In this episode, we discussed the complexity, constraints, and richness of the writing studies work happening in the Middle East and North African region with three wonderful guests: Dr. Emma Moghabghab, Instructor of academic English in the communication skills program, and the previous assistant director of the writing center at the American University of Beirut; Sahar Mari, President of the Middle East North Africa Writing Center Alliance (MENAWCA, pronounced as meh-Naw-ka), and at the time of this interview was multimedia consultant at the Center for Teaching and Learning, Texas A & M University at Qatar; and Dr. Rachel Buck, Assistant Professor of writing studies at the American University of Sharjah and Co-editor of Writing Spaces Volume 7: Writing in Global Spaces.

For listening on your mobile devices, find Slow Agency on Anchor, Apple Podcast, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. Scroll down for the full transcript after the show notes and resources.

Show Notes & Resources

Frequently used acronyms

MENA stands for Middle East North Africa, pronounced as “M-eh-n-ah” or “M-ee-n-ah”

MENAWCA stands for Middle East North Africa Writing Center Alliance, pronounced as “meh-Naw-ka”.

Long quotes

around 24:00 “combining this rich but divergent sociolinguistic landscape with the current affordances of digital technologies leads to the innovation of creative writing spaces that are conducive to the reterritorialization of linguistic borders at individual, communal and national levels.”

around 43:00 “relying on decolonizing critical pedagogies, the promises of post-digital rhetorical translanguaging, and the proliferation of professional and scholarly ties, teachers and researchers of writing in the region continue to challenge constraints and develop models that expand the discipline and layer it with their institutional and cultural frameworks. Taking the larger tensions and characteristics of the region into consideration, writing scholarship in the Middle East complicates assumptions and renegotiates Western paradigms as it revisits, encounters, and engages complex colonial and linguistic histories and political and sociocultural realities.”


Bonine, M. E. et al., (2011 ). (eds.) Is there a Middle East? The evolution of a geopolitical concept. Stanford University Press.

Gilyard, K. (2014). 2013 CCCC Exemplar Award acceptance speech. College Composition and Communication, 65(3), 455–457.

Hodges, A., Mahfouz, I. Y., Mari, S.,  Al Khalil, M. K., Habre, P. A., & Daouk, H. (2022, November 18). Connecting MENA writing centers through data. Connecting Writing Centers Across Borders.

Moghabghab, E. (2021). (Re)writing the Middle East: Tension, engagement and rhetorical translanguaging. Composition Studies, 49(3), 165–170.

Vertovec, S. (2023). Superdiversity: Migration and social complexity (1st ed.). Routledge.

Writing Spaces


[00:00 ] Intro

[00:00:27] Anna Habib: today we discussed the complexity, constraints, and richness of the writing studies work happening in the Middle East and North African region with three wonderful guests. Dr. Emma Moghabghab is an instructor of academic English in the communication skills program, and the previous assistant director of the writing center at the American University of Beirut. Sahar Mari, president of the Middle East, North Africa Writing Center Alliance, and at the time of this interview was multimedia consultant at Texas A & M University at Qatar, Center for Teaching and Learning. And Dr. Rachel Buck is Assistant Professor of writing studies at the American University of Sharjah and Co-editor of Writing Spaces Volume seven, Writing in Global Spaces. Thank you all for joining us.

[00:01:21] Emma Moghabghab: Thank you so much, Anna. It’s wonderful to be here.

[00:01:24] Rachel Buck: thanks Anna and Esther and Weijia for inviting me, to this conversation with Emma and Sahar

[00:01:30] Sahar Mari: thank you for your very warm welcome.

Part 1

[00:01:33] Anna Habib: So Emma, not too long ago, I came across, your 2021 article in Composition Studies. Volume 49 issue 3 titled Rewriting the Middle East Tension Engagement and Rhetorical Translanguaging. And the piece I felt provided such valuable insight into the writing studies world in the Middle East and the landscape there, and inspired us to invite you and Sahar and Rachel to join us for today’s conversation.

[00:02:03] you began that article by saying, and I’m gonna quote you here, “what it means to teach and research writing in the Middle East today depends an awful lot on what one supposes the Middle East to be.” Can you expand on that for our listeners?

[00:02:19] Emma Moghabghab: To just reflect a little bit on, the quote that you pulled out on my article and this idea of the Middle East, the term the Middle East has achieved common usage for great many years now, over a hundred years. But multiple scholars from various disciplines are still studying the extent to which its conceptualization, both as a term and as an entity, holds any real meaning.

[00:02:41] Bonine et al whom I referenced in my article note that there’s this clear tension between the historical idea of the Middle East as a colonial construct that’s made up of countries that were previously occupied by the Ottoman Empire, France, Great Britain and others, and then the Middle East as a geopolitical construct that’s conceived by the West to serve certain strategic, political and economic interests. And finally, this geographical, historical, cultural, religious, and political pattern that indicates that there’s some sort of internal coherence that warrants the term altogether.

