Dr. Christine Denecker Presents Keynote at 2018 21st Century Englishes
Interview with Dr. Christine Denecker, 21st Century Englishes Keynote Speaker
Dr. Christine Denecker was the keynote speaker at the 2018 21st Century Englishes graduate student conference, held at Bowling Green State University on November 10. Dr. Denecker kindly agreed to a short interview on her work on the Ohio Farm Stories project and how it relates to this year’s conference theme of Culture, Community and Change. Dr. Denecker’s interview responses have been lightly edited.
What is the Ohio Farm Stories project? How did it begin?
Ohio Farm Stories is an on-going campus-community collaboration between The University of Findlay (UF) and The Hancock Historical Museum (HHM), which began in Fall 2013 with a grant from the Ohio Humanities Council. The goal is to trace the evolution of farming in Hancock County and to preserve, as well as honor, the great history of farming in the County. Integral to these narratives are emergent themes of how farming practices and values have evolved to meet societal demands in the past century. Sarah Sisser, Director of the HHM, and I have spent the past several years traveling to Hancock County farms and speaking with their owners in order to build a video archive that traces the evolution of agriculture in Northwest Ohio over the past century. In 2016, Dr. Megan Adams, assistant professor of communication at UF joined that team to provide additional story-gathering and technological expertise. Nine farmers and their families have participated in this digital storytelling project since its inception. We plan to gather the stories of three more farm families in 2018-19.
What is your approach to collaboration within this project?
Ours is a feminist rhetorical approach, and we lean heavily on the work of [Gesa] Kirsch and [Jacqueline Jones] Royster—specifically their feminist rhetorical practices inquiry framework, which includes critical imagination, strategic contemplation, and social circulation. We also rely on the idea of montage within narrative. We see the importance of building relationships with the farmers who participate in the project, and we consider them to be co-investigators. This is done through the "visits" we have with each farmer (and farm family) prior to doing any recording. We also strive to let the farmers tell their stories—we don't lead with set of questions; there is no "agenda" to our recording of their stories. Instead, we truly just want to provide a space in which the farmers can make their work public—a space where their work can be recognized and honored.
How are the stories shared publicly and to scholarly audiences?
Since our approach is pretty organic in the story-gathering phase, we tend to end up with hours upon hours of video. We comb through that footage and code the stories in order to determine themes. Once we have sets of themes—and video that is coded and time-stamped—we begin organizing the video clips into montages that represent each theme. Most of the montages are in the 5 minute range and provide a panoply of the farmers' voices. We have held two public lectures at UF where we shared the montages with the community. In addition, we have presented at meetings of local groups: Lions' Club, Eagle Creek Historical Society, etc. In 2017, Sarah and I wrote an article on the project for Pathways magazine (published by Ohio Humanities). Beyond that, I have presented the topic at CCCCs and Feminisms and Rhetorics. Sarah and I co-authored a chapter in Composing Feminist Interventions and I am currently revising another book chapter—this one has been accepted for an edited collection entitled, Cultivating Spheres.
What has the response been like?
The response has been extremely positive. The farmers have been supportive of and happy with the work. The Ohio Humanities Council has provided us with additional grant monies and guidance for next steps in the project, which include finding a way to build the digital archive we have always dreamed of having—think DALN but for farmers!
What other projects are you working on?
I am busy working on a book proposal about Dual Enrollment [DE] and its impact on composition studies; this is a collaboration with my friend, Casie Moreland, who teaches at Western Oregon University. Casie and I both completed dissertations on dual enrollment and the composition classroom; we lead the DE SIG at CCCCs, run a DEComp listserv, and have hosted a CCCCs workshop on DE. We both present frequently on the topic.
What are your thoughts on the relationship between your own work and the conference theme of Culture, Community, and Change?
The simple fact is that I see such a tight fit between my work and the theme of this conference. All the work I do—from Ohio Farm Stories, to Dual Enrollment, to the teaching and mentoring professional development activities I lead—all come back to community, culture, and change. First is the importance of building, sustaining, and honoring community. Our work as fellow humans in supporting, challenging, and listening to one another has to root any of our scholarly or teaching endeavors. Our culture hinges on our community. There's a symbiotic relationship there as a community shapes the culture in which it exists and a culture can grow or limit a community. Change is a must—without change—without the breaking of the seed for new growth—things die, become stagnant, rot. What's great about rhetoric is that it provides insight and tools for analysis, as well as tools for understanding and precipitating that change. Rhetoric—and by extension, writing studies—has always been about Culture, Community, and Change. We are certainly seeing/living that tension in bold, magnified ways right now.
I am excited and honored to have the opportunity to participate in and speak at this year's conference. Most importantly, I'm anxious to learn from the good work that's being done by so many young, emerging scholars in the field!
About Christine Denecker: She is Professor of English and Director of the Center for Teaching and Program Excellence at the University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio. She has contributed book chapters to collections such as Stories that Speak to Us, Composing Feminist Interventions, Academic Writing: Individual and Collaborative Strategies for Success, and Best Practices in Writing Assignment Design. Her work has also appeared in Computers and Composition: Online, The Writing Instructor, Composition Studies, and The Journal of Faculty Development. Denecker serves on the editorial board for The Journal for Undergraduate Multimedia Projects (TheJUMP+), presents frequently for the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), and serves on the board of directors for the Ohio Alliance of Dual Enrollment Partnerships (OADEP).