Introduction: Making Social Meanings in Contexts
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This introductory chapter delineates the basic premises underlying the inquiry that is currently carried out in a variety of fields on writing as sociocultural practice. Different arguments, terms, and methodologies that address writing as a socioculturally constructed and historically embedded communicative act have been formulated in different fields, including, among others, the genre literacy movement (in its various instantiations), various composition research strands on disciplinary writing, the post-Vygotskian sociocognitive research, the interactional sociolinguistics paradigm. While the chapters of this volume may draw in different ways from these traditions, all are united under the premise that writing should be seen as an inherently dialogic and a socially-situated process of making meanings through texts; written texts are not seen as neutral structures produced by autonomous writers but as units of social action conveying ideological meanings. According to this approach, then, learning to write is not simply a linguistic process but a sociocultural one, which requires that learners appropriate those meanings which are constituted in the communities (and the various contexts) within which learners operate and which they themselves construct. The emphasis of this volume is on school and academic contexts of writing across cultures. Analyses indicate how participants, full and novice members of their discourse learning communities, through their written texts, and composing acts, learn how to produce meanings by drawing upon community-valued resources, how they redefine them or, even, diverge from them. A group of chapters focuses on texts produced by student writers of different age groups, illustrating the ways by which students emerge, through their writing, as social actors, by engaging in dialogic negotiations with teachers, other members of the school community and with other texts (other “voices” in Bakhtin’s terms). A different group of chapters indicates how contexts around writing get co-constructed in various settings across communities and traces the processes that facilitate or hinder students’ appropriation of school and academic literacies.
Keywordsliteracy events activity types genres situated writing writing as sociocultural practice dialogism co-construction mediation contextualization sociolinguistic research sociocognitive research
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