“Name and place of Origin… Name and place of Origin?” the officer was lofty and seemed to love his work. I wished to reply “Yes Scythians we are, yes Asians we are,” but my body was much smaller then and my wit not as sure of itself. It was on that day I found out there is no “I” after the “D” in my name and that my place of origin was to be known as Odessa, Ukraine not USSR. I also learned the words “economic refugee” and found out that while my place of origin now had freedom, the price was hundreds of thousands of us economic refugees. Today there are such refugees, some economic, some fleeing something drastically worse, standing in consuls, docks or airports, maybe also figuring out the spelling of their names in the language of the Anglos, yet hesitant to identify their place of origin. This time because their final destination might be denied. The sizes and health of their bodies vary. Their thoughts and insights, mostly developed in other tongues, are now consumed by uncertainty, instability and terror.

There are also those who are not just arriving, those who have been here for a while, claimed their plot of land, mastered the local customs and brought trades of medicine, mathematics and craftsmanship. Nevertheless, under the vision of the new presidium they will all wait in uncertainty, instability and, possibly, terror. Different cries echo through the streets, some calling this appeasement for a duped and bloodthirsty constituency, some say this is a test run of sorts for a broader lockdown on those who believe a better life waits for them here. The courts bring up objections, the executive orders are modified, and the cries of “foundations of democracy” persist but those who are fleeing the uncertainty, instability and terror just wait. They wait behind barb wire fences, in lines spanning miles, under cover of the night or the bright scorching sun, under calm skies or under fire, they wait.

It was on that day, the day I learned my place of origin and waited for my destination that I really learned what it is to wait. I learned every crevice of the red and gray carpets in the consuls and immigration offices, I learned of the endless beige plastered across endless walls on endless hallways. I learned how to carefully listen for phrases in a foreign tongue, phrases like “young man” and “have you experienced any anti-Semitism” were directed at me and I had to respond. I also learned “coffee,” “ma’am,” “how long,” “status” and many other terms. I also learned to respond “no” if I ever get asked if I was a party member and to answer all questions simply and “succinctly,” although the meaning of that last one remained ambiguous to me. But most of all I learned to wait with no expectations, on the train from Odessa to Kiev, under the ceiling fan of the American embassy, back to Odessa, back to Kiev, at the Kiev airport, at this new destination, at immigration offices.

And so, for better or worse, we wait, with expectations undefined, under the cover of the same beige walls and ceiling fans, or worse. And even if they will not be sent back, as we were not, and walk out of the harbor onto the shores of the New World what face of the New World will they encounter? A New World of opportunities or diseases unattended, a New World of far reaching plains or dilapidated ghost towns, a New World of open doors and open ears or pitchforks and bayonets, a New World free of terror or of shootings at Black Baptist churches and bomb threats to Jewish Centers, uncertain, unstable and on the brink of terror.

Moving Beyond the Label of ‘Culture’: How Initial Studies of a Student’s Literary Constitution Can Contribute to Their Academic Success

The majority of present day composition studies primarily focus on individuals with explicit barriers preventing them from assimilating into the standard American academic mode of discourse. There is also an ample amount of studies produced on linguistic barriers of international students, recently arrived to the United States. A point where many pedagogues find themselves in a state of flux emerges with higher education students who are breaking past the linguistic, syntactic and grammatical barriers intrinsic to the English language yet are still unable to produce academic work that meets the requirements of standard American writing curricula. I was personally exposed at a recent conference to accounts of a writing instruction class made up of exchange students in their early twenties that had relatively easily climbed over their linguistic wall but encountered difficulties in seemingly minute tasks, selecting a topic for an essay, for example.

Some of the students that fit into this category will be ones that meet many of the conventional presuppositions of intelligence, sometimes to a great degree, whether in the humanities or the hard sciences. These students may be erudite on numerous amounts of subjects and will be able to articulate complex abstract concepts in conversation. They may even be able to assimilate into conventional American academic discourse for a brief time frame but then refer back to their old mode of writing. Their writing specimens sometimes create complex formal amalgamations, dancing around topics, showing comprehension but lacking some of the fundamental points required to be included in a student’s text; individual instead of collective voice, linear argumentation, argumentation period, an opinion on the matters covered etc. These dynamics can manifest themselves in numerous other ways and numerous writing scenarios. To understand how to avoid hitting such plateaus with international students, pedagogues must look deeper into the layered dynamics of enculturation that contribute to the literary history of a student who has had academic training outside of America and Western Europe. Pedagogues need to make an effort to get, at least, a basic understanding of this type of students’ personal literary constitution which can include exposure to materials in academia, self sponsored literacies, and the students’ perception of their own chances for assimilating the dominant mode of discourse.