[00:03:17] Now, Alan Weber describes the Middle East, North Africa region as delineating regions where Islam is the dominant religion and which encompasses nations and here I quote him “and peoples, who were formerly part of an Islamic empire or caliphate.” Now this definition, which includes Turkey in the Middle East, north Africa region, for example, is often adopted by researchers who hope to provide some form of holistic insight on the region, insights that rely on religious and historical commonalities.

[00:03:46] However, the multiple countries of the Middle East each have complex and radically disparate colonial and post-colonial histories that beggar any brief overview. So in addition to a diversity of societies, the countries of the MENA region present great diversity within the groups that constitute these societies.

[00:04:06] The region comprises some of the wealthiest in the world and some of the poorest, multiple religions such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism, linguistic purity, multiple dialects, linguistic and cultural practices. So both because of, and despite the legacy of colonialism, the residents of the MENA region negotiate these multiplicities through their languages and their dialects, and they combine local and global approaches and practices in both their rhetorics and their lives.

[00:04:35] Anna Habib: Thank you so much for that, Emma. There is such a kind of oversimplified, monolithic view of the Middle East, that still is prevalent, in a lot of the

scholarship. And so just hearing you explain in your article and here today is really refreshing. You do draw on the theory of super diversity by Verdeveck. So maybe you can also expound on that for us.

[00:05:02] Emma Moghabghab: Super diversity creates nuanced and multi-layered multilingualism that challenge the articulation of overarching models for teaching and researching, writing in the region. In this stead of this model, there’s an ecology, there’s an intensification of flows of intersections between people’s, cultures, histories and languages that interact and proliferate, especially furiously with the technological advances of, digital communication and distribution and so on.

[00:05:31] Anna Habib: Even within the context of superdiversity and all of the complex history that you just outlined for us, the US model of higher education has still sort of found its foothold, right? In your article, you say, I’m quoting you here “The American Model for Writing Studies does not integrate seamlessly into local cultures and communities”. What are the obstacles of this integration or export of this model?

[00:06:04] Emma Moghabghab: I think it’s interesting that you would use the term export because it frames this process in terms of commodity.

[00:06:10] the idea that we’re transmitting a model into a region, which on a material level comes forth in the form of like marketed products, like textbooks that our students use. This is the legacy of colonialism being recreated, facilitated and distributed by capitalism. These products, so to speak, they’re the goal, you know, together with their underlying not very outspoken ideology that if our students were to join an international discourse community this is the product that they need.

[00:06:39] at the same time, the assumptions, definitions, and terms that are adopted by this model rest on certain writing features like, for example, plagiarism or linear deductive organization or topic sentences or cohesive markers that apply differently or simply do not apply in our context, in our teaching context.

[00:06:58] Emma Moghabghab: Even terms like native speaker, first language writer, second language writer, multilingual learner, they are used to denote language differences in writing that are prevalent in this model. But these categories will sometimes constrain our understandings of these same distinctions in dominant Middle Eastern context.

[00:07:16] And they will obscure our view of ideologies that underlie them. So the very concepts of English as a second or foreign language or even bilingualism can be problematic. Multilingual speakers here grow up learning and negotiating varied linguistic backgrounds and landscapes with competing nationalist and religious ideologies.

[00:07:35] Now, combine that with the post-colonial perceptions about the prestige of speaking a foreign language. You are held up with a complexity that requires a degree of flexibility and accommodation that this model would find unfamiliar and challenging.

[00:07:49] Now, that’s not to say that the model itself can or should be done away with completely. This is not what we are saying. As instructors and professors of writing, teaching in a US context or US adjacent institution that adopts a liberal arts model of higher education , we are obligated to prepare our students to join an Anglocentric discourse community and acquire linguistic, cultural and symbolic power and capital that come with that. This power is marketed not unwarranted as strategically advantageous for success in a globalized world. That is the world that we live in.

[00:08:22] These competing constraints necessarily result in the creation of hybrid models. Hybrid spaces that are conducive to negotiation at least I hope. On the one hand, to uphold the diversity and the integrity of individual communal, national, regional voices and at the same time, the necessity for, being up to date and together with the program, so to speak, to be ready to join and engage in a competitive market internationally and globally.

[00:08:52] Anna Habib: There’s so much that you said there that I’m processing. So I am the associate director of Composition for multilingual writers and one of my classes, for example, I’m having students read about translanguaging, trans-lingualism, metrolingualism, plural, lingualism, all of these different terms that are being thrown around well, I wouldn’t say thrown around, but contemplated in our field. What is your take on that, especially given the context of the MENA region?

