neighbors (such as the theater performances at the settlement, the political debates, and their arts and crafts), Addams helped expand the archive of her individual oeuvre into a constantly enriched Archive of progressive education in action.
A tireless fundraiser and network-builder, Addams used her writing talents to tell compelling stories of Hull-House’s projects while also nurturing the reporting skills of other residents and the “neighbors” themselves. Over and over, whether through speaking engagements of her own or in accounts crafted for settlement-sponsored publications like the printed yearbook; whether in public performances by Hull-House dramatic clubs or in presentations at the Labor Museum showcasing crafts from neighbors’ home countries—whatever the particular form taken, Addams’s texts from the settlement’s teaching programs emphasized their cross-cultural community-building.
Given this longstanding focus on making connections across cultural divides, the Chicago settlement’s historical record has engendered an increasingly substantial body of scholarship, encouraged in part by the ways in which current social issues echo those of Addams’s time. From sociologists to rhetoricians, theater studies specialists to literature scholars, women’s studies researchers to educational historians, Hull-House’s determined reach across boundaries during Addams’s lifetime continues to invite exploration. A good deal of recent feminist scholarship on Addams and the settlement has sought to correct previously limited interpretations of her social role. My own analysis joins this effort. As chapter 3 will explain, over the initial decades after her death in 1935, Addams’s narrative approach for recording settlement activities led many scholars to downplay her role as a theorist. This view typically cast university-authorized academic men like John Dewey (who himself lived at the settlement for a time) as the primary, definitive commentators on the Progressive Era. Now, however, reconsiderations of the settlement legacy by activist researchers, like the staff of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (JAHHM) as revitalized by Lisa Lee’s directorship, have revised that portrait. By reanimating the space of the museum to reinterpret Hull-House’s stories, the JAHHM cultural curators began generating an expanded Archive for applying settlement house lessons in our own time.
To illuminate this ongoing process, chapter 3 blends textual analysis of previously underexamined writings by Addams and her colleagues with observation- and interview-informed accounts of cultural work by intellectual heirs. Besides the cadre of women at JAHHM, another team self-consciously adapting resources from the settlement Archive includes professors and students from the English Education program at the University of Illinois, Chicago, the very institution whose launch, ironically, wiped away most of the architectural archive of Hull-House in the 1960s. Underscoring ways in which women educator-authors’ legacy is increasingly being recognized by thoughtful men involved in civic leadership, chapter 3 also celebrates the Addams-inspired counter-narrative energy evident in Professors David Schaafsma and Todd DeStigter’s mentoring of teacher-writers for their Jane Addams in the Classroom project.
Unlike Spelman, still a very visible institutional presence as a black women’s college prominently situated within the cluster of affiliates making up Atlanta University Center, Hull-House has shrunk to a small remnant of its original identity as a multistructure settlement originally stretched proudly along Halsted Street in downtown Chicago. So, whereas one narrative thread for chapter 2 traces the institutional history of Spelman as growing, fed by its storytelling, from a dark, damp church basement to a multifacility college campus, chapter 3 must present a different kind of overarching narrative. In terms of recovering the Hull-House Archive, we must acknowledge substantial loss of material space and educational activity, and thus, to some extent, a displaced identity. Though the original Hull home and a restored version of the dining hall remain, positioned somewhat precariously on the edge of the campus for the University of Illinois at Chicago as the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, the more accessible legacy of Hull-House, today, is inscribed in the virtually countless narratives that make up its rhetorical heritage. These stories, now, do help maintain a living legacy for the settlement, as they continually beget more humanistic, artistic, and educational resources for collaborative use by students, teachers, scholars, activists, and community members who hope to learn from Addams’s and her colleagues’ work. Accordingly, chapter 3 posits an argument about communal writing itself, broadly conceived, as a learning legacy shaping cultural practices. Here, then, is a question addressed by this chapter: if the ongoing stories by and about Spelman provide an adaptable framework for institution-building and associated cultural maintenance, what do the inscribed counter-narratives from Hull-House’s evolving learning legacy offer us as teaching texts modeling civic engagement approaches that are not institution-dependent or even institutionally situated, but rather transportable through intercultural/interpersonal partnerships?