There are several materials in composition studies that try to tackle the ‘cultural’ issues that arise in students attempting to assimilate to American academic writing. Writing centers around the country frequently watch a twenty five minute video titled Writing Across Borders. Also, composition courses frequently acknowledge the limits of the five paragraph essay along with the benefits of learning it. Nevertheless, the generic label of ‘cultural differences’ or something of the sort is often used as a blanket statement to describe, what could be, numerous instances of layers of enculturation creating barriers between the student and the requirements of the institution. A particular type of student, one that is often overlooked in academic research, is one who has already been exposed to a methodology of scholarship elsewhere; especially a region of the world where what defines academic writing is radically different from what defines it in America and Western Europe. To comprehend these numerous possible layers of enculturation we must look to several possible points when a student’s literary foundation can be formulated.

There is a broad consensus among specialists in the field of anthropology that, generally, all major components of enculturation, academics included, occur in the formative years of an individual. The presuppositions formed on a variety of topics from a person’s early twenties onward are difficult to reshape and the task of reshaping engrained conceptions of scholarship may be extremely laborious for a pedagogue. Anthropologist Melville Herskovits categorized enculturation as a ‘prime mechanism making for cultural stability’ in young people ‘while the process, as it operates on more mature folk, is highly important in inducing change.’ (Herskovits, 327) Herskovits emphasized that the ‘cultural stability’ engrained in an individual in early life may serve as a driving mechanism for numerous facets of one’s behavior and execution of tasks. Herskovits argued that later life enculturation only emerges out of a necessity of an individual to adapt to new situations, ‘for the adult enculturation has been completed except where new situations must be met.’ (Herskovits, 328) Enculturation past one’s early to mid twenties emerges in the context of adaptation and may generally represent a period of some (great or minor) difficulties, a transition of some sort. Herskovits has met some opposition on the specifics of identifying the process of enculturation, for example whether it is entirely beyond the control of the individual or not. But even opponents of Herskovits’s referring to processes of enculturation as “unconscious,” are in agreement with his findings on the period of great adjustment in later life to new paradigms of thoughts on fundamental subjects such as scholarship and discourse. (Shimahara, 1970)

There have been documented qualitative and quantitative studies done on more explicitly visible processes of enculturation, on students in particular. These more explicitly visible processes of enculturation can happen to individuals or entire populations, particularly after instances of incomparable cataclysm. Robert Lifton’s designation of ‘Protean Man’ as characteristic of a condition of urbanites in the post modern period has explicitly manifested itself in several cultures that have gone through a process of rampant westernization. Lifton characterizes ‘Protean Man’ by distinct processes of ‘psychohistorical dislocation’ and ‘flooding of imagery.’ (Lifton, 15) The latter, an abundance of mass media instantly available at the fingertips of the individual, complements the former, a parting of ways with a singular order engrained in a region. These traditions generally represent uniting factors that make up its population’s unity. Replacing this is a ‘self-process,’ according to Lifton, as he covers a chronicle of a Japanese student growing up in the 1950’s (during Japan’s rapid westernization) coming to study abroad in the United States, returning and being perceived by his peers as being overtly westernized.

As Lifton delves deeper, the student’s odyssey cannot simply be categorized as ‘westernization’ or later ‘de-westernization.’ Upon returning to Japan, the same student eventually re-discovers and becomes enthralled with various traditional Japanese customs and begins to view the ‘westernization’ of Japan as a process dictated from outside. The student meets several like-minded individuals who, upon their initial meeting espouse similar rhetoric of occupation but as he accepts an invitation by his new comrades to a large political gathering, he finds himself amongst Marxists and not nationalists. Subsequently, the student becomes a devoted communist for a few years but eventually finds he does not have the ability to endure constantly organizing and demonstrating. The student takes to alcohol, one-night affairs and other hedonistic pursuits and eventually finishes his studies at Tokyo University while indulging in these vices for the remainder of his final year. (Lifton, 15-27) Lifton punctuates that the student had grown up in a traditional Shingon family and his upbringing had very much resembled that of most children in pre-war Japan, a nation which chose to separate itself from the cultural inclinations of the west in the 16th-19th centuries. Upon Japan’s post-war reconstruction, with many facets of western culture being imposed upon the Japanese population, a mode of upbringing which was an essential component of the culture was replaced with Lifton’s ‘protean man,’ within the time frame of a single generation. Lifton’s chronicle of his subject represents an ideological evolution of a student whose understanding of the world is formulated by numerous excursions that defy categorizations of a single ‘culture.’

