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Walker Gibson Lecture: ‘Crucibles of Difference’


headshot of Eric Darnell Pritchard
Eric Darnell Pritchard

“‘Crucibles of Difference’: Community Literacies, Black Queer Feminisms, and Activist-Rhetorical Education, 1974-1990”

Employing Black queer feminisms and literacy and rhetorical theory, this presentation provides a new critical genealogy for the work of community literacies that ruptures historiographies of 1970s and 1980s literacy activism, which have tended to overlook the rhetorical labor of numerous queer of color activist organizations and collectives. These groups created unique forms of intervention steeped in queer of color history, culture, and experiences. Traversing methodologies of archival research, oral histories, and close readings of queer of color cultural activism (literature, film, photography, theater), this presentation—centered on the work of two trailblazing late 20th century activist collectives—explores the community literacies work central to their rhetorical activism.

Sites of analysis, centered on the role of everyday literacy performances, range from the day-to-day administrative responsibilities of organizing, to the forms of cultural production through which these activists made their interventions and articulated their visions of “liberty and justice for all.” Through this analysis I aim to document, disseminate, celebrate and make plain the impact 20th century queer of color community literacies and rhetorical activism has had from the streets and in public policy, to formal and informal education today. 

Speaker bio:
Eric Darnell Pritchard is an Associate Professor of English and a 2016-2018 Criticism and Interpretive Theory Fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Pritchard’s research focuses on the intersections of race, queerness, sexuality, gender and class with historical and contemporary literacy and rhetorical practices, as well as fashion, beauty, and popular culture. His first book, Fashioning Lives: Black Queers and the Politics of Literacy (Southern Illinois University Press, December 2016), has received three book awards: the inaugural Outstanding Book Award from the Conference on Community Writing (CCW), and the 2018 Advancement of Knowledge Award, as well as the 2018 Lavender Rhetorics Book Award from the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC). 

Sponsored by
UMass Amherst English Department
UMass Amherst Writing Program