Though each is distinctive, as noted above, the learning legacies of Spelman and Hull-House are both basically positive. Like chapter 2’s examination of an Archive’s ongoing cultural stewardship by the Spelman community, chapter 3 also affirms the utility of constructive humanities-oriented collaborations from the past and traces processes that are carrying such learning legacies forward. In both cases, we find adaptable models in counter-narratives originally created by women educators and learners in an era that often sought to constrain their agency. However, if aspirational legacies like those located through the stories of Spelman and Hull-House are to be trustworthy as maps to social action, they cannot be touted as indicators that every Archive straightforwardly facilitates agency. Hence, the second part of Learning Legacies addresses a far more problematic heritage from narratives developed originally to support assimilationist education of Indigenous American students.
Mining a Negative Archive through Empathy
Archives are not always sources of positive inspiration. Therefore, recognizing the “Negative Archive” as a cultural force inviting humanistic inquiry that incorporates critique along with resistance is equally important to my project. As noted above, one especially significant Archive emerging during the same decades as the Spelman and Hull-House stories has Indigenous roots. This complex cross-cultural resource surfaces from records of the boarding school enterprise infamously envisioned to “kill the Indian” through a comprehensive, white-run educational program. Like the textual legacies of other genocidal and soul-attacking enterprises—such as memoirs of Holocaust survivors—stories arising from the assimilationist education movement and related, more overt assaults like Wounded Knee serve today as potent warnings against atrocity rather than as aspirational models to emulate. As such, these Archives must be approached with humility and care by members of dominant/majority groups, like me, who hope to enact responsive, responsible teaching from an empathetic stance.
In the later chapters (4 and 5), I engage with the Negative Archive linked to the heritage of Carlisle-based assimilation programs aimed at Native Americans. This Negative Archive—promoting a vision of teaching and learning that suppresses difference and aims for mono-culturalism—still operates today. We need to recognize and track that ongoing power, even as we study examples of narratives resisting its force. In chapter 4, therefore, I first identify examples of dominant narratives that helped construct the Negative Archive advocating assimilationist education. Then I interpret a cluster of oppositional texts and social practices that arose across diffuse communal networks to resist its force, even in an era when American Indians’ access to institution-building opportunities of their own was extremely limited. In chapter 5, I position learning legacies from Indigenous/First Nations educators themselves in the context of institutional spaces where they have been able to claim notable agency—through strategic entry into publishing sites (some of them white-managed), in the National Museum of the American Indian, and in universities and other instructional settings where Native intellectuals are now exercising leadership as scholar-teachers.
Read as a unit, chapters 4 and 5 address hermeneutic challenges associated with transforming this Negative Archive, a process which necessitates confronting such documents as white cultural arbiters’ propaganda promoting the assimilationist education program as a “civilizing” process, but also the rightly privileged narrative responses to their personal experiences created by Native students themselves. In reading these counter-narratives, which express a notable diversity of views, I must confront my own race- and class-based interpretive limitations. If I want to earn an ally-type status with colleagues whose identities bring an epistemic privilege for interpreting such Negative Archives today, I need to make my own learning process one object of scrutiny.
Overall, I seek to develop what scholars in education often term a “critical consciousness” to guide my teaching of these texts, including the specific stories of individuals’ encounters with oppressive learning situations. Pierre Bourdieu’s Practical Reason: On the Theory of Action is helpful in this context. Bourdieu explains that “the mechanism of scholastic reproduction” is derived from groups that already hold high capital (both cultural and economic) in a society; using discourse to complement their other political tools, these power figures strive to sustain “the preexisting order” (20). Through the sorting and containing processes inherent in educational systems, he indicates, “social borders” are constructed and maintained (21). Thus, to interpret these enterprises—which may claim to be dispensing education for the common good—“true epistemological questioning” must be exercised (36). Only if we cultivate such a stance—one attuned to the regulatory force of instructional agendas managed by members of the dominant culture—can we achieve a clear view of how “symbolic capital” dispensed through education systems becomes the site, means, and “concentration and exercise of symbolic power” (47).