Along with issues of individual enculturation during the same period, issues of complexities in communal enculturation had also arisen. The process of, at least partial, enculturation during the same period of time in Japan was covered by David Riesman in Japanese classrooms within the much broader context of his sociological study The Lonely Crowd. Riesman found numerous curiosities during his observations of Japanese elementary school classrooms during the late 50’s/early 60’s. The most interesting of these observations occurred when Riesman observed the students responding to an assignment on individuality and freedom. Raised in a household where filial piety was encouraged and individualism equated to egoism, the students took this discussion, only recently emerging in Japanese classrooms, to be a valorization of egoism. After being instructed to write on what they perceived to be the encouragement of egotistical acts, the students wrote rationales for various modes of irresponsible behavior, including the freedom that came with forsaking every day responsibilities. Several students wrote about no longer having the need to abide by the guidelines of their elders and a few even discussed ending their studies and finishing with school altogether. (Riesman, 47) The entire community of the students, while not completely rejecting the new idiom, had still viewed it through a lens, at least partially, derived from their elders.

Although superficially, this was the period where Japan had assimilated a majority of ‘western values,’ the process in the field of academic writing  was met with some resistance based on pre-war understanding of concepts that Japanese society held on these new values being introduced into their modern day lexicon. These particular students were going through a westernized curriculum and were firmly part of what was at the time of the reconstruction referred to as the ‘emergentist’ generation (Shimahara, 1970). They were going through a degree of tension as their emerging conceptions were significantly opposed next to the values of the ‘traditionalist’ generation, yet they still viewed some of the western values discussed in the classroom with traditionalist presuppositions. The proposed topic of individualism was well received by the students but their conception of it had still been largely formulated by what they learned from preceding generations. (Shimahara, 1970) Even for young minds the process of enculturation can come with numerous hurdles, one of which can be resistance as well as remnants of conceptions formulated from preceding periods of enculturation. Even in the context of a large paradigm shift within a country, the process of enculturation is never unilaterally consumed by a population it always varies from region to region, school to school, student to student.

A student’s literary constitution is largely formulated by their exposure to texts. Roozen highlighted several parallels between ‘extracurricular writing… draw[ing] on school and non-school writing… “live, scripted, and embodied activities… outside the classroom: everything from spoken-word events and slam-poetry competitions to live radio broadcasts, public speaking, and theatrical presentations” and (students’) growth as academic writers.’ (Roozen, 2008) One of the key elements in those parallels was in fact how the students not only produced the texts Roozen mentioned but also consumed them.  A lot of the broadcasts and presentations described were also observed by other students within the social circle. Those students who observed, in return went on to produce new texts themselves. In another article Roozen lamented how ‘while a handful of studies do offer glimpses of basic writers’ literate lives outside of school… tended to understand self-sponsored… and school-sponsored literacies as separate streams of literate activity.’ (Roozen, 2012)  In his 2008 report, Roozen elaborates on a study he himself conducted in relation to a student of his own, Charles, and how Charles’s produced and consumed texts managed to heavily influence his academic writing. Roozen once again points out the interrelation of a students’ exposure to texts influencing their own textual productions. ‘I hope this picture of literacy as intermingled networks of literate activity, of literate development as a function of a full range of experiences with written and spoken language, reminds us how important it is in human terms to look at the whole person.’ (Roozen, 2008) It is important to note that Roozen’s article focuses primarily on self-sponsored literacies, with the students’ texts in academia being heavily influenced by texts they are exposed to on their own time.

Roozen outlines how his student enrolled in a Rhetoric 101 course and was struggling with it, while being extremely prolific in extracurricular journalism at the same time. As Roozen dissects the cause of the issue he firmly begins by asserting ‘Some of Charles’ earliest memories of literacy center around journalism. One especially salient memory involves his great-aunt and great-uncle reading the newspaper at the kitchen table each morning.’ (Roozen, 2008) Roozen continues to divulge how the young man’s initial gravitation towards journalism emerged from his exposure to journalism. Charles also received his conceptions of how to utilize quantitative data to bolster a claim from the journalism he was exposed to in his pre-adolescent and adolescent years. Charles later took that conception of using quantitative data to bolster his claims into his own documentation of quantitative data for his high school newspaper. Yet at the same time, the very reason why Charles was marked down in Rhetoric 101 was due to a lack of using evidence to bolster claims in his essays.

Charles’ initial pitfalls came from not incorporating information from assigned readings into his writing. However, the initial readings Roozen assigned were of a theoretical or observational nature. When Charles was pressed to do his third Rhetoric 101 assignment, based primarily on quantitative data, he eloquently included three citations per paragraph and fully met the requirements of the assignment. Roozen does not put a simplistic label on Charles’s needs. He describes Charles’s work in the third essay as ‘an aggregation of literate practices, a combination of some local and specific practices and some repurposed from other literate activities. In blending together elements of extracurricular journalism and those more commonly associated with first-year writing, and perhaps from other literate experiences as well.’ (Roozen, 2008) Roozen assesses that Charles did as well as he did on his third essay because Charles’s literary constitution was directly pre-disposed to the utilization of statistical data due to Charles’s exposure and practice in extracurricular journalism. Charles’s literary constitution allowed him to freely use quantitative info to bolster his argument, while his lack of exposure to theoretical and observational readings caused him to struggle in interacting with them in his assignments.

