Stephanie West-Puckett

writing, teaching, studying new media and digital rhetorics


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Contingency As Possibility

Considering the Contributions of Off-Track and Off-Model Work in Composition

As a fixed-term faculty member teaching writing and taking classes in the Technical and Professional Discourse PhD program in our department, I am mindful of the in-betweeness and liminal nature of my work and my research in composition.  My history and my title situates me as a contingent faculty member but my study in the PhD program and emerging understanding of the field of composition as a discipline is, for me, calling into question the narratives that define the field.  Thus, I’ve become interested in situating contingent faculty narratives about the work we do and the ways that work is valued and de-valued in our department and in our university.

Because of increasing first-year student enrollment and unfilled tenure lines, my colleague and co-resarcher Jenn Sisk and I have been employed by the same university, teaching writing for a combined 15 years, which seems more of a surety than a provisionality.  In this context, it seems more appropriate to explore other definitions of contingency that speak not only to the notion of chance—an event that may occur but is not likely or intended– but also to possibility.  Contingency as possibility enables us to consider the unique or invisible contributions that non-tenure track, adjunct, and part-time faculty can and do make to the field.  In seeking to document and understand these constructions of professionalism, we think that our work could chart new territory on Zebroski’s map, spaces for acknowledging the work that is being done by contingent faculty, and could offer additional possibilities for contingent faculty who are seeking a way of connecting or re-connecting with their colleagues.

We are excited to share our project with you and look forward to your feedback.  As you think with us about our research, what comments, questions, or suggestions do you have?  What should we be thinking about or considering?  What surprises, bothers, frustrates, or excites you about this work?  Please take a few minutes to tell us what you think!  Contingency as Possibility Slideshow