On one hand, in line with Bourdieu’s framework, my project underscores and resists power-claiming social interactions within dominant education programs. On another hand, when examining the experiences and responses of students within such systems, I aim for a self-critical empathetic stance supporting principled rhetorical analyses in historical context. That is, when interpreting the textual archive associated with assimilationist education, I strive for intense awareness of my own social position of privilege. That recognition of privilege is crucial for making my standpoint another tool contributing to, more than impeding, my efforts to create ethical knowledge.
Most of all, chapter 4’s encounter with the Negative Archive of the assimilationist education program honors, as a rich cultural resource, the counter-narratives deployed by a range of Native intellectual leaders who have written in response to that otherwise disempowering legacy. An essential step in this process entails revisiting the very dominant narratives that sought to justify oppressive instructional practices based on constructing the Indian as a “problem” and an uncivilized Other. I highlight power-accruing strategies embedded in stories by figures ranging from Carlisle founder Richard Henry Pratt to white women authors whose accounts of teaching helped validate his program. For instance, in the Negative Archive of texts by Marianna Burgess and the admittedly more complicated figure of Elaine Goodale Eastman, I point to genre features which, in Bourdieu’s terms, discursively enforced the borders of the existing social order of racial hierarchies. I also highlight the strategic cultural rhetoric in Native counter-narratives of that time. Consistent with Molly Andrews’s explanation above, some of these blend echoes of master narratives with subversive subtexts. These personal accounts may read like mixed messages today, but in their own time they were surely aligned with Steven Mailloux’s concept of rhetorical pragmatism: they sought an avenue for resistance within a constrained space. Zitkala-Ša (Gertrude Bonnin) claims a central position in this configuration of counter-narratives.
Extending the legacy of critique by Indian writers from that earlier era, an impressive array of Native scholar/teacher authors has produced their own new counter-narratives to undermine that negative legacy’s power. Thus, also in chapter 4, I salute poets like Laura Tohe and Esther Belin, who effectively reconfigure language from assimilationist narratives into their own reformative responses. And in N. Scott Momaday’s dramatic renderings of the boarding school ethos (via The Indolent Boys and The Moon in Two Windows), I demonstrate how counter-narratives overtly critiquing that agenda’s heritage perform essential cross-cultural work. Drawing on my training in close reading as a literature scholar, I outline how Momaday uses plot, characterization, theme, and tone to overturn a Negative Archive. Where Spelman’s annual Founders’ Day performances celebrate an educational history so as to provide models for black women’s learning today, Momaday’s bitter and poignant dramas call for continued resistance. If accounts of the Hull-House theater’s productions, grounded in positive cross-cultural exchange, suggest possibilities for new intercultural resource-making via performances in our own time, Momaday’s plays remind us that today’s Native teachers are endowed with epistemic privilege as the most authorized voices to counter past cultural histories. Ultimately, therefore, chapter 4’s analysis of Native counter-narratives rejecting the assimilationist agenda calls for members of the dominant culture, myself included, to cultivate a version of empathy that moves beyond feeling sorry for or wanting to “help” members of a marginalized group to ceding social authority to its members. This stance, ultimately, may earn the role of ally. Since self-critical empathy requires cultivating a humble eagerness to be guided rather than to lead, a story like mine here, which has been supported by interpersonal connections, is actually collaboratively constructed, even when conventions associated with academic writing (as for this book) present the rhetorical product under one name.
From Archive to Collaborative Action
Acting on their knowledge-making authority while justly claiming a corrective agenda, today’s Native educators might be expected to counter the legacy of assimilation schooling’s Negative Archive with confrontational teaching cast as cultural payback. As indicated in chapter 5’s accounts of nurturing teachers reaching out from Indian Country to share their knowledge, however, a far different strategy is evident these days in multiple Native-managed educational activities. Gifted and generous, Native teachers are promoting resilient, restorative intercultural learning. Ranging from individual classrooms led by Native instructors to large-scale cultural events welcoming diverse audiences, these reclaimed spaces of social interaction are strategically extending an Indian-made Archive of positive teaching approaches linked to Indigenous cultural values. As chapter 5 chronicles, this aspirational Archive is retrievable in diverse texts from both the past and present, crafted to convey proactive Indigenous education practices. Chapter 5’s focus on such counter-narrative teaching within Native societies, but also for other cultural groups, encourages readers to engage with this Archive as a transformative resource.