[00:09:19] yeah. I think possibly one of the difficulties of the term multilingualism is that it was created in a very specific context and the boundaries that constrain the term are what makes it difficult. When you pick it up and put it in a different context what are the assumptions that go into that term? I personally I am a fan of the term multilingualism, but I also adopt it and use it in my classroom in a very different way than what I assume would be used in other places. Like for me, for example, teaching at AUB with students who have grown up with at least three languages, both at home and in their schools, who have, who are constantly in interaction with other students who grew up with also three languages that could be different from theirs also at home and at school.

[00:10:05] Emma Moghabghab: The meaning of multilingualism for me would probably be enacted and performed differently in the classroom. Does that mean that I want to change the term altogether, not necessarily. But will I go in thinking, oh, the students have a base language from which they are moving away, one in the classroom, one for a different context, one for a different discourse? Not really. It’s about how these languages mixed and come together to shape their identities. So it’s not also just about their use of the language, but about how it has affected who they see themselves as independently and in relation to others who might be facing similar, difficulties, similar constraints, and similar levels of multiplicity. Anna, I’d be interested to know what that means for you in your context.

[00:10:49] Anna Habib: Are you asking, what multilingualism means in our context versus in comparison to what you just described?

[00:10:56] Emma Moghabghab: Yes.

[00:10:59] Anna Habib: In our context, given the immigrant population and the number of international students at our universities, I think when we talk about let’s support our multilingual writers, let’s celebrate our multilingual students, I agree that that’s important, but for many, especially immigrant writers or writers who are using non-standard varieties of English, that term doesn’t really capture their identity to be multilingual because many of them might be navigating what some would call truncated multilingualism where it’s like, I’m not actually multilingual. I’m fluent in Spanish, but I’m not a hundred percent fluent. You know, I speak it with my parents, but I can’t really read and write it. But I’m also reading and writing in English, but I don’t speak it at home. So that term doesn’t exactly capture the identity going back and forth across those linguistic boundaries.

[00:11:53] Translanguaging and trans-lingualism is a more appropriate term in this context. I believe that trans-lingualism and trans languaging is recognizing movement across the linguistic boundaries, which I think is really valuable.

[00:12:05] However, I think Keith Giliard said, in one of his CCCC’s articles, translingual flattens difference in a lot of ways, saying we’re all speaking our different varieties of English. All deserve to be respected. And so in that regard, we are in some ways flattening difference. So I don’t feel like we have a term, and I don’t think we need one necessarily to capture the complexities of the identities that we’re working with in our context and in your context.

[00:12:39] Emma Moghabghab: Your example about, you know, someone who would speak Spanish but not necessarily write it, would not say, oh, I’m not really multilingual because I can’t speak and write English, you don’t really need to be equally fluent in both or do all the things in both, or two or three or however many, but the ability to shift from one to the other, and together with that, to shift across, all of the assumptions, history, impact, all of the uses of these languages is what makes trans languaging trans-lingualism more broadly, particularly interesting to look at as a phenomenon and not, as a, you know, as an embracing theory. and it can also be used to interrogate, the construct of multilingualism because then you say, okay, what about this movement that changes the definition of multilingual?

[00:13:23] And what about that movement that changes the dwelling spaces within multilingualism? So what happens to that language when you leave it and you go to another one? consciously reflectively, and what have you done to yourself in the meantime and what has it done to you and changed who you are and how you expressed yourself. And I think this is what makes these two terms particularly useful and interesting to keep rethinking.

[00:13:44] Esther Namubiru: Those a very good questions, Emma. And in part two of our conversation, when we speak with Sahar and Rachel, we’ll be able to hear how they are addressing the colonial constructs in their settings.


[00:14:01] Esther Namubiru: hi there. It’s Esther. And if you’re liking what you hear, please leave us a review and subscribe. It helps us out and it helps others find this podcast. Thank you.

Part 2

[00:14:14] Esther Namubiru: And Sahar and Rachel, thank you for joining us as well. Can you share a little bit about your writing contexts starting with you Sahar with your center at Texas A&M.

[00:14:35] Sahar Mari: So Texas A&M University at Qatar, the only programs that are offered in Qatar are engineering programs. Dr. Valerie Ballester initially established the writing center at Texas A&M back in 1990, and the credibility of their established center helped us in our branch campus to fight for the resources that we need.

[00:14:59] A couple of years back when our center was relatively new, I remember our director talking about a lot of nativism going on, that a lot of our administration wanted native speakers because those are the only qualified people, to help tutor our students. And I’m happy that over the years we’ve been able to shift this perception where now we can hire our undergraduate students, who are engineers and them being really able to help their peers with, writing in their discipline.

[00:15:33] So our center really started off with a lot of, I’m going to say the crane model, where we imported, what was from our main campus. But since then the center has evolved and we have been able to accommodate and be more in tune of what our students need for our specific context. Rachel share what the situation looks like at the American University in Sharjah.