I conducted a similar study with my student Zemfira, where I recorded the major textual forms she had been exposed to in her time growing up in the Bashkortostan Federal Subject of Russia, from her pre-adolescence to her last days in Bashkortostan state University. Zemfira had informed me that the two authors that stand out to her the most from grade 8 to 10 were Bulgakov and Dostoyevsky. Zemfira also preferred the long form in literature, telling me she felt uncomfortable with short stories. Her self-sponsored exposure to literature was complemented by books on Geology and other hard sciences, which she did reports on from elementary school through college. Textual analysis is generally subjective, but one can see how her interpretations of the chief aesthetic qualities of Bulgakov and Dostoyevsky do visibly manifest themselves in her writing.

Zemfira’s professor did not focus on rigorous guidelines in relation to reading responses or research papers. This professor was more open to the humanities and abstract forms of writing than other 101 and 102 instructors, in my experience. Even with the instructor’s relaxed format, however, Zemfira’s mis-comprehension of institutional requirements produced initial challenges. The following is an excerpt to what was to be a response to an article titled The Human Cost of an Illiterate Society. The assignment was to contextualize the ideas of the text in relation to a single personal experience. Zemfira goes off topic and instead starts her response by asking a question:

Do you remember yourself during your childhood? I do. I remember that always there was something fettering me. I am talking about the sensation that I think every child has: a feeling that you have to do what your parents say. They are mature and wise.

Zemfira’s literary personage discusses the assigned reading through implication, her style is literary, at times unclear and scattered in its organization, almost bordering on stream of consciousness. In the first three paragraphs she goes into all sorts of interesting, evocative tangents, periodically including autobiographical information. She does not get to the text the professor assigned until the 4th paragraph and her direct analysis of the argument is meager at best:

Kozol (author) says, that you are illiterate if you do not have common knowledge.

She then punctuates with a very general statement.

Communication is important because you can use language to express yourself freely in community.

After the 4th paragraph Zemfira goes on another tangent, involving her new life in Chicago, without returning to the author. Her response vaguely connects to some of the themes of the assigned text but only implicitly and through Zemfira’s presuppositions of commendable writing; informal dialogue with the reader, evocative images, noticeably literate but without any conventional western understanding of formal organization.

Zemfira’s style can be traced back directly to the primary texts she mentioned as essential components of her self-sponsored literacy. Zemfira’s openings echo those of Bulgakov’s, she can be somewhat erratic in her narration and can begin by narrating in action or by breaking the fourth wall and speaking to her audience The openings are reminiscent of Master and Margarita, Zemfira’s favorite novel, where the narrator often starts through action ‘At the hour of the hot spring sunset two citizens appeared at the Patriarch’s Ponds.’ (7) Like Bulgakov, Zemfira often uses seasons to establish settings opening some of her narrative assignments with establishments of ‘fresh snow’ or ‘sunny weather.’ reminiscent of many of Bulgakov’s propensities for using quick succinct weather metaphors consistently throughout his texts, avoiding elaborate description. Zemfira’s inconsistent dialogue with the reader also echoes Master and Margarita. ‘Follow me, reader! Who told you that there is no true, faithful, eternal love in this world! May the liar’s vile tongue be cut out! Follow me, my reader, and me alone, and I will show you such a love!’ (217) The phrasing has several components reminiscent of Zemfira’s response ‘Have you experienced the different layers of dream or the false awakening.’ The writer establishes a dialogue with the reader and might both ask questions of the reader as well as give instructions, the writer is also unpredictable in the sense that they might come back to the dialogue they had with the reader or they might not. Zemfira’s formal selections for producing texts are not simply relegated to Bulgakov, a great portion of Dostoyevsky’s work also has spontaneous narrators periodically breaking narration to punctuate certain points in a dialogue with the reader. While Zemfira has not set out to write 600 page novels, her literary constitution predisposes her to rhetorical flourishes reminiscent of the texts she was voluntarily exposed to, unfortunately inconsistent with some of the most basic requirements for reading responses in American University English courses.

