Himley, M. (2004). Facing (Up to) “the Stranger” in Community Service Learning. College Composition and Communication, 55(3), 416–438. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4140694
1. Significant terms
Stranger, service learning, power, identity, ethnography, feminist research
2. What is the author's project/audience?
Himley uses feminist rhetorical methodology and post-colonialism to demonstrate how service learning courses can reify the "stranger." She points out the ethical dilemmas that community service courses face.
Ultimately, she argues for greater attention to be placed on these ethical dilemmas by the students in the class in order to disrupt and understand the production of the stranger.
3. What is the author’s method?
This author does a sort of literature review, using her two theoretical frameworks, to illuminate these ethical dilemmas of service learning courses from others' research as well as her own experiences.
4. What questions do I have after finishing this work? What Arguments do I have with the author (what would we talk about?)
While you end up arguing for keeping service learning courses, this article seems to offer no real practical advice about how to address these issues.
5. How does this work intersect/relate to my own work?
Himley's article is essential for approaching any service learning course in terms of disrupting and understanding the production of the stranger.
6. Major Rhetorical Moves and Key Quotations
"Feminist ethnography in many disciplines has come a long ways toward understanding more clearly the problems of enter- ing sites, knowing strangers, writing up the experience, and gaining profes- sionally from the encounters, thus bringing into public view a host of "ethical and representational quandaries" (Mortensen and Kirsch xxiii). As we learn from these struggles, from fieldwork to deskwork, we will be better able to excavate and face (up to) the ethics of our community service pedagogies" (p. 419).
Service learning often reifies hierarchies and power structures.
"Dominant discourses of commu- nity service learning rely too on the fig- uring of the stranger or those who don't belong (yet) to mainstream American life because of race, class, life chances, im- migration, or other reasons" (p. 421).
" Finally, of course, no methodology can counter the complex effects of power/knowledge, or overcome structural asymmetries, or "insure" the mutu- ality of the process. I propose turning a careful critical eye to the ethical desires, peculiar in- timacies, agitated interactions, material realities, and power asymmetries that characterize to a degree both ethnography and service learning. By tracing specific encounters with the stranger, we can excavate and explicate both the immediate and the broader relations of power that structure these encounters and identify opportunities for at least partially progressive practices or effects" (p. 423).
Service learning can often feel like "breaking and entering--and leaving" (p. 423) as we enter, invade, and then drop the communities of our community service classes.
"No matter how welcome, even enjoyable, the ethnographers' presence may be, they are an intrusion or intervention into a system of relationships that they are freer to leave than are the subjects of their research" (p. 424).
Knowing this stranger can prove to be difficult
"Not only is the ethnographer or student charged with "knowing" the stranger, but, of course, the stranger has his or her own "knowing"of the encounter" (p. 427).
Representing and interpreting ethnographic research can be a colonizing effect in service learning courses.
"Regardless of a student's actual economic status or social identity, the dominant version of the rhetoric of community service may position each and every community service student in a privi- leged way-as the one who provides the service, as the one who donates time and expertise, as the one who serves down, as the one who writes" (p. 430).
Another ethical concern is the commodification of service learning and thinking about how the student "benefits" from their work rather than it coming out altruistically.
" Community service learning may be one of the means for providing students with highly commodifiable skills. Learning to cross borders with ease may produce subjects who can easily inhabit the world as a familiar and (eventually) knowable place" (p. 432).
Himley ends by stating how this pedagogy, however, can still have positive effects.
" Yet I don't intend to give up on community service learning (or debates about the "right" way to do it) because it is one of the few places where we encounter one another in ways that may disrupt the production of the stranger" (p. 433).