Statement from Program Chair Frankie Condon
April 13, 2022
Doing Hope in Desperate Times
Dear Colleagues, Dearly Beloved,
I’ve learned a lot during the pandemic. One thing I now know for sure is that however much I love my solitude, I need all of you. I miss the energy, the vibe, the hustle, and the hum of CCCC. I miss the learning—the deep, lovely, hard, sometimes bitter, always energizing learning that, face with face, one with one, all with all, togetherness makes possible. During the years since last we met in person, like many of you, I have also wrestled with despair. I have always known, but not felt so deeply until now, the truth that we live in a broken world. The crushing tides of climate change and its resulting ecological disasters; the spread of COVID across the globe; endless war, poverty, famine, and the mass migration of peoples that coincide with a rising tide of authoritarianism, nationalism, extrajudicial violence, white supremacy, ethnocentrism, racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny—come near to breaking me. I have wondered whether deep affiliative relations beyond my homeplaces are even possible. Honestly, if the pandemic and all the other terrors to which we have been exposed have brought out the best in us (at least, that’s what cable news says), they’ve also unleashed our inner jerks; loosed ignorance so profound as to numb our capacity to even look at one another let alone speak with one another; launched political opportunism and manipulation so deadly that democracy looks to be in its death throes—and, as it dies, looks to be taking with it our capacity to imagine and reach for the kindness, compassion, and empathy that must be the foundation of social, economic, and political justice struggles.
But, in my lowest moments, I remember what Dr. Cornel West teaches: hope is action. Hope “enacts the stance of the participant who actively struggles” against the evidence of our brokenness. Here’s a hard truth: the catastrophes we face are humanmade, in particular by the exercise of power of a few over and against the many—against the earth, itself, and all the teeming life that call this planet home. Here’s another hard truth: a lot of the many have gone along to get along and packaged our acquiescence in the frippery of moral rectitude. And here’s one more hard truth: doing hope is much harder than wringing hands or assigning blame. Many of us are outraged, enraged, all the rage. Indeed, to riff on Derrida, the evidence seems incontrovertible that the future—if there can be any future for us—is bleak. Cornel West, however, does not eschew rage. Nor does he capitulate to despair. Neither should we. As Dr. Cornel says, “Only a new wave of vision, courage, and hope can keep us sane—and preserve the decency and dignity requisite to revitalize our organizational energy for the work to be done. To live is to wrestle with despair yet never to allow despair to have the last word” (2005).
I invite you to a 2023 CCCC Annual Conference dedicated to doing hope. Together, let’s evaluate anew the relationship of our field’s prevailing theories and practices to the perpetuation of systems, structures, institutional policies, procedures, and practices that—by design—oppress, exclude, exploit. Together, let’s see if we can both imagine and make manifest, as trans writer and performance artist Heath Salazar might say, a CCCCs organization “where people do right by one another . . . a [field] which has no chance of faltering because it will refuse to forget its past” (2018). Let’s admit that the tyranny of western argument over our field and the attachment of “personal,” like an epithet-filled ball and chain, to narrative are not serving well our students, ourselves, or the public and political discourses our teaching helps to shape. Let’s bust some binaries . . . between self and other and us and them on one hand and between genre and method and argument and narrative on the other. The known has failed us. So, I am inviting you to do hope at the outside edges of our knowns. To follow Fanon in re-membering “that the real leap consists in introducing invention into existence. For the world through which [we] travel, [we are] endlessly creating [ourselves]” (1967).
To experiment, to try, to essay into learningful unlearning, into uncertainty attended by curiosity and wonderment, I’m asserting that we should admit our failures, address the evidence that—in our communities as across the world, in our institutions, our classrooms, our writing, speaking, teaching, and learning centres—things are not looking good. And if they do look good to you, chances are there are folks whose lives and lived experiences you’ns ain’t lookin’ at. So, let’s ask crazy hard questions and see if we can talk about them without certainty but with a real commitment to being together in the talking.