Enculturation cannot be entirely pinpointed by understanding regional cultural norms, especially in the modern era. When applied to academic writing, Herskovits’s definition of enculturation would mean that a degree of ‘cultural stability’ can be derived from early assimilated norms in discourse. Subsequently deviation from assimilated rhetorical norms can cause a period of hardship in adjusting to an alternate mode of discourse. However, the issue cannot be wrapped up with a simple solution of understanding basic rhetorical guidelines in ‘another culture.’ No matter how compulsory and unilateral an education system in a given region may be, the student’s literary constitution can be made up of numerous layers of cross cultural interactions, self sponsored literacy and several layers of academic learning. If a student already has a considerable amount of rhetorical education diametrically opposed to the norms in the west, staunch resistance to assimilating to western rhetorical norms is a very likely possibility.

Even in regions where a compulsory, heavily centralized education curriculum is distributed amongst the population, intricate variations may arise in a student’s literary constitution. Under the Rouhani government, Iran instituted several basic reforms to higher education. The reforms apply to the entire institutional structure of the education system and while they express a hope for a more inclusive future in Iranian education, they still serve to complement the instituting of religious doctrines brought to higher education in Iran after the Cultural Revolution of 1979 and the reopening of Iranian universities in ’82 – ’83. The government mission statement regarding the reforms is basic and unspecific with phrases such as ‘Making the education more global in terms of knowledge’ or ‘increasing the role of the family in the education system.’ (World Bank, 2016) The general view of the system is that it is heavily focused on religious teachings and rhetorical instruction is generally directed towards a single ideological outcome. Some have gone so far as to say that a result of the reforms ‘is the large-scale mixing of religious beliefs with scientific and secular knowledge. The sacred is mixed with the profane throughout the curriculum. The coexistence of these two phenomena signifies a belief in the connection and unity of different fields of knowledge.’ (Paivandi, 2012)

While sociologists like Saeed Paivandi choose to focus on the rigid structure of Iran’s national educational curricula, particularly in the humanities, one can notice varying degrees of deliberation in between the understanding of composition. The voices the students are encouraged to develop are definitely within the framework of Shiite Islam but within that framework, even someone like Paivandi whose thesis seeks to display the limitations of Iran’s compulsory system, must admit to extensive variations. Lessons in Iran’s rhetorical curricula range from using ‘poetry, literary subjects, and classic Persian literature,’ an alternative group of lessons utilizes ‘the Prophet of Islam, Shi’ite imams, and other historical and contemporary Islamic personalities, while nine lessons mention prophets of other religions.’ (Paivandi) So even when trying to display the unilateral nature of Iran’s curricula in the humanities, Paivandi shows distinct variations in the possible literary constitutions of Iranian students, exposed to different portions of Iranian academic curricula, not to mention levels of education. Students can be encouraged a form of writing that is subservient within the frameworks of the state religion but it can be the teaching of that state religion based on its primary texts or based on the highly versatile formal amalgamations of Persian literature. The voice a writer can be dutiful to the faith within a basic rhetorical understanding of it or within the complex formal amalgamations derived from the aphorisms of Saadi Shirazi and the poems of Baba Tahir.

One example of a potential for self-sponsored literacy within this society can be based on the fact that the 11th century poems of Baba Tahir are still a significant part of Persian youth culture. They are frequently performed on Sitar, at ceremonies of various purposes, on television as well as numerous youth gatherings. There are significantly different interpretations of Tahir’s work in academic settings vs. those of more casual settings. (Encyclopedia Iranica) Exposure of Persian students to the texts of Tahir in a voluntary setting can be of great contribution to their self-sponsored literacy, significantly different from someone whose interest in Tahir has been limited to academic work. Both of the above students’ literary constitutions would be radically different from a third hypothetical student who has only finished secondary school, has a basic understanding of the Quran and has had exposure to western popular music driving his taxi. Even from heavily centralized, somewhat restrictive regions, the literary constitutions of students can vary to great degrees.

Another factor of note that will heavily influence a student’s assimilation into academic writing, whether having received an education in another region or not, is their perception of their chances to successfully assimilate into the dominant mode of discourse. Helen Fox has written extensively on the subject of the enculturation of students into American academic writing, in both the college classroom and the writing center. She narrates strict guidelines for maintaining the students’ voice and cultural sovereignty while assisting them in adjusting to the requirements of the institution. In Listening to the World she shows keen insights into the numerous issues that can show up during this process. One of the most taxing is the overcoming of a student’s resistance. The most compelling of Fox’s narratives on the issue concerns Joella, a student labeled by the institution as ‘not motivated to write.’ Joella came from a working class background, self-identifying the primary issues for her academic struggle with the fact that ‘I write like I talk.’ (Fox, 85) After Fox’s session with Joella, she discovered that Joella was extremely intelligent, creative and even knew the fine points of grammatical mechanics. Fox cites anthropologist John Ogbu in elaborating on the dynamic of involuntary minorities and their stigma in assimilating to mainstream discourse to explain Joella’s want of enthusiasm. Ogbu covers a broad spectrum of social dynamics, from Koreans in Japan or African Americans and Native Americans in the United States. These are groups that have been brought to a particular society against their will and after generations of being under someone else’s dominion still have a resistant and pessimistic pre-disposition to the dominant culture, including the dominant mode of discourse. Fox’s analysis covers a dynamic in the socio-economic sphere that exists side by side with textual exposure in a student’s literary constitution, the role and possibilities students see for themselves in academic discourse.

