CfP || Writing Programs in the Former Soviet Union

Ashley Squires is Director, Writing and Communication Center, New Economic School, Moscow.

 

When I arrived in Moscow in 2013 to begin my job as Associate Director of the Writing and Communication Center at the New Economic School, it was with a sense of purpose and adventure. I felt that the work I was doing—teaching communication and critical thinking skills to Russian students—would be challenging and urgent. But I could not have guessed that my time here would overlap with the emergence of writing and writing pedagogy as a genuine academic discipline in a place where it hadn’t previously existed.

The WCC at NES is usually considered to be the first American-style writing center in the Russian Federation. Founded in 2011, it coincided with the creation of an American-style liberal arts program at the New Economic School and the Higher School of Economics. The latter university, which, like NES, was founded in the years immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union, began its own writing center in the very same year. Since then, between 14 and 16 writing centers have popped up across the country (the number depends on how we define an “active” writing center). However, the NES WCC remains the only writing center that, in the American mode, primarily serves the needs of students, especially undergraduate students.

Though inspired by American writing centers and Anglophone writing pedagogy, Russian writing programs are taking new forms. Many of them were founded with money distributed as part of Project 5-100 (Проекта 5-100), a state-sponsored effort to raise the international profile of Russian universities by encouraging faculty to publish in international venues. This has created the conditions for writing to emerge as a genuine discipline focused as it is on raising the general level of scientific communication, not only in English but in Russian as well. Interesting new approaches and research projects are emerging in this environment, and parallel efforts are ongoing in Central Asia and other parts of Eastern Europe. But across such a vast territory, scholars need help finding one another, and the West as yet knows little about the work being done here.

In cooperation with the WAC Clearinghouse, I am looking to bring attention to this important work and to increase the possibility of collaboration across borders. We are seeking proposals for contributions to an edited volume that will cover the history and current practice of writing programs throughout the former Soviet Union. This collection seeks to address the following questions:

  • How are teachers, students, researchers and administrators in the region working to further progressive writing pedagogy?
  • What ideas about writing and writing instruction—both new and old, foreign and domestic— inform, assist or complicate this work?
  • How does writing shape knowledge and practice within specific regional cultures, academic or otherwise? How might writing function as a bridge or barrier?
  • How is writing being used as a learning tool, within disciplines, within the university, or at a national or international level?

Possible submissions might include:

  • Studies of past language / educational practices in the region and the impact these practices have on contemporary writing pedagogy.
  • Analyses of institutions (writing centers, language departments, universities) and the forces, both internal and external, with which stakeholders must contend in reforming writing pedagogy.
  • Analyses of the region’s unique cultural, economic and political challenges, and how these challenges affect the teaching of writing.
  • Stories of success (or failure) in attempting to incorporate methods and materials from other countries’ research traditions.
  • Analyses of international collaboration efforts, the challenges faced and knowledges produced.
  • Research studies (either qualitative or quantitative) that test the feasibility of various teaching methods.
  • Stories or studies which understand local experience through broad theoretical concepts (translingualism; World Englishes; genre studies, activity systems and communities of practice; writing to learn and WAC/WID theory; academic literacies, etc.).

The deadline for proposals (200-300 word abstracts) is October 31, but we will continue to look at submissions after that point. Final essays will be due in late Spring of 2019. To submit an abstract or ask a question, contact Ashley Squires at asquires@nes.ru.

 

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