CFP: Civic Engagement in Global Contexts

CFP for Edited Collection

Civic Engagement in Global Contexts: International Education, Community Partnerships, and Higher Education Eds. Jim Bowman and Jennifer deWinter

Project Overview

In recent decades, many US colleges and universities have embarked on ambitious projects abroad in an effort to enhance their work in an increasingly globalized world. These efforts are fueled by both idealist and pragmatic motives. Some institutions seek to develop a global brand that brings prestige and perhaps even a pipeline of international students to the U.S. (Toma, 2009; Pon and Ritchie, 2014). Others seek to immerse students in diverse cultural contexts and thus realize college-wide learning goals pertaining to global awareness (Hovland, 2005; Starr-Glass, 2010). Yet others develop initiatives that afford students and faculty opportunities to practice civic engagement on a global scale (Bringle, Hatcher, and Jones, 2011; McIlrath and MacLabhrainn, 2007). Examples of such efforts include the development of satellite campuses in foreign countries; collaborative projects between schools in the US and abroad to address local and global challenges; writing projects embedded within foreign study; and so forth.

In almost all of these efforts, writing and literacy practices remain crucial to the efficacy and ethics of the projects. Thus, writing programs and service learning programs are particularly well-positioned to contribute meaningfully to global civic engagement in higher education. A small body of emerging scholarship has begun to examine this work more closely (Thaiss, Bräuer, Carlino, Ganobcsik-Williams, and Sinha, 2012; Castelló and Donahue, 2012; Martins, 2015). However, the complexities of this work remain under-theorized in a number of important ways. For example, civic engagement is often tied with US neoliberal attitudes toward democratic ideologies: to engage in service learning, for example, is to become aware of ourselves as members of a democratic society that is often locally and globally defined. However, this looks and acts fundamentally different in countries and societies, especially those with fundamentally different socio-political systems.

This collection examines the role of writing, rhetoric, and literacy programs and approaches in the practice of civic engagement in global contexts. Writing programs and literacy programs have experience in civic engagement and service learning projects in their local communities and their work is central to developing students’ literacy practices. Further, these programs compel student writers to attend to audience needs and rhetorical exigencies as well as reflect on their own subject positions. Thus, they are particularly well-positioned to partner with other units on college campuses engaged in global partnerships. With this in mind, we invite scholars who work in international civic engagement and service learning to consider the following questions:

Socio-Political Differences and Concerns for Civic Engagement Pedagogy

  • What does service learning or community literacy look like in non-US situations and what are the reasons for this difference?
  • What do theories of rhetoric, literacy, and composition play as a tool for critiques, self-awareness, and social action or in responding to particular challenges?
  • What type of civic engagement is possible in different cultural and political contexts?
  • Is service learning and civic engagement possible in non-US political systems (such as totalitarian regimes)? If so, what does this look like? What’s at stake? What are the specific considerations of this approach in a non-neoliberal political structure?


  • What are models of service learning and civic engagement partnerships in transnational contexts?
  • What does reciprocity look like in transnational higher education partnerships with very different political economies social and political systems?
  • What learning outcomes for students are realistic in light of asymmetrical relationships of power? What learning outcomes are realistic and work against tropes of the savior complex? How can instructors and/or programs work against this and still leave the students feeling like they can be meaningful actors?

Administrative / Curricular

  • What might be the role of writing and writing programs in satellite campuses abroad?
  • What is the role of writing and writing programs in foreign study, as well as in faculty-driven research and curricular projects?
  • What are the affordances (both barriers and obstacles as well as opportunities) to creating and sustaining these types of programs?
  • What types of synergy can be created between writing programs and other campus programs--civic engagement and service learning programs, foreign study, WAC and WID, and so forth--to foster effective, sustainable global engagement?

The above is not an exhaustive list; however, the questions point to the power that politics, culture, partnerships, institutions, and individuals have in affecting civic engagement and service learning in international contexts.

If you are interested in contributing to this collection, please send queries or submit a 300-500 word abstract by January 15th, 2016 to either Jim Bowman at<> or Jennifer deWinter at<>. Final drafts are due August 30th, 2016.