POSTCOLONIALISM, ACCULTURATION, AND THEWRITING CENTER
Peer tutoring in the university writing center exists to help students become better writers, especially students without a strong background in academic writing. When viewed through the lens of postcolonial theory, however, tensions arise between postcolonialism’s focus on preserving a student’s identity and the writing center’s pedagogical imperative to change the writer—ostensibly for the better. Tutors can inadvertently urge students to acculturate themselves into academic discourse— permanently altering the way students think and write. But how could we, as writing center peer tutors, not help students become better writers because we fear their assimilation into the dominant culture? At the same time, how can we help students adapt to academic discourse without destroying their identities?
In this essay, I use two case studies from my experience as a writing center tutor at Georgetown University in an attempt to address these difficult questions. The two selected cases illuminate two important concepts explored in this paper: first, postcolonial thought and its implications for writing center pedagogy; second, the implications of implementing this pedagogy and its accompanying tutoring practices. The students in the case studies have extensive problems with writing mechanics, along with other associated problems—a lack of confidence in or frustration with their writing, a pattern of incomprehensible sentences, and, most significantly, an inability to recognize problems with their writing. These are challenging obstacles to overcome, and my experiences illustrate the difficulties encountered when trying to help these clients. As I will demonstrate, my approach occasionally—and unconsciously—integrated elements of postcolonial theory, which I had been studying in class at that time. My failure to do so consistently, however, shows the need for a systematic postcolonial