[00:15:58] Rachel Buck: Thank you Sahar. When I came to the American University of Sharjah in 2018, I thought a lot of the challenges that I was facing were similar to conversations that I had in the States, about formulaic writing, this lingering legacy of the five paragraph essay that seems to be like this global colonial legacy. And I remember talking with one of my graduate students about teaching students the five paragraph essay, and she said, well, what other way is there? and I was like, oh my gosh, we have so much work to do if, like, even my graduate students think there’s no other way to teach writing than the five paragraph essay.

[00:16:43] So the five paragraph essay is arguments that I had with people in the States, and it’s still arguments that I have with, people at, the American University of Sharjah. But what I love about teaching in Sharjah: first of all, my students are amazing and I get to learn so much. So let me give you an example: the first semester I was teaching, I taught writing 101, very introductory course, very similar to what I was teaching at, the University of Arizona in Tucson. And I used this textbook, Bad Ideas about writing, edited by Cheryl Ball and Drew Lowe, which is aimed at students that tries to clear up some of their misconceptions about writing.

[00:17:26] And so I think it’s a really valuable resource for students, but it didn’t really apply in a lot of ways to my students’ experiences because of the local context. So what we did in that class was we wrote our own textbook called Bad Ideas about writing from students in Writing 101 at AUS. And so they were able to talk about some of the differences and really become more aware of their own situation. And I wanna read you just a short paragraph of what four students wrote in the introduction to our class book. This was by Mohamed, Janna, Lara and Maryanne. and they said, “so Rachel Buck, our Writing 101 professor entered the class excited to tell us about our next assignment. She started by asking us, what are some bad ideas you had about writing before starting this course? That’s when our voices were heard from every corner of the class, all in hopes to express our experiences. After shouting out our answers, we realized that we all had different ideas and misconceptions. This variety exists because we all attended different schools that follow different systems. The British, the American, the Indian, the French, the local Emirati school systems each teach different writing techniques and strategies that do not entirely apply to writing 101.” So then each of the chapters, were collaboratively written by students in the class analyzing how they were taught writing in high school, and then the ways that did or did not translate for them when they arrived in the university. So this idea of seamless integration is a challenge everywhere, but I have found that, bringing it up in the writing classroom is the perfect space to talk about their experiences and challenges and make them more aware of what writing is and what writing does for them. We ultimately want for our students to be aware of their choices that they have available to them as writers, and then to be able to make those decisions based on what they know.

[00:19:38] Esther Namubiru: Rachel and Sahar, thank you and thanks Rachel also for reading out the students’ voices from that intro chapter. That’s a really cool way of kind of just flipping the narrative and saying bad ideas about writing , who says they’re bad and who even came up with the idea of bad. Emma, you had mentioned earlier there is a seemingly seamless integration. Do you have anything to add to that?

[00:20:02] Emma Moghabghab: I was actually gonna say that thank you Rachel, for, for addressing this point. And, yes, I, I do a hundred percent agree, with this idea of, you know, the lack of seamless integration. When I was, completing my courses at IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), we had a lot of opportunity to talk about, this idea of composition studies or writing studies as a field and, the role that that field needs to take and the legacies and the weights that’s still carrying with it, that are stopping it from fulfilling it’s full potential. And I feel it’s more of a global challenge than it is a MENA region challenge. But this doesn’t mean that, we in the MENA region need to consider ourselves exempt from addressing, because we have other or more pressing issues to deal with.

[00:20:42] Sahar Mari: I, so I agree with Emma and Rachel. there is no way to seamlessly integrate it, but we all need to start somewhere. I think a lot of the regional writing centers, they look especially to the US and North America for those models to import them and at least get, get started somewhere. Just be given that instruction, okay, we’ve heard about this writing center thing, let’s make it happen at our institution. There’s this huge learning curve, that not just the administrators are learning, but also the people on the ground. So I think with more writing centers popping up in the region, there’s more awareness and a lot of people are more open to exchange and learning from each other such as this conversation today. I think it’s wonderful what Rachel is doing in her classroom where giving the agency to students to help figure out, how can we address this issue together.

[00:21:42] Emma Moghabghab: Based on what Sahar was saying and just speaking a little bit of, out of my experience working at the writing center at AUB, I can echo a lot of the concerns that Sahar has brought up. For example, we’re rethinking this perennial idea of the writing center that comes to us with so many assumptions, and then also to figure out what that might look like for us and at the same time try to meet the needs of our students. And have them leave the writing center feeling like that writing center is a space that they own, that they are comfortable with. It is not a space of judgment. It is not a space that brings in, measures that they do not identify with and that do not serve them. So, one of the greatest challenges of the writing center at AUB even though it’s been around for a while was really figuring out the best approaches that work for our students.

