Ethnographies of Ac.Writing

Paul’s reflections on this conference experience will follow shortly but for now here is his word resource for his contribution on the day.

I was lucky enough to go to the “Ethnographies of Academic Writing” day conference at the OU last month – it was a bit of an adventure, all told, what with a late start on the motorway, driving the wrong way for about six junctions on the M1, then getting to the restaurant where the other Thursday arrivees were already eating just in time…not to mention “navigating” Milton Keynes and its roundabout system entirely by serendipity rather than by design.

The conference itself was excellent. It was a great experience to meet not only the Academic Literacies royalty, but also a number of keen and interesting research students. It may be that the second generation of AcLits writers were present; we’ll see, but for now, it was a big thing for me to listen to, and meet, the likes of Brian Street, Mary Lea, Theresa Lillis, and Janet Maybin. Lucia Thesen spoke by video link from South Africa, and even though she was a bit tinny and quiet through the equipment available, she had complete and respectful silence for her considered and dignified paper. Perhaps sometimes we don’t realise how lucky we are in the UK; issues around power in SA literacy studies seem to be a major consideration. All in all, I got the feeling of a tight-knit group of people who have known each other and worked together for some time, so the atmosphere was quite relaxed, good for us junior researchers.

Some of the substantive issues that came up have been addressed in the online graduate forum run by a couple of the OU PhD students. I won’t go into detail here, but some of the key points:
1. many of the participants were interested in taking up ethnography, even if this is not an obvious method for them given their background – to paraphrase Theresa Lillis’ subsequent audio summary of the day, perhaps more people are willing to take it on as a method rather than an epistemology;
2. the issue of ’style’, one of the conference key words, got sidetracked rather as the discussion stayed in a comfort zone (not many stylistics specialists present);
3. subsequently, the issue of practice and whether it is more conducive to transformative or conservative approaches is ongoing in the forum. I find this very interesting!

I hope I will get to attend next year’s iteration.