Individuals cannot, however, be simply be given a blanket label of ‘voluntary’ and ‘involuntary.’ As Fox acknowledges, numerous complexities arise, due to processes of assimilation and immigration. Fox’s dissection of the reasons Korean or Burakumin students overcome cultural barriers in the United States with greater confidence than they would in Japan is a testament to the complex dynamics of where students can see themselves as being potentially successful in academic discourse. Fox effectively explains the affliction of the cultural history between the Japanase and Korean peoples, which Koreans do not feel when arriving to the United States. Fox sees this lack of affliction as one of the chief reasons for a population assimilating to a dominant mode of discourse easier than they would if they were somewhere where they felt a great level of hostility towards them. (Fox, 87-94)

When looked past the broad strokes of relationships of entire groups of individuals with other groups of individuals, greater complexities arise in assessing someone’s potential for gravitating their voice closer to the dominant mode of discourse. Zemfira came to the United States willingly and cannot be entirely classified as an ‘involuntary minority.’ However, she has expressed disillusionment with the United States, especially compared to her expectations from what she saw in the media covering our nation abroad. Unlike some of the students that Fox covers, though, she definitely does not have an affliction ‘branded’ on her from ‘birth’ and does not feel ‘stupid, incapable’ or unfit ‘to be assimilated.’ (Fox, 95) She also does not resemble Fox’s account of an academically published Nepalese student that felt he was being marginalized by his English instructors, upon his arrival to the US, when he was told he needed to ‘improve’ (65). Zemfira did not have an ego going into our tutoring sessions of any sort, although she almost had a full bachelor’s degree in Russia and was basically starting over in her education. There was a gravitational pull, however, predisposing her to return to her writing style, as well as periods of extreme frustration with institutional requirements. Fox’s account of Joella mirrors Zemfira’s process of assimilation into American academic discourse. Zemfira repeatedly asked for rationales for academic requirements during her sessions with me. She had gone to another tutor prior, and after reading the notes in regards to particular assignments, I saw that Zemfira had completed the requirements that her tutor laid out for a particular assignment and then immediately went back to her previous style of writing.  This was not a dispositional issue as Zemfira was always receptive to the recommendations coming from me and other tutors.

Zemfira’s perception of her potential is difficult to categorize as her background is extensively layered. Even though the Bashkir language still exists in the region of Bashkortostan and is in no immediate danger of disappearing, only 30% of the population speaks it in their daily lives ( Early exposure to the national Russian language as well as mainstream Russian media along with the parallel learning of Russian in elementary school had presented the first stage of enculturation in Zemfira’s life. Essentially, Zemfira is what can be referred to as a level 1.5 Russian speaker, evoking every surface characteristic of a Russian but still having grown up speaking Bashkir at home. While the relationship of the Bashkir people to Russia cannot be called ‘involuntary,’ ( and Zemfira’s emigration to the United States was mostly of her own will, the layers of adaptation and dawning of economic realities of the United States had formed an uncertainty in Zemfira in regards to her optimism of fitting into this society and it’s discourse. She had occasionally remarked about this during our discussions of her writing. Even though they come from entirely different backgrounds, Zemfira’s perception of her potential in succeeding in assimilating the American academic mode of discourse, like Joella’s, played a part in her resisting adapting to American academic writing.