One strategy I used to identity texts to highlight for this chapter has uncovered a genealogy of Native teachers who emerged from within the narrow pedagogical spaces of the boarding school movement itself. Building on a foundation established by past cultural brokers such as Ruth Muskrat Bronson and Esther Burnett Horne, later generations of Native educators gradually acquired enhanced control over curriculum. One line in this Native teaching heritage, I’d suggest, extends back to such early appropriations of white print culture as the Cherokee Phoenix, which in pre-Removal days rhetorically embodied the potential for cross-cultural exchanges by way of a bilingual periodical. In a similar strategy, women writer-educators like S. Alice Callahan (Wynema: A Child of the Forest) and Ella Cara Deloria (Waterlily) offered subtle, double-voiced, counter-narrative approaches for intercultural teaching pitched to address white audiences. Depicting teaching models guided by Native tenets, these texts sought to reform whites’ pedagogical practices. This counter-narrative tradition anticipated the ways in which a number of Native educators now situated in relatively empowered institutional settings are transmitting Indigenous value systems to members of the majority culture. In their classrooms and in writing about such principles as rhetorical sovereignty, scholars like Malea Powell and Lisa King are productively extending this strategy of positive counter-narratives. As chapter 5’s interviews with several Native educator-writers indicate, the growing Archive of their teaching stories offers a hopeful alternative to the Negative Archive of White-over-Red assimilationist programs.
Meanwhile, on a larger and even more expansive institutional level, chapter 5 posits, the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) has assumed a vital educational role in cross-cultural education, authorized by no less an arbiter of social capital than the Smithsonian Institution (SI). In that context, like the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, the NMAI is purposefully using counter-narratives and other New Museology techniques such as community curation. However, if the JAHHM’s on-location exhibits, community outreach activities, and representations of settlement-linked stories on their website have communicated a revitalized resource from Addams’s prior cultural work, the NMAI has an even more extensive Archive to call upon for public pedagogy. Whereas JAHHM digs deep into the legacy of Addams-led settlement education to cultivate an updated focus for urban learning, the NMAI’s mandate extends across the heritage of all Native peoples in the Americas. This broad reach provides its leaders with a wealth of potential resources, but also presents challenges associated with such debates as how to determine genuine Indian identity (for tribal groups associated with a “national” museum as well as for individuals).
Hence, this flourishing Smithsonian-affiliated teaching space has (perhaps unavoidably) bred its own share of critique, from both Native and non-Native assessors, as chapter 5’s treatment of the NMAI duly notes. However, when viewed in the context of this book’s learning legacies framework, the museum’s already-realized and still-evolving potential as, itself, a counter-narrative addressing multiple audiences comes to the foreground. In that vein, Jolene Rickard, Tuscarora artist/designer and guest curator for one of the NMAI’s initial exhibits, Our Peoples, invoked a concept of corrective narrative when describing her work. For Rickard, creating an NMAI exhibit brought “an opportunity in the collection to recapture Indigenous history with the very objects that represented our capture’” via “‘an intervention on the framing of Native cultures within a metanarrative of the West.’”
Now in its second decade, the museum seems to be growing even more deliberate in deploying a proactive blend of resistant counter-narratives and restorative collaborations. Associate Director David W. Penney describes “collaborative and participatory scholarship” as a major strategy the NMAI is utilizing to “change perceptions about American history” through exhibits like Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations. He outlines the NMAI’s efforts to develop “new curriculum content available online as part of our National Education initiative” and, in doing so, to partner with Native community groups in public programs transmitting “the most accurate and up-to-date information about . . . Native culture and history” (“Scholarship for Leadership,” 12). Asserting that, for the NMAI, “Knowledge creation is a collective endeavor benefiting from the broadest range of input,” Penney articulates a vision for the museum’s mission as more than a remedial response to views of “American Indians as peripheral to the mainstream of American history”; additionally, he explains, this Native teaching space is constructing an activist, communal narrative conveying “experiences that are relevant, useful and true” (12).
