Course Description

Writing and Social Justice

What does it take to move the world, to change opinion, to make progress toward social justice? In this course, we’ll take a look at and practice using the strategies social activists use in documents that further the causes of social justice. The central aim of the course is to identify an audience (or audiences) that can help you further the cause of social justice in your local context, to create the document (or documents) that you think will persuade that audience to help, and to justify your choices by describing them in terms of the concepts provided in the course readings.

We intend for the term “social activists” to be broadly defined; it includes not just leaders of organizations like Black Lives Matter or the Women’s March, but also leaders of local social service, civic, and religious institutions. You’ll need to identify an organization that you want to learn more about (it can be an organization to which you already belong), identify the key players of the organization, determine the agency’s rhetorical needs through observation, interview, and research, and then craft a message to audiences that are in a position to make a difference for your agency.

The course is arranged in a series of six steps:

  • Identify a local issue that interests you or has had an impact on you or your family.
  • Identify an organization in your community (broadly defined) that aims to address these social issues
  • Observe the workings of the agency by spending time in the main office or attending a meeting
  • Interview some of the agency’s program leaders and members to better ascertain their goals and needs
  • Create an archive of materials
  • Address one of the agency’s needs by finding an audience that is in a position to help your agency and creating a document–written, image, video, or something else–that will influence your audience. Whatever document(s) you create, you’ll create a secondary document that describes the rhetorical choices you made and that will use the course readings as a justification for those choices.

Please note: this class will take place in a technology rich environment. You don’t any equipment of your own (though it’d be useful to have a cell phone camera), and you don’t have to know anything about how to use the equipment, but you should know that part of the course will be figuring out how to use digital tools for academic purposes. Some of your work will be published on the web (with instructions for how to maintain your privacy).