[00:22:30] And Sahar, also talking about, interdisciplinary efforts and bringing in tutors, you know, who are, from across disciplines, but who also speak various first languages. We had some tutors whose first language was Japanese, I think, who was tutoring in Arabic because they were a student of Arabic. And it was incredible to see these things happen at the writing center, but even more incredible to create the structures, the infrastructure that allows that to happen, to bring in the scholarship needed and to create the scholarship needed to create such infrastructures.

[00:23:03] Sahar Mari: Yes. I think you make such an important point about the scholarship. We are in desperate need of more scholarship of things that are happening in the region. And I know MENAWCA is doing a lot to just encourage this. In my case, with our administration, and it’s also might be because it’s an engineering school, they want data. When we ask for things like, okay, what are you backing up to ask for this? And then we are like, okay, well this is what they’re doing in the US but we are changing it because this model better fits our context. Sometimes that’s not good enough. So, having solid research from the region I think that would just be so beneficial not just for more season centers, but especially the ones that are just starting up and they’re trying to get their foot in.


[00:23:52] Noreen Lape: This is Noreen Lape. Just wanted to let you know about the special issue of WLN A Journal of Writing Center Scholarship that I co-edited with my colleague, John Katunich. The special issue focuses on the lessons learned during these pandemic years about writing writers, writing centers, and writing tutoring. We’d love for you to check it out. To do so, please subscribe to WLN at wlnjournal. org.

Part 3

[00:24:25] Weijia Li: I’m gonna turn back to Emma. Earlier you mentioned the movement that the term trans-lingualism entails. I would like to focus on another kind of movement of languages facilitated by technology and especially the Internet. So in your article Rewriting the Middle East, you have a line “Combining this rich but divergent sociolinguistic landscape with the current affordances of digital technologies leads to the innovation of creative writing spaces that are conducive to the materialization of linguistic borders at individual communal and national levels”. Can you tell us what you mean and also provide us with some examples of this reterritorialization?

[00:25:15] Emma Moghabghab: Sure. this is a point that I, I really enjoy talking about in my article. Essentially composition has reached a point where almost all writing or all communication involves some measure of digitality. So we need to co-opt the potential of digital media and its technologies. Complex and competing demands are involved in the process of composing and not just any kind of composition, but composing in this rich and divergent ecology that is the Middle East and the Middle Eastern writing classroom. So the combination of, digital media and technology on the one hand, and then, composing practices that make use of its affordances, in the shape of, for example, multimodal digital writing projects and, in the shape of social media expression of public rhetoric, of public performance of rhetoric, will allow our students who are multilingual to use these tools and practices to foster a critical understanding.

[00:26:10] So today when I can use Reddit, for example, to facilitate my classrooms discussion as opposed to a closed format, I have effectively moved my classroom from Beirut, Lebanon to the open spaces of the internet. Now, what does composition look like on Reddit? What does the conversation look like there? What is a successful argument? you know, on Reddit, what is upvoting? Down voting? Are bots involved in this conversation? Are they changing the meaning that our students are attempting to create? What happens if they mix Arabic with French, with English in that argument?

[00:26:43] So these writing spaces have now become open spaces for both my students and myself where I can engage and they can engage with the contradictions and the ruptures and the messiness of multi-layered identities. This messiness arises from the plurality that we’ve been talking about and what we’ve been handed down in the form of the legacy of colonialism. This kind of engagement is what prompted me to consider the idea of reterritorialization, because now we’re marking new territory that allows free flow of discussion of ideas of language that transcends national borders. And so if we’re gonna talk about it at the three levels, we’re talking about the individual level where one person is in relation with a community. But also communal level, for example, opening the conversation up online, encouraging collaboration, team composing practices and, co-writing practices that are going to become more essential moving forward . And the national level, with international communities, whether regional or otherwise.

[00:27:40] So, reterritorialization, it is a mouthful, involves, this two-fold movement from critical pedagogy on the one hand, facilitated by the instructor, by the researcher to critical practice that is enacted by the students. And then the form of public rhetoric: the multiple ideological and material barriers change. They are more flexible to facilitate and multiply access, composition, and finally, most importantly, circulation. One example is our meeting today. When that is posted online, then it’s gonna be recirculated across the discipline, across the community, and then other people are gonna recirculate it in different circles and so on and so forth.

[00:28:19] So to bring that kind of moment into the classroom is also essential in, opening up the borders, the boundaries of the classroom space.

Rachel Buck: I love this idea of changing the borders and bringing like the classroom outside of academia . It’s something that students are really thriving in. But also we throw around the term the digital natives, right?

[00:28:41] I’m not a Luddite, but I am certainly not a digital native. and I know students teach me a lot. And I think my own insight is that you don’t have to be particularly tech savvy as an instructor to do that ’cause the students are the ones who are tech savvy. Everybody as an instructor can bring what students are doing outside of the classroom and bring it into the classroom as a way to interrogate it. A student just did a really interesting paper on, anonymous Instagram posts and how uncomfortable that can make female students on campus feel. And like it led into such an interesting discussion in class about that kind of language, the effect that it has on students on campus. If we can make the classroom space a way to interrogate the language and the power structures at play, I think that can be, very rewarding for all the students.

