Cushman, Ellen, and Terese Guinsatao Monberg. “Building Bridges: Reflexivity and Composition Re-search.” Under Construction: Working at the Intersections of Composition Research, Theory, and Practice. Eds. Chris Anson and Christine Farris. Logan : Utah State UP, 1998. 166-80.

  • C&M identify a main problem in composition research:  we are often socially distanced from the cultures we study.
  • Socially reflexive scholarship “is one that does not assume authority in representing others but negotiatites that authority by creating ‘a different sort of social space where people have reason to come into contact with each other because they have claims and interests that extend beyond the borders of their own safe houses, neighborhoods, disciplines, or communities’” (Harris 1995, 39 / Cushman 166).
  • We need to continually ask ourselves, “What kind of work are we here to do and who are we serving with it?” (167).
  • In the essay, the authors argue that “we must adopt a responsible, socially reflexive approach to negotiating our authority in composition research, one that truly facilitates the kinds of boundary/border crossings that begin to reduce social distance” (ibid.).
  • This article takes Cushman’s experience as an ethnographer to demonstrate how authority isn’t automatically granted an academic; rather, reciprocal and dialogic relations between herself, the community and scholars created this authority.
  • Nice meditations on the new ethnography and its attendant genres – subject’s voices, personal reflections, difficulties, researcher encounters, etc.
  • The dangers of new ethnography are highlighted on 169 – most notably, they can be incoherent, elitist, and exoticistic.
  • A bit of voyeurism associated with Denny Taylor’s use of the homeless, at conferences on 169.
  • Reflexive ethnographies eventually become autobiographies.
  • Self-reflexivity and polyvocalist ethnography often account for power in a hierarchical fashion.  This is problematic – recall discussions of ethnography from the top.  C&M argue that power “that sees the fluidity of power relations, as opposed to bloodless, static, heartless, uni-dimensional way of seeing positionality”
  • Social reflexivity is earned through reciprocity with the researched subject.
  • Social reflexivity is established through “shared histories, reciprocal relationships, and continual negotiation of their interdependencies”
  • The authors are arguing for social integration of academics into the communities they study and live in “all directions” (177).
  • Comfort zones are merely places where folks with money isolate themselves from contact zones.
  • The authors are arguing for a more “complicated definition of authority, one that acknowledges more complicated definitions of social identity, social reflexivity, and social positioning.  Rather than viewing identity as one-dimensional, negotiated authority and reflexive identification see identity as a complicated web with multiple layers or dimensions that are not always visible or readily apparent.  With this view, authority no longer arises de facto  out of some one dimension of our social position, but is carefully and actively negotiated through reflexive identification and social re-positioning” (179).

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