By: Hannah Lee Park, Education and School of Professional & Extended Studies Librarian, American University Library
The Writing Studies/Information literacy committee at American University, which is a joint committee between the Writing Studies Program and the Library, received an Inclusive Excellence Collaboration mini-grant to gather, annotate, and disseminate scholarship in antiracist praxis. There were three prongs to the Antiracist Praxis project: the creation of a subject guide and two in-person Teach-Ins. The Antiracist Praxis subject guide identifies the main ideas, key terms, and definitions within the scholarship that informs antiracist practice, particularly as they relate to composition pedagogy and library and information science. The committee conducted a short Teach-In in February 2020, which introduced the Antiracist Praxis Subject Guide project and gave brief presentations on critical information literacy, the range of antiracist pedagogical orientations (from diversity through decolonialism), and a preview of the second Teach-In. That second Teach-In, which was originally scheduled for April 2020, was postponed due to COVID-19, but was rescheduled for August 26, 2020. We had two guest speakers and many Writing Studies and Library faculty leading ten virtual break-out groups on the following topics:
- Colonialism and Indigeneity
- Implicit Bias
- Critical Library Studies
- Antiracist Assessment Theory
- Radical Listening
- Decentering Whiteness
- Literary Canonicity and Race as Social Formation
- Interrupting the Good-Bad Binary
Facilitators led 76 participants in a 45-minute discussion that resulted in actionable items to suggest back to the whole group for departmental consideration. Antiracist practice, as opposed to, for example, pure theory, is theory that scholars call “actionable”: once you study it, you can do something with it to interrupt structures of inequality.
Feedback from the Antiracist Praxis Teach-In was overwhelmingly positive. All participants thought that the goals of the Teach-In were clear and achieved. Ninety-five percent of participants shared that they learned new insights, and they were appreciative of the space to discuss these issues. Some participants noted that they would have appreciated concrete activities that they could use while teaching, and this is something that the committee will follow up on. Others expressed the desire for more follow-up activities to keep the momentum and discussion going.
The project’s goal was to help all Library, Department of Literature, and Writing Center faculty and staff become fluent in the basic vocabulary of antiracist scholarship; to open up constructive dialogue about best practices; and to set the groundwork for truly informed faculty and staff antiracist standards and goal-setting. This work is ongoing, and the Writing Studies/Information Literacy committee is in the process of revising our mission statement to include antiracist praxis as part of our continuing efforts.