As an intersectional feminist rhetorician, I watched the debates about the 4C18 conference closely to try to hear the spectrum of voices and concerns about the conference location. CCCC has shown its political, cultural, and social awareness through numerous position statements, but this conference sparked internal conversations about safety and community of specific conference-goers in response to the Missouri travel advisory. I thought about my own positionality in relation to the conference, recognizing that privilege and oppression work hand in hand for me as a white woman. This led me to two conclusions: first, I had to respect my colleagues’ needs and decisions not to attend the conference and encourage others to do so; second, I realized that if I did participate, my presence would need to bring visibility to the oppressions and marginalizations at the focus of this conference and the surrounding debates.
Ultimately, I decided to participate because I needed to share my experience with a decentered, globally-minded framework for learning that supports languaging and labor efforts of undergraduate writers. In my collaborative panel, “Languaging Towards Translingualism: A Roundtable Discussion on Transforming Relationships between International and U.S. Domestic Student Writers,” we presented the GlobalEX program that supports the shared languaging practices of international and domestic students through writing, international student leadership, and connection to critical labor partners on a college campus and in other countries. Sharing this program meant showing a model of what could be brought to Kansas City and taken to other universities or schools where difference is seen as advantage to learning, collaboration, and listening.
Presenting in Kansas City meant giving visibility to difference in a positive and connective light. At its core, GlobalEX encourages students to language with diverse perspectives and nurtures team dynamics of languaging and labor. Students see their differences as opportunities for understanding and learning, rather than for conflict. Presenting with undergraduate student leaders from Afghanistan and Greece and our assessment team, we demonstrated the need for this program that brings US domestic and international undergraduate students together. In a city where perceptions of difference have been accompanied by assumptions, threats, and violence, I wanted to be part of a team that showed how difference created networks of mentoring, leadership, and community engagement.
4C18 was a different conference because of Kansas City, but I believe it was a better conference because of how we responded to the location. The Kansas City CCCC created a challenge for our organization, membership, and community at large, but we responded in the ways our discipline does best: with ethical action and care.