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Framing Identities

Autobiography and the Politics of Pedagogy

1998
Author:

Wendy S. Hesford

Framing Identities

A trenchant examination of the political dynamics of autobiography in education.

How do historically marginalized groups expose the partiality and presumptions of educational institutions through autobiographical acts? How are the stories we tell used to justify resistance to change or institutional complacency? These are the questions Wendy S. Hesford asks as she considers the uses of autobiography in educational settings.

“Framing Identities offers the first sustained analysis of the political stakes of invoking the autobiographical in everyday academic sites and ‘pedagogical acts,’ and of the contradictory effects of such moves. Hesford’s focus on the body in the classroom is an exciting addition to the materialist analyses of autobiographical discourse.” Sidonie Smith, coeditor of Getting a Life

How do historically marginalized groups expose the partiality and presumptions of educational institutions through autobiographical acts? How are the stories we tell used to justify resistance to change or institutional complacency? These are the questions Wendy S. Hesford asks as she considers the uses of autobiography in educational settings. This book demonstrates how autobiographical acts-oral, written, performative, and visual-play out in vexed and contradictory ways and how in the academy they can become sites of cultural struggle over multicultural education, sexual harassment, institutional racism, hate speech, student activism, and commemorative practices.

Within the context of Oberlin, a small liberal arts college in Ohio, and beginning with a speak-out organized by Asian American students in 1995, this book looks at the uses of autobiographical practices in empowering groups traditionally marginalized in academic settings. Investigating the process of self-representation and the social, spatial, and discursive frames within which academic bodies and identities are constituted, Framing Identities explores the use of autobiographical acts in terms of power, influence, risks involved, and effectiveness. Hesford does not endorse autobiography as an unequivocal source of empowerment, however. Instead, she illustrates how autobiographical practices in the academy can mobilize competing and often irreconcilable interests.

Hesford argues that by integrating self-reflection into cultural, rhetorical, and material analyses-and encouraging students to do the same-teachers not only will largely justify attention to the personal in the classroom, they will help their communities move beyond a naive identity politics. Framing Identities provides a model for teacher-researchers across the disciplines (education, English, composition, cultural studies, women’s studies, to name a few) to investigate the contradictory uses and consequences of autobiography at their own institutions, and to carve out new pedagogical spaces from which they and their students can emerge as social, political, and intellectual subjects.

Awards

Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition’s W. Ross Winterowd Book Award winner

Framing Identities

Wendy S. Hesford is assistant professor of English at Indiana University.

Framing Identities

“Framing Identities offers the first sustained analysis of the political stakes of invoking the autobiographical in everyday academic sites and ‘pedagogical acts,’ and of the contradictory effects of such moves. Hesford’s focus on the body in the classroom is an exciting addition to the materialist analyses of autobiographical discourse.” Sidonie Smith, coeditor of Getting a Life

This is a unique book, quite different from existing works on autobiography. Refreshingly, Framing Identities does not celebrate autobiography but-in the context of university cultur

explores its uses, contradictions, and consequences.” Roger Simon, author of Teaching Against the Grain

Framing Identities: Autobiography and the Politics of Pedagogy breaks a new trail by situating autobiography at the intersections of Composition/Rhetoric, Feminist Studies, and Critical Pedagogy. As my interest in autobiography continues to develop, I find myself coming back to Framing Identities again and again to luxuriate in Hesford’s unflinching attention to the sociohistorical contexts of the institutional and personal stories she recounts.

Composition Forum

Framing Identities

content

preface: Frames within Frames
acknowledgments

introduction: Autobiography and the Politics of Identity on Campus

1. memory work
2. autobiography and feminist writing pedagogy
3. writing identities: The “Essence” of Difference
4. “ye are witnesses”: Autobiography and Commemorative Practices
5. the risks of autobiography: Identity Politics, Sexual- Offense Policies, and the Rhetoric of Rights
6. in and out of the flesh: Autobiography, Public-Art Activism, and the Crisis of Witnessing

conclusion. Traveling Frames: Authority, Authenticity, and the Pedagogy of Location

notes
bibliography

index