Revolution Lullabye

January 10, 2013

Kerschbaum, Avoiding the Difference Fixation

Kerschbaum, Stephaine L. “Avoiding the Difference Fixation: Identity Categories, Markers of Difference, and the Teaching of Writing.” College Composition and Communication 63.4 (June 2012): 616-644.

Kerschebaum, challenging the idea of difference as categorical and static, offers up a definition of difference as dynamic, emergent, and relational.  Difference, she argues, is rhetorical and therefore cannot be fixed.  In order to find and identify difference, teachers need to be attune to “markers of difference,” which emerge in communicative acts.  Kerschebaum uses a short transcript of two students discussing an essay draft in a peer review to demonstrate how these markers of difference affect relationships and identities.  She calls on teachers of writing to be more attentive to the markers of difference that emerge in the classroom and to use these markers to talk about and address difference in a way that resists categories and stable identities.

Notable Notes

fixing difference v. marking difference (619)

uses Bakhtin to describe how difference is emergent, dynamic, and relational (624-627)

human beings rely on categorical identification to make meaning, but those categories are not always or ever accurate (622)

uses her own experiences as a deaf woman to explain how difference emerges through relationships

reviews scholarship in writing studies on recognizing and understanding the nature of difference

suggests that attention to markers of difference in classroom interactions can help cultivate three habits of mind from the Framework openness, flexibility, metacognition

Quotable Quotes

“A marker-based orientation to difference is crucial for contemporary writing research because when we write and read, we wrestle with not just texts, but with selves” (623).

“The remainder of this article, then, suggests a new approach to difference in which teachers and researchers can practice a kind of attention to difference that cultivates awarenesss of new details, provides opportunity to interpret and re-interpret thsoe details, and contextualizes them within specific moments of writing, teaching, and learning” (622).

“Difference is not ‘out there’ waiting to be found and identified but is always coming-to-be through the here-and-now of interaction” (626).


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