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CCCC 2006 in Review

A.16 Roles for "Identity" in Research on Literacy and Writing

Raúl Sánchez, "Working without Identity: Possible Futures for Literacy and Writing Studies."

I'm only going to review the last presentation in this panel because this was what intrigued me most-"Working without Identity"-especially given next year's conference theme "Representing Identities." A couple of colleagues and I filed in to the meeting room full of curiosity and, I have to admit, skepticism. Of course, I also knew that Raúl Sánchez wouldn't disappoint, as I had spoken with him and heard him speak at prior Cs. That is, I knew his argument would be more than simply "we should throw identity theory out."

Sánchez, rather than suggest we simply throw out identity theory, instead problematizes identity theory's relationship to writing and Comp/Rhet. And more importantly, he urges the profession to think of identity not as "a tool but as a concept for investigation."

Sánchez states that the concept of identity is problematic because it is still "tethered to essentialism." Here I would agree that identity theory does not yet adequately account for what we call "multiple identities," "shifting identities," etc. and a person's lived experience of the identities that are created by oneself and by others through various discourses. While current discussions of identity can be helpful, I believe Sánchez is cautioning us to take a critical eye to how identity gets used within the field of composition in terms of both its theories and pedagogy.

Sánchez asks the following questions:

Sánchez asserts that current "writing theories must contend with the fact that writing is different now than it was 20 years ago" and that we may not have the right tools to understand it. He contends that Bartholomae's "Inventing the University" and Emig's "Composing Process of 12th Graders" are no longer pertinent because the shape of writing has changed. With the advent of digital literacies like Facebook and MySpace and other writing in the world, writing in the academy is no longer what it was. In this investigation of identity that he encourages, Sánchez reminds us to situate and locate identity-rather than essentialize.

—Meredith J. Lee

CCCC ConventionFor more information on the CCCC 2006 conference,
visit the NCTE Web site at http://www.ncte.org/profdev/conv/cccc/.