[00:29:35] Esther Namubiru: Rachel, what I hear you saying here is really resonating with me on two levels. Sometimes I tend to swing more to one or the other end. So let’s bring in all these genres and then analyze them, but we don’t work with them in the class necessarily, which is a different kind of learning and writing.

[00:29:53] Or let’s write with them and let’s get, really get excited with public writing, but then we don’t analyze it and how our, writing identities and our other identities are impacted and impacting these genres as we’re working with them. So I love that there is that critical analytical aspect to it as well as a repurposing and rewriting of it.

[00:30:18] Rachel Buck: Well, you’ve hit, I think, Esther, on one of the challenges of those who are really interested in genre studies. This idea of analyzing a genre but then producing something. And this is something I’ve worked on with, Chris Tardy and a team at the University of Arizona. So even in that example that I just gave the student was analyzing the genres, but I didn’t ask them in the final paper to write an Instagram response to it, right?

[00:30:45] That that could have been the next step. But you think, oh, I’ve got 15 weeks and, and instructors always have to make these really difficult choices. but I’m glad that you at least hit on one of those complexities in teaching genre. Yeah, go ahead, Sahar.

[00:30:59] Sahar Mari: So in my current position as the multimedia consultant in our center, I’m so fortunate to support our students in these projects because they are so delightful and so fun for me. And I think our center in that end is really at the forefront of things because we are able to support faculty, in these projects. I’ll give a couple of examples where our English 104 class instructors ask students to put together e-portfolios. The instructor might not know how to put a website together, but we get invited into the classroom. We do a little workshop, we get students set up with some of the basics, and then, they circle back to us and we get to help them a little bit on the technical end. But then also have these great conversations, analyzing the genre.

[00:31:48] And my professional background is in graphic design. And when students come and ask me about visual rhetoric, that’s, that’s like, oh yes, come, let’s sit down. Let’s talk about color theory. Let’s talk about how this font is impacting this advertisement. let’s look at this Instagram post. What are they really trying to communicate? What are they doing in regards to photography? This is so much fun. And like our institution, the students have to go beyond. They don’t just analyze. They are asked to create, so we help them with some of their podcasts. Again, it’s not as fancy as this one, but it at least gives them some exposure and they get to kind of play in the sandbox and figure things out.

[00:32:32] Anna Habib: As Esther and Rachel were saying earlier, multimodal composition and public rhetorics are the media through which they can be thinking about that dynamic between language and power and critically examining it and then produce it and then critically look at their production. We’re talking about language identity and language practices, but then we’re also talking about language as an instrument of power. So I’m just wondering is there a bridge, between those two, that you could just help our listeners work through?

[00:33:06] Emma Moghabghab: Absolutely. it’s great that you broke this down, especially when you’re talking about language, in relation to identity and practice, and power.

[00:33:14] It’s easy to be taken away by language in its most basic forms French, Arabic, English. However, when we think about media as a form of language, and then we think about multiple modalities as an expression and a practice of language, it becomes easier for our students to envision how these are connected.

[00:33:32] And I think they are connected for us, maybe, but for our students who will walk into the classroom thinking, I will leave this composition classroom, you know, writing the best paper ever and then they’ll say, oh, I have weaknesses in my language. But that’s not what language is, right? So reterritorialization involves questioning the boundaries of language and then by extension, because of language’s association with power, ideology, all of these other constructs, it becomes an extension for our students, for our learners to do so as well. So the, the connection here is that at the end of the day, we are shifting things. There is movement. And as long as there is movement, then there is room for, for movement forward.

[00:34:15] Now, power and language: when you think of power, we think about rhetoric’s historical association with the practice of this position which means the arrangement of. I feel like the practice and teaching of rhetoric is about tuning our students into that dispositive. It is about clueing them into how their practice of composition allows them to participate in that movement and then innovate movements themselves.

Anna Habib: It’s a smart idea to get students to engage, as Rachel was saying, as Sahar was saying, like, and you were saying in into these this activity of criticality through multimedia and public rhetorics because that’s an accessible entry point for them.

[00:34:57] Emma Moghabghab: This makes me think of the example, of a bilingual Wikipedia editing project which came out of AUB. it started in 2019 as a first year composition classroom end of semester assessment, which basically involved breaking down multiple composing stages from the topic to a complete wiki page.

[00:35:17] Okay. So it involves creating articles about Arab writers and poets who had minimal presence online. Now, when, when all participants in this project were creating these new resources that they were then putting out there in the public space. They were first asking why weren’t they there in the first place? In what language would they have the most reach? How will they make sure that X person or that poet, or that writer, or that, you know, that Arabic or Arab phenomenon, existed? How can I best put them up there on Wikipedia and then how will I work with the constraints of this medium to make the best out of it?

