The Center for Writing Studies

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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Colloquium Archive

Amy Wan

Name: Amy Wan, English Department

Presentation Title: "Producing Good Citizens: Literacy and Citizenship Training in Anxious Times"

Date: Feburary 3, 2005


The idea of citizenship has been a central part of the field of writing studies but remains relatively uninterrogated and unhistoricized. I contend that the concept of citizenship in the field of writing studies has been limited to particular kinds of citizen participation and subsequent solutions (participation in the public sphere; letter-to-the-editor assignments; critical pedagogy). Considering citizenship historically and theoretically can help us see how the connection between the field of writing studies and citizenship is being drawn and understand why our current discussions often conceive of citizenship as a one-dimensional, static entity. To that end, I examine citizenship training and teaching documents in concert with immigration and naturalization laws during the transition into a mass-production economy in the United States. By focusing on government documents and training manuals, such as the 1918 Student's Textbook and the 1924 Federal Textbook on Citizenship Training, my study offers one way to understand how literacy has played a role in the acquisition of citizenship.