Beyond Tutoring: Mapping The Invisible Landscape of Writing Center Work
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In their call for papers for this special issue of Praxis, the editors speculate that most writing centers assume various roles beyond those implied by the triage model of fix-it consultations. We agree. As the call suggests, writing centers have long sought to “carve out a broader purview” for themselves—to extend writing center efforts both beyond the center’s physical space and beyond enduring writing center master narratives about the primacy of individual instruction. Still, much of the writing center’s extra curriculum, or what we call here non-tutoring work, remains hidden: for example, writing center scholarship provides anecdotal evidence of writing centers’ work with faculty, but the scholarship rarely tells us just how prevalent such efforts are across the board or what other kinds of non-tutoring work we are engaged in. To borrow from the field of landscape architecture, what our field lacks is an aerial—and ultimately generative—vision of our non-tutoring activities, one that would “reveal aspects of the landscape that are invisible from the ground and offer an alternative to pictorial [read “local”] practices so common in landscape representation” (Czerniak 111). There are consequences to invisibility. We cannot theorize what we cannot see, although theories are always already there, shaping our identities and practices in ways that might or might not be acceptable to us if only we could see and name their contours. Viewing the writing center landscape from a different vantage point, then, gives us much more than an updated map: it challenges us to re-theorize who we are and what makes our work valuable.