[00:35:55] So those who are involved in the project bridge this cultural gap in Arab representation on Wikipedia and immerse themselves in the practical rhetorical dimensions of composition. So this project is this example of reterritorialization in a sense that not only does it contribute to the creation of open access resources about the region in the region using regional voices, but harnesses the powers and the impact of Wikipedia.

Part 4

[00:36:21] Esther Namubiru: So, we are in the final segment of this conversation. Rachel, you are the co-editor of the Writing Spaces Volume seven, which aims to add a global dimension to the previous editions. So we are wondering if you might share a little bit about the contributions that have come up and, how those, submissions tell us about the kind of efforts that are happening in the writing studies space in MENA region.

[00:37:02] Rachel Buck: Thank you Esther. We are still accepting calls. I would really love to receive many more. A little bit about the impetus for this. I’ve been using Writing Spaces in my classes for years, and when I came over to AUS, I still wanted to use it, but I found that a lot of the conversations in the book, didn’t quite apply to my students. For example, a chapter on racism, will talk about race relations in America. And the examples that are given were not relatable to my students. Sometimes they were relatable, but only because my students watched Western TV shows. And so I wanted to take the volumes that are so useful for a lot of students in the States and bring in global voices so that students are able to see their own voices and experiences in, in the chapters. and so we came up with this call. And you’re writing this chapter to a student audience. We get these amazing abstracts, but they’re still talking to other academics. And I think that this is another lingering effect of colonialism, how research is so valued, but teaching is undervalued. And I think this is an issue, that many struggle with globally. So I’m going to encourage any of our listeners who have not submitted to submit, a chapter that presents an idea or some challenge that you see in your classroom, and then writing a chapter to those specific students to help them overcome whatever challenge you are seeing.

[00:38:48] Esther Namubiru: Rachel. When is the call due?

[00:38:51] Rachel Buck: It goes until the 31st of December. So there’s still a couple weeks left.

[00:38:56] Esther Namubiru: Okay. This interview is not gonna be released until the spring that’s totally okay because we can still make sure that there is an announcement on our blog about it,

[00:39:04] Rachel Buck: maybe we’ll, extend the due date so that we can get more.

[00:39:08] Esther Namubiru: because I’m sure there are a few people that are saying, please do that. Please do that..

[00:39:12] Rachel Buck: Yeah, please. I hope so. We might have to extend the call even later. So it is very possible that in March when this goes out, that we will still be accepting calls.

[00:39:23] Anna Habib: Rachel, are you finding that you’re getting global perspectives?

[00:39:27] Rachel Buck: There have been some from, let’s see, Algeria.

[00:39:31] Anna Habib: Mm-hmm.

[00:39:31] Rachel Buck: Saudi Arabia, none yet from the UAE. , Malaysia, the Philippines. Mm-hmm. China, South Korea.

[00:39:40] Anna Habib: Nice.

[00:39:41] Weijia Li: Sahar, in your role as president of, MENA Writing Center Alliance, and also recently, you and a few others, published your piece Connecting MENA Writing Centers Through Data on our blog. What, in light of today’s question, are you observing about writing centers in the region?

[00:40:00] Sahar Mari: So I’m so happy that you bring up, our recently published blog post on Connecting MENA Writing Centers through Data. We are looking for more writing centers to please fill out the survey and for whoever has some extra time to spare jump on a Zoom call with us for a quick interview. Eventually our goal is to, analyze the data and make it publicly accessible for everybody through our website.

[00:40:28] Anna Habib: Sahar, we will link to that blog article, but can you just very briefly tell us about that project?

[00:40:34] Sahar Mari: Sure. Thank you for asking, Anna. Back in 2019, during our last in-person MENAWCA conference, Dr. Amy Hodges was leading a session regarding research in the MENA region, and through one of the conversations, we all realized that there’s this need for more research. Following the session, we got together and established a small research group, led by Amy. If you don’t know Amy, we call her amazing Amy, because that’s just who she is. She was the driving force and we got together, applied for an IWCA grant, to get this research going. Now, what is this research about?

[00:41:21] We are trying to gather more quantitative data about all the writing centers in the region. As MENAWCA, we’ve been keeping track of a couple of writing centers in the region, through participation in our events in our conference. But we are hoping to cast a wider net to collect demographic data, data regarding administration, funding, reporting lines, any information that would be useful for centers in the region translated into Arabic to make sure that we’re accessible. And, so far, if I’m not completely wrong, we’ve gathered about 30 entries from a couple of different countries.

