Date of Award

May 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Writing Program


Steve Parks


adult education, community literacy, composition, labor, working-class, writing studies

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


Literacy and Labor: Archives, Networks, and Histories in Working-Class Communities explores the significance of The Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP), a network of writing groups that existed between 1976-2007 and self-published thousands of texts focused on working-class life, immigrant experience, and educational development. The FWWCP emerged in London and eventually spread throughout the United Kingdom and, then, transnationally. Circulating close to one million chapbooks, this network represents years of social history, testimony, and cultural conditions described through the voices of working-class people. I begin by unpacking the historical and social conditions of the FWWCP’s tenure and explain how the FWWCP challenges conventional understandings of literacy, publics, and histories held within the field of Writing Studies to include working-class examples from alternative educational sites. As a methodological response to the field, I describe a how a team of scholars, librarians, and FWWCP members collaborated to build print and digital archives of the FWWCP. Drawing from these archives, I illustrate how the FWWCP —as a group and individual members— negotiated their own expansion in connection to identity politics. Through organizational documents, I trace key moments concerning how the group could maintain a working-class ethos within a changing political landscape of multiculturalism. Moving from a discussion of the national organization to a local example, I focus on one member-group, Pecket Well College, which created a new educational model run by and for adults with difficulties in reading and writing. Lastly, discusses the exigency for digital preservation along with the material constraints of such work, arguing for a new model of collaborative digital archival building. Ultimately, then, this dissertation examines self-sponsored writing, in order to show how communities expand our understanding of literacy and writing beyond traditional educational spaces. I argue that such a focus demonstrates multiple types of literacies beyond what we study and presents how working-class communities generate and perform rhetorical acts—acts that can show us what grassroots community organizing looks like, how community-led teaching functions, and why self-generated and sustained community work matters.


Open Access