Tishman, Jay and Perkins’s article Teaching Thinking Dispositions: From Transition to Enculturation advocated for something they referred to as ‘the Enculturation Model’ for gravitating students towards a disposition for what the authors see as a high standard of critical thinking within the classroom. They wished to create a classroom atmosphere where pedagogues would ‘go beyond abilities and explain how good thinkers are actually disposed to think and act.’ (Tishman et. al, 1993) The authors’ methods however involved a classroom exercise of putting students into groups and giving them unorthodox assignments, such as drawing routes from Los Angeles to Buenos Aries not usually taken. The idea behind the dynamic is to get all the students on identical footing in terms of being equally unable to articulate the perplexing assignment requirements and henceforth begin to assimilate into the classroom discourse all from a relatively similar place, a page one, so to speak. However, as Roozen, Fox and others have shown, certain students will be more pre-disposed to write in a certain type of discourse regardless. Roozen’s methods of understanding Charles’s literary influence and Fox’s seeking to understanding the barriers Joella sees in front of her in the form American academic discourse, serve to understand the core of a student’s literary constitution and help to begin a process where a student’s work can be adjusted to meet institutional requirements without compromising their own unique potential for contribution in academia. It would be more beneficial to hold brief one on one conferences with students with specific questions pertaining to their literary constitution, particularly any self-sponsored literacies. Subsequently, it would benefit the pedagogue to engage in a brief overview of the formal amalgamations present in the sources of the students’ self-sponsored literacies. Understanding a students’ literary constitution as well as any potential sources of resistance to academic discourse can benefit not only students who have had an extensive education abroad but also students who carry numerous other aesthetic or cultural dispositions in potential conflict with standard academic discourse. This understanding on the part of the pedagogue can begin a dialogue that would potentially bring, otherwise, extremely capable students into understanding American academic discourse and would not only give them an opportunity to bestow their unique contributions to academia but to the U.S. labor force as well.


Bulgakov, Mikhail. The Master and Margarita. Trans. Richard Bevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Penguin ed. London: Penguin, 1997. 7, 217. Print.

I used excerpts from Bulgakov’s novel in a textual analysis displaying how some of the rhetorical flourishes my student was using were in ways similar to those of her favorite author. This was part of a bigger section illustrating how exposure to texts, particularly voluntary exposure, can play a major role in a student’s literary constitution.

“Early History Around Ufa.” Glavhiterktura Ufa. Administration of the City of Ufa, Bashkortostan Republic, 2014. Web. <РАННЯЯ_ИСТОРИЯ_ОКРЕСТНОСТЕЙ_УФЫ

This is an administrative overview, including a census of demographics and languages spoken in Ufa, my student’s home town. It also discusses the Bashkir people’s relationship with the rest of Russia. I used this source to help me punctuate the layers of cross cultural assimilation that a student can go through as a ‘Russified’ Bashkir woman immigrating to America.

“Encyclopædia Iranica.” RSS. Web. 06 May 2016. <>.

This is a brief overview on Baba Tahir, it covers his relevance in present day Iran. I used the source to illustrate how an Iranian student’s exposure to Tahir could be both potentially self sponsored as well as school sponsored. This was used as a part of a broader illustration of the notion that even though students might come from a highly centralized ideological education system, their literary constitutions can still have significant disparities from each other.

Fox, Helen. Listening to the World. 1st. ed. Urbana: Natl Council of Teachers of English, 1986. 49, 65, 86, 95. Print.

Fox’s book covers numerous variations of how the cross cultural dynamics can present barriers to students new to American academia. She also gives numerous useful guidelines on how to handle a variety of situations that arise from these tensions. For this paper I generally focused on her assessment of students that come from ‘involuntary minorities’ within the United States and the stigma and resistance it can create in their assimilation to the dominant mode of academic discourse. I applied some of the dynamics outlined by Fox to my own student, whose own odyssey of cultural assimilation has been layered and complex. This text assisted me in illustrating how socio-economic dynamics can be one of the greatest barriers of academic enculturation for international students.

Herskovits, Melville J. Cultural Anthropology. New York: Knopf, 1955. Print.

            This book was an overview of the adaptations of cultural norms and their subsequent role in society. I utilized it because it contained a basic definition of enculturation that could be summed up succinctly and at the same time is still utilized by numerous anthropologists. This definition served as a baseline for how I was to define enculturation for the rest of my paper.

“Islamic Republic of Iran Home.” Islamic Republic of Iran Home. Web. 05 May 2016.

This is an online report of the World Bank, covering the rhetoric surrounding recent educational reforms in Iran. It assisted me in leading into my assessment of Paivandi’s, more in depth article about what textual materials Iranian students are exposed to.

Lifton, Robert Jay. History and Human Survival: Essays on the Young and Old, Survivors and the Dead, Peace and War, and on Contemporary Psychohistory. New York: Random House, 1970. Print.

This book by Lifton covers many facets of the emerging cultural metamorphoses that come with the post modern era. While it is not recent, a portion of this book contains chronicles of Japanese students that were recorded through direct observations by Lifton. These observations took place during radical paradigm shifts in Japan and represent the layers and nuances that compose the lineage of predispositions and modes of discourse that an individual can go through before they arrive to their present mode of discourse.

Paivandi, Saeed. “Education in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Perspectives on Democratic Reforms.” Legatum Institute (2012): 1-18. Print.

This was a fairly alarmist report on what the author perceives to be an overtly centralized religious presence in contemporary Iranian education. In between the calls for reform, however, the author manages to go over the diverse possibilities for textual exposure for students within the system. It goes on to demonstrate that even within heavily centralized structures there could be significantly disparate outcomes in a student’s literary constitution.