A crucial element in the NMAI’s teaching entails nurturing the cultural authority of Native peoples themselves, as chapter 5 establishes. To cite one example here, I’d point to the language in calls for applicants to the Artist Leadership Program (ALP) in spring 2015. The project’s website describes its goals in terms that envision links between archival study and enhanced artistic authority: “The National Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) Artist Leadership Program (ALP) for Individual Artists enables indigenous artists to research, document, and network in Washington, D.C., then return home empowered with new artistic insights, skills, and techniques to share with their communities and the general public the value of Native knowledge through art.” Via a commitment “to rebuild cultural self-confidence, challenge personal boundaries, and foster cultural continuity while reflecting artistic diversity,” the ALP provides an opportunity for Native artists, when working in the NMAI’s archive, to “meet and consult with staff at SI and other arts organizations; participate in a public art panel discussion, speaking as voices of authority on their art; break down stereotypes about indigenous art; and, through a personal artistic narrative, speak to social justice issues and current events important to indigenous communities.” Secondarily, the ALP strives to position “young artists in collaboration with elders,” building networks “to share ideas and resources” and to “affirm that indigenous arts hold value and knowledge” that can “offer communities a means for healing and new ways to exchange cultural information.” Overall, the ALP both draws upon and makes Indigenous Archives.
Interestingly, in this context of affirming Indigenous knowledge as already present in the culture, one of the controversial aspects of the NMAI’s day-to-day practice (as examined by Kristine Ronan) is its use of Native interpreters within the museum space. Ronan points out that one view of the placement of staff on site “to connect visitors daily with Native people” sees this practice as an opportunity for genuine cross-cultural exchange. Yet she notes how another perspective critiques the approach as rendering those same Native people into colonized pseudo-interpreters (“Native Empowerment,” 136). While affirming the complexity of such identity-related issues—perhaps an inescapable point of debate in the NMAI’s educational work—I address this topic more fully in chapter 5, in part through interviews with Indian educators there such as Dennis Zotigh and Renée Gokey, who use rhetorical engagement with identity as a proactive teaching tool.
Like previous sections of the book, chapter 5 raises standpoint-related questions about how my own identity both enables and constrains my ability to report on a specific learning legacy. As one way of addressing these issues within the context of longstanding critiques of whites’ appropriating Native knowledge, I fold in several location-specific descriptions of my interactions with Native teachers who mentored my work. Thus, I join Native scholar Andrea M. Riley Mukavetz in asking: “How can we draw attention to the complexity of moving across and participating with cultural communities?” To follow her authorial lead, I make visible ways that “the roles of the researcher and the participant are fluid” for “intercultural researchers,” as the Native teachers who “share space” with me to support my learning also share knowledge-making (“Towards a Cultural Rhetoric,” 120). Along the way, I strive to give respectful credit to multifaceted collaborations, by presenting this chapter, like my others, as a first-person account of my learning, and I accept responsibility for shortcomings and errors.
Significantly, as for other sections, the collaborations that enabled chapter 5 took different forms in different locations and situations. For instance, my online and in-person interviews with scholars like Malea Powell, Lisa King, and Kimberli Lee weave in references to research they have published themselves within the dominant culture’s network of academic knowledge-making. In contrast, stories I share from visits with on-site NMAI guides draw primarily on other epistemological pathways, including social practices such as powwows and oral story-making. These differing routes to my own text-making for the chapter should not be viewed as hierarchical, however, and neither should they be seen as dichotomous. The NMAI is part of the Smithsonian, after all, and the knowledge-bearers there have as much cultural authority as a university-based scholar. Indeed, many of those who work at the NMAI are academically trained researchers, and all are skilled cultural mediators.
Furthermore, among the university-based mentors who contributed teaching stories for this chapter, there were also variations in how our collaborations played out on different occasions. For instance, I recorded one interview with Malea Powell during a meal break at a conference sponsored by the Society for the Study of American Women Writers (SSAWW), when our dialogue zeroed in on sometimes-frustrating traits we had both observed in professional organizations’ networks; that day, the shared experience of thinking about our scholarly work in such terms framed the conversation’s content around gender and academic professional class roles, alongside points about Native knowledge-making. At another meal, actually several years later, we addressed specific questions about revision of this manuscript after I had received readers’ reports from the University of Michigan Press. For that more recent occasion, when we were joined by Lisa King, our talk shifted back and forth between my asking questions about updating chapter 5’s content and my seeking more general advice on revision processes for the entire manuscript. Around that second topic, the three of us brainstormed particular revision strategies in line with our then attending a convention under the auspices of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (“the Cs”), which also sponsors special interest groups aligned with both Native studies and cultural rhetoric. Now, when I reread my notes from these two different occasions of sharing food and sharing ideas, I can see how intersectionality has come into play to direct collaboration differently at different times, even within the same multiyear partnership. Via these diverse paths, both in this introduction and in later chapters, even if overt signs of Malea’s and Lisa’s influence on my revisions are not easily traceable in the text that you, my readers, are encountering here, I know that their wise counsel has made this writing an example of what I call research with more than of research on.
Thus, in this “monograph” project, partners who’ve guided my work should be viewed as carrying out different kinds of collaboration than when a team of people prepares a “coauthored” product or plans for an event that they present to the public together somehow (such as a theatrical performance, say, or a video or website for which everyone writes text and takes pictures). In honoring these perhaps-not-fully-visible contributions, I affirm the attentive approach to cultural rhetorics methodology articulated by Riley-Mukavetz in her description of collaborative talking circles with Odawa women from Lansing, Michigan. As in her example, I seek to enact “relational accountability” and to “challenge disciplinary and professional practices that emphasize strict categorization and demarcation” when doing intercultural research (“Towards a Cultural Rhetorics,” 113–14).
As Riley-Mukavetz admits, affiliating simultaneously with academic institutions whose professional frameworks privilege individual productivity does mean we have a complicated rhetorical dance to do, one requiring the use of traditional scholarly discourse conventions too. I hope my readers will take note, therefore, of my efforts to craft a hybrid text, blending essential markers of careful scholarship like a formal bibliography of others’ research with equally important (even if less formal) collaborations. For instance, chapter 2 cites multiple illustrations of partners aiding my research on Spelman; these examples appear both within the core text and in the endnotes. I name colleagues who made content suggestions, identify specific conversations around their recommendations, and describe informal written feedback they gave to various drafts. Adding another textual layer of collaborative knowledge-building and writing, chapter 3’s treatment of diverse composing enterprises linked to Hull-House’s legacy—including Jane Addams’s own accounts of her work with settlement residents to “story” their way to theory—also signals that writing emerging from project-oriented teaching practice is never single-authored, even when published under one name, as in the individual chapters within the Jane Addams in the Classroom collection of essays. Along the way, therefore, chapter 3 makes the case rhetorically for forms of scholarship that are possible to achieve only through shared cultural work.
Consistent with this project’s core concept of “learning legacies,” as authors working in such multilayered humanities traditions, we are always, in fact, drawing on cultural resources that we did not create on our own. In that vein, Phil Bratta and Malea Powell aver: “knowledge is never built by individuals but is, instead, accumulated through collective practices within specific communities” (“Introduction,” paragraph 11). Just so, Learning Legacies maintains that we need stories of multifaceted, diverse, and community-based collaborations. These stories must recognize how uneven power relations come into play anytime people from differing backgrounds work together, seeking to carry out meaningful cultural interventions through partnerships. But our stories of praxis can also carry out a teaching agenda of their own by attentively noting those power relations in action; by using language itself to expand avenues of community-building; and by blending our steps to delve into cultural resources together with efforts to create new ones, inviting and available to others for their own use.
Embracing Aspirational Scholarship
To sum up this approach to teaching and scholarship, a framework also providing structures for the chapters that follow, let me reiterate the core vision this book advocates. Learning Legacies demonstrates, through multiple historical cases, how narrative Archives of intercultural exchange operate within public culture for broad communal use. Integrating rhetorical analyses of archival (and Archival) resources from the past with accounts of their application in community-building enterprises today, this project calls for narrative knowledge-making at the intersection of the humanities, the arts, and education. To illustrate, I celebrate intercultural work (at Spelman, through Hull-House, and extending out from the NMAI, as in other Native-led teaching enterprises) that have been tapping into such archives as avenues to social empowerment, for themselves and with others. These examples show how strategic teacher-learners in diverse educational settings can draw creatively from diverse cultural resources, can extend those Archives by generating purposeful counter-narratives of their own today, and can disseminate their own new stories as pathways to pragmatic civic action.
