Muchiri, Mary N., et al. “Importing Composition: Teaching and Researching Academic Writing Beyond North America.” College Composition and Communication 46 2 (1995): 175-98. Print.

  • The authors begin by recognizing that composition is a mostly North American discipline . . . and this makes sense because it is concerned with the local practice of teaching; however, because composition also lays claim to research of academic writing (and, even broader, writing in general) the work of composition might be beneficial to those outside US borders.
  • Goal of paper:  begin a discussion about how published US composition works in new contexts outside the US.  This will allow US compositionists to see what they assume/take for granted about students, teachers, language, and institutions (176).
  • EAP – writing that is specifically about English teaching to English students for the successful navigation of the academy.  ELT – teaches English to speakers of other languages.  Tends to be heavy on examination process and is often under supported by institutions.
  • The authors compare the entry process to university (in the vein of Bartholomae/Rose) in order to demonstrate that the process of entry and its relationship to writing differs based on the context.  Specifically, the authors “outline differences in the geographical place of the university, in the view of students as individuals, the view of teachers as researchers, the view of English as a language, and the stability of the university as an institution” (178).
  • The authors note that going to a university in places like Zaire or Kenya means becoming part of an imagined national community that often provides a site for political resistance.  Students in many African contexts also bear the burden of representing/creating connections for their entire villages to the world outside.
  • The authors recognized that instead of collaboration operating as a way to draw students into academic dialogue (Bruffee), collaboration in many African university contexts is a strategy to combat the adversarial pose of teacher vs. student (181).  This results in “group resistance” to examination based systems through cheating.
  • The authors argue that there are a lot of ways to belong to a group.  This point should complicate compositionist’s view that a student’s life and writing springs from the self (expressivist) or is the result of a distant, abstract community (social construction); rather, community and social composing might be better thought of as the daily practices, traditional echoes (lore), and “powerful, sometimes even unwilling, ethnic and linguistic loyalties” (184).
  • Muchiri et al. recognize the hegemony of Western academic knowledge production (Canagarajah) (184-5).  The authors get at how the material practices and pressures that Canagarajah described truly affect the production of knowledge (much less its validation in the West).  This also effects the composition classroom through lack of access to the academic networks that make research possible (187-8).  The authors urge the reader to think about if all academic journals were published in Latin:  “It would give them prestige, but could also serve as a kind of warning:  everything here is not just in  language (the code of thought) but is in a language (a particular code, among others) (190).
  • Why do we teach English to people in the U.S.?  We’re not teaching the language itself (the argument goes) but a particular use (189).  M. et al. note that the composition industry is actually built on an equivocation of English as language and English as academic discourse (189).  In many parts of Africa the idea of multilingualism and linguistic diversity doesn’t need to be “advocated” for; rather, it is a reality (not an ideal) that must be worked with and around.
  • The authors point out how the stability of the university as an institution is a real assumption by Western scholars.  This stability might contribute to the North American centrism that dominates composition studies research (192).
  • The authors note that the flow of composition ideas from North American universities might have traces of neocolonialism and are often inappropriately applied; however, they don’t have the kinds of deeply imbricated colonial ties that the British and French maintain with their former colonies in Africa (193-4).  They call the flow “accidental, unsponsored, and erratic” and argue against a colonial metaphor and for a way to talk about “the global circulation of writing research to the local contexts of writing” (194).
  • The authors note that US composition scholars need to acknowledge how the generalizable, universalizing claims they often make should be tied to particular sites and contexts in the US.  Recognizing this might allow other researchers to understand the links and differences between the US context and their own so they can modify the research to fit/serve their own needs (195).
  • Three questions the authors use to sum up their work:

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