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Donahue, Christiane. “”Internationalization” And Composition Studies: Reorienting the Discourse.” College Composition and Communication 61 2 (2009): 212-43. Print.

Abstract:  While internationalization has become a buzzword in composition scholarship and teaching, our discourses tend toward fuzzy uses and understandings of the term and its multiple implications. We tend to focus on how our U.S. experience is being internationalized: how English and its teaching are spreading; how other countries, different in their approaches or rhetorics, appear to lack what we have; and how we might avoid colonialist intervention or offer consultation. These import/export focal points create key blind spots in our awareness of deep and rich writing research and programming traditions  internationally, of how we fit—or do not fit—into this broader world, and of missed opportunities for self-reflection and growth.

  • D. notes that US writing studies has tended to focus on the internationalization of the US context (through ESL, contrastive rhetorical analysis, cultural/ideological/political “encounters” in the US composition classroom, and anecdotal experiences abroad).  These internationalization foci could be grouped under three headings:

  • These three foci also allow the US discipline of Writing Studies to claim something of a nation-state centric universal writing discipline – replete with “sovereign philosophies and pedagogies, and agreed-on language requirements” while simultaneously making countries outside the US seem deficient (despite some long traditions in writing/composition research and pedagogy) (213-4).  This is exacerbated by the irresponsible work of contrastive rhetorics and the expert-import model of US ESL teachers around the globe.
  • D. will look to other traditions as a means of considering how the US composition context fits into other work being done in writing in the world (as opposed to looking to the world to understand how it fits into our work) (214).
  • Article trajectory:  1) review of different discourses of internationalization; 2) description of a different way to think about internationalization and Writing Studies using European examples (214-5).  Instead of perpetuating our colonialist tendencies in the US context we should instead internationalize from within, decentering what we hold dear in our own contexts in order to understand how the rest of the world of writing research could help us out.
  • D. points out that “globalization masked as internationalization” in higher education is a scary development.  In this case strategic corporate activity (the university working like/as a corporation) leads to the global “commodification of teaching and learning” through exchanges, the development of overseas US college campuses, distance education, and center-based curriculum adopted by periphery based schools.  This results in homogenization of curricula, the explosion in distance education, and uncritical assessment models.
  • D. highlights the work of ESL scholars, Muchiri, Lu, Horner, Canagarajah, & Matsuda to remind US composition scholars that the world of Writing Studies has voices of internationalization that constantly remind the center of the discipline that “English is English” pedagogies/approaches are completely inadequate for the “current international contexts” of higher education.  Yet, all these scholars are discussing writing where English is the primary language of instruction.
  • D. notes that with the consolidation of education across nation-state contexts by agreements like the Bologna Agreement many students are learning English not “generally or culturally” but because they need to gain access to the language of disciplinary power (EAP, ESP) (219).
  • D. points out that many folks who teach writing in other languages or in different national-cultural configurations aren’t looking to US Writing Studies as a place to find help on pedagogy/research.  D. points this out because she wants US compositionists to consider why we aren’t adopting pedagogies/practices from abroad and, instead, assume a one-way exchange of research/practice that is colonialist in nature (220).
  • D., relying on Muchiri et al., points out that the absence of a first-year composition requirement abroad doesn’t mean that writing research and practice aren’t being done!
  • In addition to internationals in the US context, the other strain of internationalization in US scholarship is the US discovery of practices and patterns specific to other cultural contexts (intercultural/contrastive rhetoric) (224-5).
  • Import-Export model:  US Writing Studies scholars import their problems (multilingual/literate students, multicultural students, etc.) and export our expertise (curriculum development, expert colonialists, etc.) (226).
  • D. looks to Lu’s work on Standard English to argue that we should “denaturalize our rules, listen to the logic of ‘alien’ Englishes and call attention to the material cost to speakers who have to submit, around the world, to a particular English” (226).
  • D. highlights that most composition scholars are actually monolingual . . . and graduate programs are increasingly abandoning the language requirement.  This practice presents a real barrier to the development of Writing Studies internationalization because it positions US scholars as unable or unwilling to work toward developing the skills necessary to participate in a transnational dialogue about writing in higher education.
  • D. draws attention to the fact that by being aware of and arguing against our colonialist tendencies in Writing instruction/research there is a tacit assumption that we are the dominant ones.  This has led to “blind spots” wherein US composition fails to see some of the productive research occurring in areas that are putatively “settled” (228).  D. uses the ongoing research in orality-literacy, discourse analysis, and cognitive composition as examples of what kinds of international research continues to occur in areas US Writing Studies has, in some respects, left behind (229).
  • D. notes that work abroad tends to be more empirical than work done here in the US.  Following Haswell, she calls this trend “striking.”  In fact, D. even recognizes that the word “research” often connotes something beyond “interpretation” in the international context.  It means “systematic inquiry using recognizable, reliable, and replicable data-gathering approaches” (230).
  • So, how can we move beyond the import-export model toward internationalization in different, more ethically aware, internationalist ways?  D. argues:

  • What D. sees as representative of the kind of work that could allow Writing Studies to prosper and develop/recognize new definitions of internationalization:
    • Comparative rhetoric:  LuMing Mao’s work, et al.  This subdiscipline argues for understanding “culturo-linguistic possibility” rather than “languages or rhetorics.”  As Francois points out: “the reception of a discourse, and the rhetorical flexibility of the recipient, determine its features as much as its production; the differences might not be ‘rhetorical’ but ‘modes of relationship to the world, more or less well translated into discursive forms” (233).
    • Discourse analysis from France:  provides analytic tools to do “generous readings” (see other Donahue article) in order to recognize what students are doing in their texts rather than adopting the deficient model of not doing.  When done on a cross-cultural level, this kind of work demonstrates that cultural norms aren’t necessarily as important as contexts/relationships to the world that writers inhabit (Donahue 2008).
    • Collaborative research on the international scale that pursues shared research questions but utilizes country/locale specific methods, theories etc. in order to compare results periodically.  This could lead to a shared vocabulary, set of practices/methods, etc. that would allow for methods to be collaboratively developed but locally shaped (235).

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