Thursday, November 13, 2014

MMLA Special Session: Seeking Local Knowledge in the Global City—A Research and Pedagogy Roundtable

Please join us and/or send us your comments and questions about the presentations below.  Our hope is to continue the conversation beyond the session and conference.  We're especially interested in hearing your own attempts to address the local/global tension in your curriculum and pedagogy.
Special Session Panel:  Thursday, November 13, 2014-- 4:00-5:30 Southfield 70 
Seeking Local Knowledge in the Global City—A Research and Pedagogy Roundtable

Organizer/Chair:  John A. Staunton ( , Associate Professor, English Education and American Literature, Eastern Michigan University; Co-Director for Teacher Research, Eastern Michigan Writing Project

Description and Rationale:  This special session seeks to bring together presentations highlighting the “regions of pedagogical practice” which may emerge when we seek to teach local and regional literature and cultural history in 21st-century classrooms.  In particular, the session seeks to investigate the ways in which inquiry into local histories, discourses, practices, and textual artifacts may help to build grounded sites for teaching and learning, both inside and outside traditional educational spaces.  Presentations for the session will represent a range of both pedagogical and curricular practices—ranging from the community and knowledge-building practices of 21st century cross-cultural advocacy to the recovery of alternate, forgotten, or ‘disappeared’ histories and texts that can remap and sustain contemporary discourses of gender, race, and class in the post-industrial Midwest.  Each will explore in its way the diverse teaching/learning situations and diverse historical and literary content/contexts that will offer case studies of a ‘locally-embedded pedagogy,’ which is simultaneously engaged with larger questions of teaching and learning in a global age.   


1)      Robin Lucy (, Associate Professor of African American Literature, Eastern Michigan University.

“Intentional Communities and Pedagogical Practice”
As an African Americanist, I am increasingly interested in locating moments of inter-racial and class solidarity in my scholarship and teaching.  In examining an intentional community, inter-racial housing project built at Willow Run (site of the plant responsible for constructing the B-24 bomber) during World War II -- a period of heightened racial tension and violence in Michigan cities and industrial workplaces -- I will explore the implications of the history of this site for both my pedagogy and theory of African American writing of the era. 

2)      Charles Cunningham (, Associate Professor of English. 
“Teaching Literature in Context:  Southeast Michigan”  

In 2011, a group of interdisciplinary university faculty participated in a seminar to reflect on our positions as college educators in southeast Michigan, trying to ground our teaching and service within the context of the large, public comprehensive university to the specificity of a place and its history.   I will discuss my contribution to the seminar, which was to examine the possibilities and challenges, especially in light of the material and textual resources informing that situated history, for that grounding in the literature classroom.

3)      Lori Burlingame (,  Associate Professor of English, Eastern Michigan University. 

“Deconstructing Native American Mascots: A Local History

     This paper explores the history of the struggle to end the use of Native American mascots and logos at educational institutions in Southeastern Michigan, with particular emphasis on the work of the Native American Student Organization, for which I am the faculty adviser, at Eastern Michigan University.  Although there is still some controversy surrounding this issue, in 1991, Eastern Michigan University changed its mascot from the Hurons to the Eagles at the request of the Native American Student Organization.  This local history will be grounded in a more global or national discussion of the reasons for Native communities' objections to the use of Native American logos and mascots in sports and the impact that such appropriations have on Native peoples.  Finally, this paper will touch briefly on the intersections between the mascot issue and the Native American literature classroom through references to the works of Spokane/Coeur d'Alene writer Sherman Alexie, who employs biting humor to provide powerful social critiques of stereotypical representations of Native peoples, including sports mascots.  Discussion of this issue in the classroom can help to facilitate greater cross-cultural understanding and more positive cross-cultural relationships.

4)      John A. Staunton (, Associate Professor English, Eastern Michigan University

“Teaching/Learning Local Literature in a Global Age”
The presentation shares the results of what happened when a group of SE Michigan teachers pursued a curriculum and inquiry into teaching local literature with their students.  The historical and contemporary literature by and about people from Michigan is especially suited to this inquiry.  Richly diverse in its genres and subject matter—from the early frontier fictions of the “Old North West,” to the exurban tales of the out-sourced and unemployed, to the religious, ethnic, and cultural divisions (and fusions) amid the decaying metropolises—the literature of Michigan offers students and teachers a way to consider both 1) the interconnections of local/regionalist literary texts, literary performances, and their classroom practice and 2) the tensions and contacts between local practices (whether literary, performative, or pedagogical) and more ‘global’ discourses (of the literary, the aesthetic, or teaching/learning) which seek to frame, assess, or circumscribe those practices.   

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