Episode 44: Practicing Radical Pedagogy with Carmen Kynard

In Episode 44, we talk to Black Feminist Educator, Agitator, and Dreamer Carmen Kynard about practicing radical pedagogy; centering Black language, rhetoric, and affect in the classroom; prioritizing self-care and equity in our teaching; and holding universities–and the field of composition and rhetoric in particular–accountable for oppressing BIPOC voices and upholding white supremacy. This episode was recorded while white supremacists were storming the Capitol on January 6th, 2021.

Carmen Kynard is the Lillian Radford Chair in Rhetoric and Composition and Professor of English at Texas Christian University. She interrogates race, Black feminisms, AfroDigital/African American cultures and languages, and the politics of schooling with an emphasis on composition and literacies studies. Carmen has led numerous professional development projects on language, literacy, and learning and has published in Harvard Educational Review, Changing English, College Composition and Communication, College English, Computers and Composition, Reading Research Quarterly, Literacy and Composition Studies and more. Her award-winning book, Vernacular Insurrections: Race, Black Protest, and the New Century in Composition-Literacy Studies makes Black Freedom a 21st century literacy movement. Her current projects focus on young Black women in college, Black Feminist/Afrofuturist digital vernaculars, and AfroDigital Humanities learning. For more information about and access to her publications, click here. 

Carmen co-edits the inaugural journal run of Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture and maintains numerous web projects including: 1) Black Feminist Pedagogies .Com: Open Graduate Coursework Towards an Anti-Racist/ Intersected/ Black Feminist University, 2) Funkdafied: An Open Digital Classroom Dedicated to African American Literacies, Rhetorics, and Resistance, and 3) Digi Rhetorics: Digital Justice/ Digital Rhetorics. Her latest digital project is in collaboration with Dr. April Baker-Bell at Michigan State University on the Black Language Syllabus which also houses the Black Language Magazine. Carmen traces her research and teaching at her website, “Education, Liberation, and Black Radical Traditions” (http://carmenkynard.org) which has garnered over 1.8 million hits since its 2012 inception.

This episode was recorded on January 6, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod.

People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode

“I identify as a Black Feminist Educator, Agitator, and Dreamer.” -Carmen Kynard

“English departments are largely imperial projects, through the language of English, maintaining imperialism and colonialism, so language does a specific kind of work.” -Carmen Kynard

“When I landed in graduate school, I saw the ways in which all the problematic whiteness around literacy and language that I was up against in high school sat right in composition/rhetoric.” -Carmen Kynard

“It was really the classroom that made me a compositionist, not the theories of the field.” -Carmen Kynard

“I think saying we repeat the same history is problematic because it assumes that one of those histories ever left.” -Carmen Kynard

“If you take away the special issues, for instance, in the journals, if you take away the special issues that go to Black people–I mean that’s really what’s happening right now–and if you look at the sort of field-sanctioned body of work, what does it give you that helps you ideologically, in radical ways, situate your teaching and your pedagogy and your understanding of the university right now on a day when white supremacists are storming the Capitol because a white supremacist is leaving office?” -Carmen Kynard

“What is this record we’re gonna leave behind, not just of what classrooms and pedagogies are, but what we do with the university that is implicated, that is an accomplice to oftentimes […] the very kinds of white supremacist racial warfare that’s literally happening as we sit here in these chairs?” -Carmen Kynard

“I don’t mean to say that there aren’t folk who are doing the work but that the sort of mainstream of the field hasn’t taken it up in really critical and radical ways–not that that’s a surprise–but then it imagines that it has. So that’s the kind of conundrum of particularly white progressivism. It is very impressed with itself without ever having to put itself on the line.” -Carmen Kynard

“That’s very difficult to think in, to teach in, to be in, when everything is telling you that it’s about you, but it’s incredibly anti-intellectual and anti-Black in its utter misunderstanding and non-understanding of everything it utters.” -Carmen Kynard

“Universities can be very arrogant […] it circulates this idea of itself as knowing best.” -Carmen Kynard

“We let universities off the hook as if the classroom and what’s happening in the classroom and what’s happening on the campus isn’t the real world, isn’t a real world that is influencing other things. We’re talking about spaces that are investing in prisons, investing in the prison industrial complex, and had deep investments in slavery. There’s a world happening right here, and so to think that this is some utopia and we prepare you for something out there, no, you’re doing some crazy mess right here, right now, in this moment. This is the world. It’s like a netherworld or no-world pedagogy that just doesn’t work.” -Carmen Kynard

“This is not about the best ways of teaching online. This is teaching online in a pandemic. It’s not the same thing.” -Carmen Kynard

“Critical pedagogy is also attuned to self-care.” -Carmen Kynard

“One of the things that’s always been very clear to me is that classrooms have this incredibly white affect, and it’s something we don’t talk about in terms of how classrooms can feel. I feel like I can muck that up. I feel like the feel of my classrooms are different, but I’m still figuring out how to do Zoom teaching with a Black affect, or what that even means.” -Carmen Kynard

“Not all students can navigate this. There are ways that ableism works within Zoom and in ways that I don’t feel like we’ve come to terms with yet.” -Carmen Kynard

“I think what Black language and Black rhetoric lets you do is think really deeply and critically about what is it that language does.” -Carmen Kynard

“I don’t use my classroom to prepare Black children for their slaughter. My job is to teach them to survive that–not even survive it, but to understand that this is about your spirit murder.” -Carmen Kynard

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