Let’s go to the places and ways our lives as teachers, scholars, writers, rhetors, performers, learners, and just-plain-folks intersect and let’s see if we can imagine an ethical relation undergirded by a shared commitment to doing hope. And if the old ways—our known ways of doing teaching, research, writing, talking, performing, and learning—have failed us, let’s experiment; let’s mesh methods, methodology, genres, languages, discourses, codes. Let’s embrace ALL the trans: transnational, translingual, transmemoration, multiracial, multi-ethnic—and transgender, transexual, transforming. Let’s be “the baddest bitch in the room, until we go to the next room” (The Vixen).
Here are some questions meant as provocations, not be-all-end-alls:
- What can we learn together when we seek out possibilities for deep relationship with collaborators, fellow troublemakers—for doers of hope across
- identities and identifications
- national borders
- global, regional, and local histories of struggle
- institutional spaces or pedagogical fields: the writing centre, the writing program, the writing classroom, for example?
- disciplines (bring a mathematician to CCCC or sumthin!)?
- As scholars, teachers, rhetors, what might we learn or unlearn, what erased knowledges might we recover or reclaim; what new knowledge might we produce; how might we teach differently as transnational allies, accomplices, co-researchers, and co-writers?
- What might we do together as intersectional accomplices in the production of new knowledge—where we understand intersectionality as an “analytic sensibility, a way of thinking about identity and its relationship to power” that makes visible the “many constituents within groups that claim them as members but often fail to represent them” (Crenshaw)?
Dr. Aja Martinez told us that “narrative has always been theoretical” and “counterstory as methodology is the verb, the process, the critical race theory-informed justification for the work whereas counterstory as method is the noun, the genre, the research tool.” And Lee Maracle told us that “creative non-fiction is bound by the original foundations handed to us by ancestors, ceremony, laws, and our relationship to creation. We place our obligations before us when we re-member . . . We need to draw upon the tangled web of colonial being, thread by thread—watch as each thread unfurls, untangles, shows its soft underbelly, its vulnerability, its strength, its resilience, its defiance, its imposition, its stubbornness.”
- So, when we act on these understandings of methodology, method, and genre, what possibilities or knowledge-making open when we braid creative nonfiction, counterstory, narrative with critical rhetoric, narrative inquiry, and critical discourse analysis?
- Can we lay aside our compulsion to commemorate that which we believe we know as teachers, scholars, writers, and colleagues and instead embrace what Kyo Maclear calls “transmemoration”: the practice of narrating one’s life or history without denying or suppressing the truth of other lives, other narratives—“coming to terms (to language) with the ways in which our identities and understandings are unevenly implicated in wider social and symbolic formations structured on power and inequality” (as cited in Condon, 2012: Maclear, 1998, p. 155)?
- How can we use our talk, our teaching, our writing (our citing, baby!) to amplify, to lift up, to elevate those whose voices in our field have too long been ignored? Think graduate students, adjunct, parafaculty, and staff whose labour is exploited. Think emerging scholars—particularly those coming from historically marginalized and oppressed, equity-deserving communities: Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Colour, Peoples with disabilities, neurodivergent Folks, 2SLGBTQIA+ Folks?
- How can we encourage, create, and draw on laughter in service of survivance to thrive, to learn, and to turn our minds, spirits, and our energy toward creating worlds where the idea of a future is imaginable?
This is my love letter—to the folks in the discipline, some of them now passed on, who raised and nurtured me, challenged and troubled my knowns, believed in me, or wondered aloud with me what the hell I was doing and saying and why. To the emerging scholars, the young folks in the field who are smart as hell, who speak up and out, who are courageous and determined—and inspiring! To my contemporaries, my friends, my colleagues whether I’ve met you or not, who, with love and rage put the field on blast.
Keep yourselves safe, get vaccinated, get boosters, stay home, charge into 2022 CCCC Annual Convention online with delight. And let’s make Chicago 2023 a thang.
All My Love—Truly,
2023 Program Chair
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