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xi Preface When we began this book, the immediate (and at that time tentative) title of the first draft of the prospectus was Rural Literacies. As much as we wondered whether the word “rural” in the title could potentially limit our audience due to the very assumptions we sought to challenge, we were just as committed to emphasizing it. This tension became a central issue in these pages: rural literacies are not something for only rural people to pay attention to; rural should not be seen in opposition to urban but as part of a complex global economic and social network. To understand these connections, we must examine the specifics—material, social, agricultural, historical, and cultural—of rural lives and literacies. We must also challenge the commonplace assumptions about rural people and rural places that deem them lacking in opportunities for literacy work and community engagement. Our project analyzes rural communities and rural people’s lives as rich sites for literacy and rhetorical research and for social action. Before this project, we each individually researched aspects of rural literacies largely because of the lack of engagement with rural contexts in the field’s existing literacy and rhetorical research; however , we didn’t know each other personally. Then Robert Brooke, editor for the Studies in Writing and Rhetoric series, heard us each present papers on rural issues but on separate panels at the Thomas R. Watson Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2002 and encouraged us to work together on a book project on rural literacies. A few phone calls in May 2003 affirmed our mutual interest in collaborating on such a project. The vast majority of the drafting of this book was done via e-mail and by telephone; we met at the 2004 Conference on College Composition and Communication in San Antonio and for an extended writing retreat in the rural North Carolina community where Kim’s family hails from, flying in from North Dakota, New York, and Texas. Amid phone calls, through notes in each other’s drafts, and xii Preface over meals during our brief trips together, we pieced together our senses of ourselves as rural-identified—and found them both similar and distinctive as we disrupted the monolithic terms “rural” and “literacies” in our text. Eileen grew up on a third-generation family farm near Cashmere, Washington, that passed on to her brother, the fourth generation, until the farm ceased operations in 2001; Charlotte lived from the ages of eleven through eighteen in Paxton, a village in western Nebraska where her dad grew up; and Kim was reared near the rural North Carolina town where her mother was raised. Each of us existed within a backdrop that both called to mind and challenged clichéd and problematic images and narratives of rural: the “rosy” past of the independent family farm, the lack of the “empty” Great Plains, and the lag of the economy and “culture” in Appalachia. Our book was written and arranged to productively reflect the similarities and differences of the rural families, places, and regions we come from—the rural West, the Great Plains, the rural South—and of the different types of research we do: qualitative research and rhetorical analysis. We collaboratively wrote chapters 1 and 5. Our individual chapters also signal our collaboration in that we gave each other’s work written and verbal feedback and made occasional edits through multiple and evolving drafts as we fully realized our project. While we composed our chapters to cumulatively build our central argument, our goal was to demonstrate through the theoretical frameworks , methodologies, and tones of the individually authored chapters just a few of the ways rural literacies can be explored and analyzed as an area of research and in the writing classroom. As is often the case with collaborative projects, we believe this text reaps the riches—in ways a single-authored text could not—of our distinct but overlapping areas of interest and expertise: literacy studies, critical literacy studies, qualitative research, rhetorical history and analysis, globalization studies, feminist theory, pedagogical theory and practice, and, of course, our investment in rural students, citizens, and communities. As we argue throughout the coming pages, collaborative literate action, on a much larger scale and in a variety of venues, is the best hope of ensuring a sustainable future for rural communities—collaborative action undertaken by a variety of stake- Preface xiii holders, rural, urban, and suburban, on issues of common concern such as sustainable systems of education...


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