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Stephen Parks

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Stephen Parks

Associate Professor
sjp3st@virginia.edu

AS A SCHOLAR

My initial entry in the field of composition and rhetoric was to explore the history of the “Students Right To Their Own Language,” an effort to link classroom practice, institutional resources, and broad calls for social change in support of non-traditional students. As a result of this work, I have become increasingly interested in the ways in which the academy defines and relates to its surrounding communities, exploring what it might mean to draw the resources of the university into alignment with community-defined needs. It was this work that lead to the creation of New City Community Press in Philadelphia, an effort to use community publishing linked to grassroots activism - a model which was deeply indebted to the practices of the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers, located in the United Kingdom.

 

These scholarly efforts have resulted in explorations of how service-learning and community partnership work provides a rich model to understand the nature and goals of political and social movement rhetoric in a broader global context. Most recently, this work has led to me developing an international archive of working class writing with London Metropolitan University (along with Jess Pauszek, University of Texas-Commerce) as well as an international collaborative with scholars in Italy and France exploring the changing nature of working class identity in a neo-liberal age. 

 

In addition, I have worked with human rights activists in the Middle East, exploring how community partnership and publication can foster democratic activism. This work has led to my helping to create Syrians for Truth and Justice, a collaboration of Syrian activist dedicated to both reporting the human rights abuses occurring in Syria as well as documenting past abuses for the international human rights courts. More recently, I have developed with my colleague, Ahmed Hachelaf, Assistant Professor at the Higher Normal School at Laghouat- Algeria,The Twiza Project, which sponsors dialogues about human rights and democracy between United States and Middle Eastern/North African nations.

 

AS AN EDITOR

For the past fifteen years, I have been fortunate to create as well as to edit academic journals and book series, as well as found a community press. This experience has taught of the ways in which editorial work can foster an intersectional form of scholarship premised on foundational concepts of social and political justice. It has also taught me that, as a field, Composition and Rhetoric has not sufficiently acknowledged the important contributions by African American, Latino, Native American, LBGTQ, and Asian American Communities – particularly when these identities are supplemented by categories of class and gender. Nor has the field adequately published the work of individuals working in the diverse labor conditions (adjunct, non-tenure track)  which mark this field or the diverse institutions (community college, tribal college, HBCUs) in which large numbers of our “writing students” enroll. Much of my work as an academic editor has been to align with the many scholars of our feld and to work hard to understand how expanding publishing frameworks can support structural intellectual changes to our intellectual and institutional structures.

 

As a community publication editor, I have worked to develop models which recognize the organic intellectual understanding a community brings to their daily life and to co-construct writing groups and publications which represent those insights. Part of this work has also entailed linking the publications to grass roots struggles for economic and political change. Here I believe I have come to understand how the concepts of literacy, community, and partnership can begin to articulate back to our work in the academy, as teachers, administrators, and scholars. Or at least, this is my hoped for connection between the two domains in which I undertake editorial work.