[00:42:05] One of the challenges in regards to our data collection was the terminology that’s being used within the region. So we had some struggles when we translated different terminology. For example, we refer to tutees or clients or, and how does that terminology translate into Arabic? , even words such as provost, like this terminology is very US based. But then coming, looking at the region, we don’t actually have provost for these universities. So we definitely wanna kind of close this gap, but our main purpose is to make, to make this an a resource for writing centers. You wanna establish a new writing center, you need some data about, oh, how many writing centers are in the region? how much are people compensated at those centers?

[00:42:56] And I’m going to say that is a very big range, especially given, given the situation of the Middle East and North Africa and the economic situations of each of the countries. And what do you consider fair compensation? Are tutors at your institution compensated? for some institutions, they’re actually, it’s, they’re volunteers.

[00:43:19] You’re looking for something that will be your first stopping point before you actually look at some of the, pedagogy or best practices. We have this local contextual database here.

[00:43:32] Anna Habib: Emma, we did start with your article, so we just felt it was only appropriate to close with it as well. in your article, you conclude that quote, “relying on decolonizing critical pedagogies, the promises of post-digital, rhetorical, translanguaging, and the proliferation of professional and scholarly ties, teachers and researchers of writing in the region continue to challenge constraints and develop models that expand the discipline and layer it with their institutional and cultural frameworks. Taking the larger attentions and characteristics of the region into consideration, writing scholarship in the Middle East complicates assumptions and renegotiates western paradigms as it revisits, encounters and engages complex colonial and linguistic histories and political and sociocultural realities.”

[00:44:30] So what are some of the material, local and regional challenges to this work, to this renegotiation of the Western paradigm? So we’ll start with Emma and then we’ll turn to Rachel and then Sahar.

[00:44:44] Emma Moghabghab: You mentioned in the quote, a primary condition for renegotiating the paradigm is revisiting that paradigm, encountering it, engaging it and its histories and its realities. And only then can its assumptions be com complicated and critically encountered and renegotiated in the classroom. And at the level of writing instruction at the level of composition practices this is tantamount to taking on the power of history. You know, resistance fueled by lack of knowledge, lack of access to knowledge, lack of access to resources is a real obstacle that many writing researchers and teachers of writing in the Middle East, face. Lack of circulation also represent a significant impediment, to the creation, production and distribution of locally sourced knowledge and the proliferation of innovative projects that might face material restrictions like funding, like, like a real direct resistance to the creation and distribution.

[00:45:36] So, there’s a real need for advanced programs in rhetoric and composition more broadly. these programs will, not only foster teacher training, but also the reimaginings of writing studies, and they will have a clear focus on regional needs, particularities, opportunities, as well as on the discipline at large. And then, we will create and participate in more individual, groups, who are, knowledgeable to engage with these questions. Rachel and Sahar would have wonderful insights to add.

[00:46:03] Rachel Buck: Nice. Thanks Emma. I think that some of the challenges stem from administrators not really understanding why writing needs to be taught the way that it does and that writing studies is actually a discipline. In the Middle East, money rules. It’s all about the funding and, and it’s hard to get quantitative data like Sahar is mentioning because writing is not by nature quantitative. So when we’re trying to talk to administrators and explain things and they want numbers and we can’t really give the data that they want, we have to figure out how to make writing important in the conversation from their point of view. So I think there are some institutional changes that need to happen at a lot of universities in the Middle East so that writing is a valued discipline and that writing teachers and their expertise is also valued.

[00:47:00] Sahar Mari: MENAWCA is trying really, really hard with some of our online open discussions to make writing center, discussions available across the region. The pandemic showed us we can do this. And it’s been so wonderful to be able to connect with people, across the Middle East region, but also North Africa and even South Africa, and we’ve been able to kind of foster those relationships. Our next conference in February is a hybrid conference where we invite people from the region. We wanna connect with others, build those relationships, build that sense of community across those borders. But we also wanna make it accessible for people who cannot, afford it or don’t have the institutional support to come and join us in Qatar for our next conference.

[00:47:51] Anna Habib: We really appreciate your time,and insights, and, we hope that we stay connected, and keep working together. Thank you so much.

[00:47:58] Emma Moghabghab: Thank you so much, Anna. Thank you, Esther. Thank you, Weijia . This has been such an amazing conversation.

[00:48:04] Esther Namubiru: That’s it for today’s episode. We’d like to thank Emmanuel Mubiru for providing us our theme song and podcastco for providing us the songs Top Hop and Raining Again. If you’d like to learn more about this episode or any of the episodes in Slow Agency, please visit our website at

The “Slow Agency” Podcast

Created and hosted by your CWCAB editors, the goal of this podcast is to open up time and space in this productivity-saturated culture to slow down and dialogue with leading thinkers and practitioners in writing studies worldwide. The title of the podcast is inspired by Micciche, L. (2011) For slow agency. Journal of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, 35 (1), 73-90. Our inaugural episode features WLN’s journal editors whose wisdom and hard work make this journal and the blog possible.

Follow us on Twitter