Riesman, David, Nathan Glazer, and Reuel Denney. The Lonely Crowd: The Study of the Changing American Character. New Haven: Yale UP, 1961. Print.

In this book Riesman covers a great variety of observations in many regions around the world. Reisman’s primary interest is new cultural norms in industrialized, post ‘traditionalist’ societies. In many ways Riesman pinpoints some of the social trends that would become more explicit in the age of globalization. I utilized a portion of this book focusing specifically on the dynamics of enculturation in a Japanese classroom, as the students were being exposed to western rhetoric during the Japanese reconstruction to illustrate the uncertainty surrounding processes of enculturation in entire communities.

Roozen, Kevin. “Journalism, Poetry, Stand-up Comedy, and Academic Literacy: Mapping the Interplay of Curricular and Extracurricular Literate Activities.” Journal of Basic Writing 27.1 (2008): 5-34. Print.

Roozen conducts his first study on his student Charles, his exposure and practice with different texts and how that affected his academic writing. Roozen examines how pedagogues could study a student’s self sponsored literacy in order to get an idea of what their strengths and weaknesses were and how this knowledge could be used to gravitate their work towards standard academic discourse. I used this along with my own study to illustrate how textual exposure, and particularly self-sponsored literacy, can influence a student’s academic writing.

Roozen, Kevin. “Comedy Stages, Poets Projects, Sports Columns, and Kinesiology 341: Illuminating the Importance of Basic Writers’ Self-Sponsored Literacies.” Journal of Basic Writing 31.1 (2012): 100-02. Print.

In his follow up, a more confident Roozen continues to examine self-sponsored literacies in greater depth. Roozen takes a firmer stance here punctuating that he believes a student’s literary constitution will be made up of both self and school sponsored literacies and that in the student’s final written production, the two are inseparable. I briefly used this source to punctuate the notion of how academic writing and voluntary writing will always co-exist in a student’s literary constitution and will inevitably manifest themselves in the student’s finished product.

Shimahara, Nobuo. “Enculturation-A Reconsideration.” Current Anthropology 11.2 (1970): 143-54. Print.

This article examines whether the process of enculturation can be consciously observed by the person or people going through it. I used it to affirm the consensus on the basic definition of enculturation, because even if it disagrees with Herskovits on many points of categorization it still accepts his basic overview of what enculturation is. The article also covers a few observations during the Japanese reconstruction, particularly the tensions between generations and serves to compliment Lifton’s and Riesman’s observations.

Tishman, Shari, Eileen Jay, and David N. Perkins. “Teaching Thinking Dispositions: From Transmission to Enculturation.” Theory Into Practice 32.3 (1993): 147-53. Print.

The authors here focus on methods they believe will acclimate an entire classroom of students into a somewhat unilateral mode of thinking. They conduct some theoretical analysis but generally focus on articulating unorthodox methodologies for students all to start from a similar point of discourse (a blank slate of sorts) in the classroom and come to a consensus together, hence gravitating towards greater homogeneity in discourse. I generally used the article as a counterweight to the studies done by people like Fox and Roozen and as an example of misunderstanding of what it means to allow students to bring their unique voice into the academic sphere while still meeting institutional requirements.

Presentation Proposal

Arguably there is no other Japanese author more controversial than Yukio Mishima. Mishima is looked at as both a trendsetter in several forms of cultural production yet is still a somewhat taboo topic in discussions of Japanese cultural figures. Filmmaker Paul Schrader attempted to bring Mishima’s story to mainstream American audiences at a time of widespread anti-Japanese sentiments in the country. This presentation takes a look at a film production from a recent period marked by a prominent aura of prejudice within the United States, a period of certain political elements in the country directing contempt towards the Japanese.

Xenophobia is an issue that has become a highly debated topic in yet another election cycle within the United States. One of the key aspects of xenophobia is a process of dehumanization. The contributions to civilization from distant cultures are reduced to single phrases, thinning  the capacity of the contributions (‘The Swiss and their cuckoo clock’), histories of musical development are distorted to three notes from a single instrument (the Vietnamese flute, the Sitar that might belong to India) accents parodied and languages reduced to squeaks and growls. Such are some of the numerous methods used for dehumanization of a projected other.

But what happens when a production, like Schrader’s, strives to put a human face on a subject that has been effectively dehumanized? Does this production have to take extra steps to assure it does justice to its subject in a climate of increasingly hostile assumptions? We examine whether the production’s formal selections were enough to overcome the assumptions of a segment of the American public.  Through this we try to derive what we can learn from the production’s successes and failures about combating methods of dehumanization today. Continue reading