Meanwhile, by documenting my own processes of reflection on archival materials and their potential social usefulness today, I highlight the value of such resources for sustained cross-cultural education. By using first-person narration to revisit others’ archive-based teaching and to evaluate my own learning, I resist reducing cross-cultural study to quantifiable measures. At the same time, I call for spaces in public scholarship where we can share our personalized learning legacies to help make and shape cultural memory. Along the way, in stressing collaborative epistemology’s value to social justice goals, I stake a claim for the humanities as a privileged site of agency, particularly when linked to public scholarship that also engages with the arts and education.
How can individual teachers foster the kind of collaborative endeavors Learning Legacies advocates? Throughout this book, I weave in references to my own teaching practice as illustrations, not to provide a set blueprint, but rather, consistent with the historical case studies here, to situate praxis within a flexible conceptual framework for teaching grounded in open-ended inquiry and storytelling. In a coda chapter that closes the book, I lay out more specific portraits of work I am doing now in teaching and in scholarship aligned with that framework, and I also offer up suggestions for future applications of ideas here that others may want to undertake in their own community-building projects.
The most productive among such collaborations, this book maintains, extend in a relatively open-ended fashion over time. Studying the past, then imagining, listening, and sharing together, we can narrate our way to new knowledge—in the classroom, in our communities, and in our writing. These learning experiences can’t always be counted in numbers or represented in a clear-cut set of statistics. They reside and continue to grow in our shared stories. So we should facilitate occasions, formal and informal, to affirm the intercultural learning processes that arise from narratives and counter-narratives. Let me cite one example, a retrospective meal and conversation I shared with Renée Gokey and Dennis Zotigh at the Mitsitam Café in the NMAI, after creating a first full draft of this manuscript. As we looked ahead to eventual publication, we also looked back at previous dialogues and events we’d participated in together. Renée and Dennis updated me on some of their own new teaching initiatives at the museum; certainly several of those specific anecdotes are now incorporated into this book. But I hope, even more, that the spirit behind them and the staying power of these colleagues’ examples—like those of archivist Taronda Spencer at Spelman and the gifted museum curators I connected with at Hull-House—are also infused throughout the manuscript. When sharing learning legacies, collaboration also resides in the stories we carry forward, through our words and our actions, in our hearts as well as our minds. Whenever, in the process of beginning a new teaching endeavor, I call up memories of such past conversations and projects carried out with colleagues like these, they remain part of an ongoing Archive-making collaboration based in shared knowing and doing.
Achieving social justice, on a large scale or even around a particular issue, will always remain elusive. But stories of how we’ve cultivated that goal through shared public work nonetheless merit telling. In that spirit, even while acknowledging the many shortcomings associated with the community reading project that I described at the start of this introduction, I’ll close by pointing to patterns of learning there that I hope to build upon in the future. For one thing, the enterprise brought together a range of participants whose usual conversations are held within tight disciplinary boundaries. Directly affirming this border-crossing, clinical veterinarian and public health educator Katherine Fogelberg commented online in one of her early postings: “Looking forward to reading further—both with Camus and with this community!” Later, responding to details in Katherine’s post, one undergraduate participant wrote: “I’m only halfway done with Part II of The Plague, but . . . . issues like this force individuals to stop their day to day lives and consider serious questions: How do we confront our own mortality? Like Katherine noted, why do we feel so affronted when tragedy strikes in our home? How do we respond to the pain and suffering of others?”
However moderately, we bridged cultural boundaries between disciplines, between the professorate and undergraduates, between university insiders and alumni off-campus. A project like this is certainly not as significant as the journey Packard and Giles made from New England to found a seminary along with black women in the postbellum South, or as visionary as creating a settlement house in an urban ghetto, or as challenging as a Native teacher carving out a space of subversive pedagogy at a white-run assimilationist school. But small collaborative acts that lead us to asking questions together—to shared reflection promoting new learning communities—represent a worthwhile first step. So, too, by engaging with others’ counter-narratives and the challenges they record, we stand to enrich our own lived experiences, and we begin, in at least a tentative way, to move from archive to action.