Williams, Bronwyn T. “Speak for Yourself? Power and Hybridity in the Cross-Cultural Classroom.” College Composition and Communication 54 4 (2003): 586-609. Print.
Abstract: In this article I use the lens of postcolonial theory to reflect on my uses of a varied series of writing pedagogies in cross-cultural classrooms at an international college. Such reflection helps reveal how relations of power between teacher and students and underlying ideological assumptions about knowledge and discourse often resulted in hybrid responses of mimicry, frustration, incomprehension, and resistance. A pedagogy constructed against the backdrop of postcolonial theory might provide both students and their teacher in such a cross-cultural setting with a more complex and useful way of understanding issues of power, discourse, identity, and the role of writing.
- W. notes that often Asian and African students have a “commitment to serve the interests of the group” and, as such, often don’t necessarily want to challenge the authority of group statements[1. I wonder what other transnational comp folks would have to say about this point. . . is this a form of cultural essentialism run amok? W. recognizes his problematic rendering of these students at the bottom of 589.].
- W. recognizes that pedagogical terms/tasks like originality and analysis have embedded Western ideologies/epistemologies in their very making; as such, teachers in the cross-cultural classroom must recognize these unstated, embedded “assumptions of power and the dominant culture” of English composition (589).
- Bhaba’s conception of mimicry: the student assumes the colonial discourse of the colonizer as a means to gain recognition and ethos; however, in that assumption is the interpellation of the colonized subject by the imperialist hegemony of domination. This assumption of the dominant hegemony so the subaltern can come to voice also continuously mitigates the subaltern to a marginalized “Other” (590). Mimicry could be writ large over the academy and might be succinctly embodied in Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University.”
- While the student is mimicking the dominant discourse they are usually (always) also resisting it through hybridity or the complex layering of self and other discourse into a textual representation that embodies the values of the center but also resists them through other means (such as tone, style, etc.).
- W. critiques the US composition fascination with “individualistic-Christian-psychoanalytic” framework of the personal essay by drawing attention to the ways that some writers from other parts of the world don’t find the locus of life at the level of the autonomous, atomistic self (595).
- Before describing his own use of the term hybridity, W. critiques its appropriation as a falsely optimistic and apolitical by the Western liberal multiculturalist establishment. In this narrative the notion of hybridity functions to level some of the centeredness of First World discourse by recognizing the polyculturalist nature of most individual rhetorical acts; however, in this process, the asymmetrical power relations that still exist between center and periphery are merely done away with, quashed in the interest of multiculturalist parity. In a similar critique to those posed by postcolonialist scholars for postmodernism, W. notes that hybridity often functions as a way for the center to claim that the center isn’t the center so the periphery doesn’t have any center to work against (despite the center continuing to function as the hegemonic locus of power).
- W. has some recommendations for teachers in the cross-cultural classroom:
- First, interrogate your own role as a teacher in the production and reproduction of dominant/hegemonic ideology. This is a recognition of how particular epistemologies create pressures to cultivate “desirable identities” in student subjectivity (605).
- This critique should be carried forward and engaged with with student writers so questions of “response, mimicry, hybridity, and resistance” are foregrounded. Hybridity in this context becomes a site of rhetorical negotiation . . . a productive place to teach from!
- All of these processes should be situated in the context of “global cultural processes” like those that Appadurai describes in Modernity at Large. This means disrupting the center-periphery binary in order to talk about culture in “flows” that are created through ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes, financscapes, and ideoscapes. Here we get a new, distributed idea of subjectivity that isn’t bounded by geographical or national borders (605). This subjectivity is part of an imagined collectivity (Anderson) that folks self-identify with and is constituted by other imagines subjects dispersed around the globe.
- To sum up: