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August 2020 - Year 22 - Issue 4

ISSN 1755-9715

Attending Voice in the Hybrid Contact Zone

Inggrit Tanasale is a Ph.D. candidate in the Composition and Applied Linguistics program at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is also a lecturer at the English Education program at Pattimura University in Maluku, Indonesia. Her research interests include Second Language Writing, Language Teachers Identity, and Rhetorics in the EFL context.

 

Abstract

L2 writing classroom becomes a contact zone when students from diverse cultures such as from the East, meet with dominant norms from the West. Pratt (1991) argues that the meeting can potentially create conflict because of asymmetrical power derived from the supremacy of the Western ideology. This conflict, in turn, can obstruct the process of voice construction by L2 writers. Instead of homogenizing Eastern collectivist cultures as inferior, several studies have examined the stereotypes of L2 writers from Asian countries and found the potential for collectivist cultural values to be capitalized as resources in engendering L2 writing (Canagarajah & Matsumoto, 2016). Given this fact, I still found that limited attention is given for investigating Indonesian cultures and the process of voice construction in L2 writing. Thus, this paper explores some misconceptions of collectivist cultures, particularly in the Indonesian context, and relates this discussion with voice negotiation in L2 writing. I then employ those cultural values as the affordances for writing activities by using the Hybrid Contact Zone framework drawing upon the theories by Kramsch (2009) and Pratt (1991) to construct a unique voice of Indonesian L2 writers.

 

Introduction

In the Western writing tradition, voice has drawn the attention of many scholars as an indispensable norm to define and to indicate the identity of First Language (L1) writers in a written text. The identity of L1 writers has been characterized by critical thinking and individual traits through a self-authorial presence of voice (Tardy, 2016). Unfortunately, this standard of voice construction in Western contexts has inadvertently established ‘literacy regimes’ —the authoritative systems for perpetuating Western language ideologies imposed by elite institutions in higher educations— among many non-Western countries (Canagarajah & Matsumoto, 2016). Significantly, Canagarajah and Matsumoto (2016) point out that many English as a Foreign Language (EFL) institutions tend to force upon these essentialized qualities of being critical and individual to Second Language (L2) writers. These literacy regimes, with its monolithic and static norms, had grown intensely problematic during these recent years. They have created power inequalities between the cultural values of the West and the East when those elements meet in L2 writing classrooms.

The era of globalization has triggered the burgeoning social mobilization by L2 writers to access the possibility of advancing educations in mainstream contexts. Students come and bring their cultural kits with them and interact with norms and conventions in an L2 writing class. Pratt (1991) describes classrooms as “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power…“(p.5). Students possibly encounter conflicts in their writing class because their prior knowledge and backgrounds, along with dominant conventions, are markedly dissimilar. In light of this contact zone, Canagarajah and Matsumoto (2016) assert the potential for a hybrid text production is the result of voice negotiation between the cultural values of L2 writers with dominant conventions. This insight has enlightened the field of L2 writing in many U.S. higher educations to adjust with various local resources of international students, seeing them not as obstacles but as learning capitals. When these resources intersect with dominant norms, student writers can appropriate that process. As a result, they subsequently diminish any asymmetrical power from West-East dichotomy that can place L2 writers into inferior positions (Phan, 2009; Pratt, 1991).

Contrary to the emerging awareness by mainstream educations, some EFL studies show that some students struggled to construct their voice in their writing (Jiang, 2011; Mukmin, Ali & Ashari, 2015). Students were victimized by collectivist cultures, which resulted in their failure to perform in L2 writing. Phan (2009) argues that the possible major issue is teachers’ lack of awareness to empower students’ cultural identity in L2 classrooms. In fact, limited attention has been given to pedagogical levels to capitalize on various cultures brought by L2 writers when they contend with dominant convention in L2 writing. Phan, in her article elsewhere (2006), impels for further studies on cultural implications in L2 writing since the cultures of the East and the West appear to be different rather than unequal. If this issue is not revisited shortly, EFL teachers will keep preserving their role to teach Western norms as the sole ubiquitous standards in L2 writing. In turn, they will contribute to sustaining the asymmetrical power relationship between L2 students and Western standards while students’ voice is doomed to be in silence and resistance.

I was personally intrigued by the issue of voice in L2 writing because it has resonated with the struggle that I have faced with my dual identities: an L2 writer and an EFL teacher. From my academic experience as an international student in the U.S., I realized my limited training to negotiate my voice in this mainstream context. Despite the fact of completing my master’s degree in Australia, I still felt less confident about my writing because of my less knowledge to capitalize on my cultural resources for attending my voice in a text. At that moment, I perceived the stereotypes of having no individual voice and critical thinking by L2 writers from the East blindly. Besides, underpinning my professional experience, I was thrown off to know that the Indonesian Higher Education Bureau has currently enforced a regulation for every university to prepare undergraduate students for publishing their theses in a scholarly journal (Mukminin, Ali, & Ashari, 2015). This unreasonable expectation made me ponder my role as an EFL educator. How can I help my students to attend their voice in their academic writing, whereas, I submit to the Western norms and look down to my collectivist cultures as writing blocks?  If I keep preserving my ignorance, my L2 writing classroom will be a conflict zone between dominant standards and my students’ local cultures. Thus, this article features literature reviews focusing on the various notions of voice and re-examining some stereotypes of sociocultural values of the East, particularly in Indonesia. In what follows, I design pedagogy for the EFL context as a safe space for negotiating norms and sociocultural values.

 

Voice in L2 writing

The notion of voice has heated several discussions and research in L2 writing scholarship as a trending topic since it captures the identity of L2 writers. I would begin to describe voice in this section by relating to my writing experience, projecting my identity as an L2 writer. As an international student in the U.S, I have usually used a tutoring facility, like a writing center, to improve my academic writing. I once got a suggestion from my tutor when I felt concern about my lengthy sentence and missed my authorial voice in the text. He said to me, “you need to write as you speak.”  I was intrigued by his statement and looked for any way of making myself speak through text. Elbow’s (2007) definition has awakened me when he echoes voice as an utterance in oral communication and a text on the written page. Tardy (2012) expounds upon the complexity of voice in writing by marking writers’ stance, by any chance, in a text for readers to identify. Writers, at that point, are expected to establish his clear authorial voice as a part of revealing his intention as well as identity in a text. To further discuss, it is noteworthy to acknowledge that the terms of voice and identity have been highly influenced by the Western ideology from L1 composition and brought to L2 academic writing.

The concept of voice has emerged since several decades ago in association with the L1 composition scholarship in the West. Tardy (2012) underscores the pivotal role of voice in writers’ identity construction. In this regard, voice accentuates the self-identity of L1 writers featuring qualities such as “personal views, authoritativeness, and presence” (Hyland, 2008, p. 5). Voice has been conclusively linked with the stigma of a native speaker and used as a parameter for L2 writing instructions ever since. Tardy (2012)  contends that many L2 classrooms adopt the features of these mainstream norms and bring the persona of the native speakers as the viable target for L2 writers to present their voice in L2 writing. Unavoidably, this attempt perpetuates unequal attributes for L2 writing by creating the West-East dichotomy. The essentialism of native speaker with attributes: authentic, individual, critical, and self-centered appear differential to non-Western counterparts, like Asian students with collectivist, passive and indirect cultures (Hyland, 2008; Matsuda & Tardy, 2007). This cultural divergence establishes voice as an ideological entity constructed from the model of native speakers and leads to downgrading L2 writers’ identity. This elusive ideology has been extensively pervaded in EFL contexts, in contrast to the progressive movement of Western educations to be more open in acknowledging the cultural values of L2 writers (Canagarajah & Matsumoto, 2016). If EFL teachers are unaware of this escalating reformation in the West, their L2 students, who possibly participate in this context, will go blindly in submitting to West ideology in their writing.

An orientation to define voice cannot be confined merely as an individual identity, but it is a product of an interaction between writers with his audiences. Tardy (2012) and Hyland (2008) are in agreement regarding voice, noting that it is socially constructed and remains in flux in dynamic discourses. Voice represents a dialogical relationship between writers with their community or society. This social engagement of writers with their society reflects on how they interact with their intended readers (Hyland, 2008; Matsuda & Tardy, 2007). Accordingly, the authors’ voice, aligned with Elbow’s (2007) notion, should be on par with efforts of demonstrating sincerity and resonance of building interactive communication with readers. This illustration of voice in interaction with the audience is what Tardy (2012, p. 66) calls as “the effect” for readers to build writers’ credibility. Tardy (2012) adds that readers can establish writers’ voices by considering several extra-textual identities from writers’ backgrounds: races, cultures, academic experiences, and others. In short, the voice becomes inextricably intertwined with the cultures of writers. In for this paper, I define voice as a genuine presence of an author marked by any accessible rhetorical resources including cultural values, which can resonate, to some extent, with readers and their experiences.

These multifaceted definitions of voice have addressed, in some way, the importance of sociocultural discourses as rhetorical options for L2 writers, which navigate their self-representation and interaction with their audience. In the following section, I discuss some misconceptions of collectivist cultures. I then capitalize on those values as rhetorical choices for students to attend their voices.

 

Stereotypes of sociocultural values of the East

Elbow (2007) states that a writing discourse is not merely a linguistic act, but it is a cultural performance of writers in the text. Due to the supremacy of Western norms in the EFL context, L2 writers are deemed to generate texts complying with the essentialized attributes of the West. When students cannot meet the expectation to grapple with these dominant norms, they are stigmatized to have a deficit in writing competence (Canagarajah & Matsumoto, 2016). The label of collectivist cultures of Asian students is widely presumed has created scarcity for students to perform well in mainstream contexts. Some findings show how Asian students, who have particular collectivist values, have suffered because of cultural tensions and contradictions to achieve writing expectations (Adiningrum & Kuiteleh, 2011; Phan, 2009). Instead of oversimplifying students’ cultural values, Phan (2009) urges to view collectivist cultures among the Asian society as diverse with unique characteristics from one country to another. Those cultural values are not stumbling blocks but resources for a writing teacher to understand students’ identity. In response to Canagarajah and Matsumoto’s (2016) call to unlock several cultural labels of a collectivist society, I discuss some stereotypes of the Eastern cultures. I also bring new perspectives to see the positive influences of those Eastern cultures to voice construction in Indonesia as my home country respectively.  

 

Missing Originality

Authenticity and originality are closely related to the author’s presence in a text. The originality is important in academic writing since it demonstrates the ownership of authentic voice (Adiningrum & Kutieleh, 2011). In opposition to originality, the practice of concealing original work is recognized as plagiarism. Pecorari (2016) articulates plagiarism as actions for “presenting language or ideas which are derived from another work as if they were one’s own” (p. 329).  Plagiarism is characterized as an unethical act when authors cite other people’s works and consider these works as their own without giving any acknowledgment or references in their text.

The Western academic cultures which corroborate anti-plagiarism values can potentially stereotype students’ works from collectivist cultures as less original (Pecorari, 2016; Phan, 2006). Lack of consciousness for authenticity, according to the West, will prone to hamper the flow of individual thinking and self-expression into a text. Instead of making this partial judgment, Phan (2006) claims that it is unfair to see the issue of plagiarism in the East from the Western lens. For some Eastern cultures, plagiarism is considered an act of cheating on somebody’s work. Phan argues that Vietnam’s culture, for example, condemns any activity to copy and paste resources without any acknowledgment, as immoral behaviors in educational contexts. Students will get a punishment from their school if they are caught imitating one's works or ideas without resources. Likewise, schools in Indonesia tend to do the same for students who duplicate one’s works. Still, plagiarism is not treated as a critical academic issue in Indonesia because it depends on cultures and educational institutions to view the originality of one’s works and to support policymaking of anti-plagiarism (Adiningrum & Kutieleh, 2011).

Unlike the beliefs of originality for one’s work by the West, the Eastern cultures value common knowledge as a product of society. For Indonesia and Vietnam, common knowledge is acceptable as the result of oral practices or public opinions passed from one generation to the next (Adiningrum & Kuiteleh, 2011; Phan, 2006). To express the common knowledge, the East tends to use some assertive words like “We believe” or “We think” to represent their identity which belongs to society (Kuntjara, 2004, p. 18). In other words, to bring any common knowledge in a text means to reflect a recognition for writers’ society. This knowledge becomes problematic for the West due to the issues of originality and ownership. The mainstream values incline to reject common knowledge on account of no resources and attest it as the conduct of plagiarism. This different cultural pattern, conclusively, leads to a misapprehension of plagiaristic conducts in the East.

Sardjono (2006) points out that due to social and group respects, Indonesia, in the past, but no concern on claiming for any intellectual right of local properties since it was not possessed exclusively by an individual or a social group (as cited in Adiningrum & Kuiteleh, 2011). However, with the progressive transition of the global world as the contact zone for cultures and society, UNESCO has given a supportive approach for reserving the exclusive identity of local resources through registration for world heritages (Bhabha, 1994; UNESCO, 2016). This effort is to avoid any loss because of a discursive process that is overtaken by a particular authority and power in society. Through this awareness, Indonesia becomes more proactive in recording its local products to UNESCO as the world heritage e.g. Batik mark (UNESCO, 2016). This thought-provoking act for preserving the originality of traditional properties, undoubtedly, has influenced the educational institutions to protect ethics and integrity of academic works too. Adiningrum (2015) validates this description by emphasizing that the notion of ownership might be perceived differently for nations, cultures, and institutional contexts. She documented some efforts of the Indonesian teachers, who were Australian graduates, to prevent plagiarism by integrating the anti-plagiarism notion into their teaching materials and utilizing the system of a plagiarism checkers in their local universities. Her findings showed the importance of appreciating and nurturing originality-based cultures in academic works. In light of the cultural perspective for original works, I believe that a well-defined common knowledge from collectivist society can take place in a classroom as the property of the East, along with the explicit teaching of citation and reference to combat the potential of plagiarism.

 

Perplexing Markers of Identity

In academic writing, identity markers such as the use of ‘I’ play an essential role for the readers to indicate a writer's stance in the text. Hyland (2008) argues that the use of 'I' is for projecting individualism of writer’s rhetorical discourses in the West; thus, it is used as a benchmark for L2 writers to demonstrate their individualized stance for their readers. In contrast, the missing individual voice of ‘I’ in characterizing writers' identity brings an issue in mainstream writing contexts. The missing ‘I’ weakens the author’s self-representation and a sense of authenticity (Elbow, 2007). This manifestation of the individuality of ‘I’ from the West is in striking contrast to the collectivist marker of ‘We’ in the East.

Some Asian students have been defaulted to have impersonalized features with the preferential use of the nominative pronoun ‘We’ over ‘I.’  Zhao, Fei, and Lin (2013) examined how Chinese students were reluctant to present their self-identity and preferred to use ‘We’ than ‘I.’ Their findings demonstrate that the use of ‘I’ represents individualism and is subordinate to ‘We’ -the community-oriented marker-  within classes and political pressures in China. Students are deemed disrespectful if they do otherwise. These fundamental sociocultural differences, featured by these identity markers, also occur in the Indonesian context where some writers prefer using ‘We’ to politely address their readers. For Kuntjara (2004), the use of ‘We’ is for minimizing the writer's responsibility for his claims and giving a chance for readers to make a fair judgment on his arguments. Javanese people —the largest ethnic group in Indonesia—, for instance,  express their sense of belonging to a community by choosing pronoun ‘We’ over ‘I.’ Sugiharto (2015) found the empirical evidence in the written work by Djarjowidjojo, the famous Javanese scholar, when he adversely used the pronoun ‘I’ to put forward his subjective stance and ‘We’ to humble his intellectual ability. Sugiharto claims that Djarjowidjojo’s voice seems ambivalent considering Djarjowidjojo was a U.S. graduate who was able to demonstrate his self-stance. As an L2 writer and a reader, I disagree with Sugiharto’s argument because Djarjowidjojo was able to signify himself as a collective entity with the use of ‘We,’ but he could maintain his self-reference by the use of ‘I.’ In other words, Djarjowidjojo has demonstrated successful negotiation in his writing with the use of both identity markers by clarifying the referents of his markers clearly for readers who might be from cross-cultural contexts.

Despite the controversy of ‘We’ and ‘I’ as voice markers, the American Psychological Association (2009) allows for using both markers to signpost the authorial voice of a writer. This pronoun ‘We,’ however, can be inexplicable when it fails to denote either authors-reference or a reader engagement marker. The use of ‘We’ should have a crystal-clear referent in academic writing (APA, 2009). In short, with clear referents and functions, the use of identity markers can strongly affect how student writers settle their position in their text and place their cultural identity through social engagement with their readers.

 

Lack of Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is broadly viewed as a cognitive ability to make a fair judgment in an academic paper (Handoyo, 2012; Stapelton, 2001). Handoyo (2012) refers to critical thinking as dual competences of a writer including: “(1) ability to understand, analyze, and evaluate ideas or arguments and (2) capacity to present, synthesize and develop those arguments in a cogent and coherent way” (p. 89). In this manner, students can use any information from linguistic and cultural resources, and their prior experiences to generate the ideas. Also, by having a logical examination of claims and data, students carry out their critical writing required in the academic discourse. Atkinson (2016) asserts that these attributes of critical thinking are associated with the foci of Western cultures in L2 writing. In his study with Japanese students, Stapelton (2001) indicates the presence of conformity and harmony values in students’ writing texts which tend to isolate their thinking process from any critical reasoning. From this point of departure, Atkinson (2016) widens the definition of critical thinking from a cognitive entity into “a complex social practice learned implicitly by particular groups rather than a well-defined, teachable set of behaviors” (p.550). This notion means that the view of critical thinking is a culturally and socially sensitive practice based on agreements of certain discourses.

Jiang (2011) explores the view of critical thinking underpinned by cultural roots between Western and Eastern philosophies, which are called Socrates and Confucius among Chinese students. The students-centered concept, which stems from Socrates’ idea, manifests the idealism of students in seeking knowledge proactively. While Confucius, the core of the teacher-centered theory, emphasizes on teachers as the authoritarians for maintaining the harmony of students’ knowledge in the classroom. Indonesia is likely driven by the Confucius orientation, where teachers become the center of knowledge. In fact, some Indonesian teachers have elongated the value of conformity through memorization-based systems in EFL learning, while they have taught critical thinking implicitly (Mukminin, Ali, & Ashari, 2015). This fact is in line with the findings by Phan (2009) in her study with Arianto, an Indonesian student who did his master’s program in Australia. Phan describes Arianto’s self-conflict to construct critical essays because of no educational experience of structuring arguments explicitly in his previous EFL context. He only learned how to write this way while studying, observing, and reading independently. Arianto sometimes tried to hide his voice for the sake of objectivity, although he was eager to present his own emotions (Phan, 2009). I shared the same experience with Arianto as an L2 writer: the struggle to expose my emotional intentions in my academic essay. My attempts were in vain because my decision lies on the margins of being objective; therefore, I hide my personal voice.

As it is earlier mentioned by Atkinson (2016), the idea of critical thinking is varied among discourse communities culturally. Chandra’s (2004) findings from three major ethnic groups in Indonesia: Batak, Java, and Minangkabau have supported Atkinson’s (2016) argument. His findings shed light on the presence of critical thinking rooted in Indonesian cultures. For Javanese people, they treat self-reflection hinged to evidence for the critical thinking process, while Batak cultures prefer expressive argumentation to discuss ideas. Moreover, Chandra argues that in Minangkabau, Islam —the predominant religion in Indonesia— becomes the highest law for assessing arguments and logical thoughts. To proceed critical thinking, Chandra discovers that both Batak and Minangkabau recognize that adat (cultural) meeting is the cultural way for people to gather, deliberate their ideas, defend their arguments, and reach consensuses. The process of critical thinking becomes a community-oriented practice instead of just individual work. By being together, people can have more heads to think and discuss to get better results. Also, Javanese people are in favor of addressing their critical ideas indirectly and politely; in other words, they do not want to hurt their interlocutors intentionally by speaking too direct(Chandra, 2004). This polite manner of concealing explicit critical arguments then creates the production of passive voices by L2 writers in their texts (Elbow, 2007).

These various socio-cultural values of Indonesia reflect the need for writing teachers to facilitate group work for triggering critical ideas in writing. The integration of these socio-cultural values in writing instruction is presented in the following.

 

Hybrid Contact Zone

Elbow (2007) and Hyland (2008) resonate that voice cannot be constructed and represented without any contact with social and cultural resources. However, when there is any contact, Phan (2005) expounds upon a possible clash between cultural properties by L2 writers with mainstream norms in an L2 writing classroom. To reduce any potential conflict, Canagarajah and Matsumoto (2016) impel for not overlooking the cultural values of L2 writers as sources of deficiency, but as resources for voice appropriation in any writing convention. By shifting this perspective, writing teachers can help their students to appropriate their voice by taking up their cultural values and negotiating them with any dominant norms both in the EFL context and wider context. To scaffold voice negotiation, I propose the combination of the Third Culture by Kramsch (2009) and Contact Zone, which was originated from Pratt (1991) and has been modified by Canagarajah and Matsumoto (2016). Both theories agree that classrooms foster diverse norms and cultural values used to encompass students’ L2 writing process where any interaction and intersection between them —possibly from the East and West— take place. I name these modified theories as Hybrid Contact Zone.  I modified the word hybrid or cultural fusions with equal stances by Bhaba (1994). As L2 writers, students are not marginalized with certain cultural fixed attributes per se compared to L1 writers in the Western norms. In fact, they reconstruct their concept of the blend between Western and Eastern cultures as a new hybrid cultural form in the L2 classrooms, which is called as the third culture.

The notion of the third culture derives from the concept of third space by Bhabha (1994). This concept locates culture as a discursive practice by writers or speakers in which all meanings and signs are not fixed but can be appropriated differently (Kramsch, 2009). Kramsch refers to the third culture as a metaphor of dualities from the first culture by the West (dominant) vs. the second culture, by the East (subservient). The third culture promotes dialogue and response to displacing those two cultures in a new position and capitalizes on all resources for their own advantages. The characteristics of the third culture are: (1) A popular culture by creating meanings in the oppositional place; (2) A critical culture by investigating any dominant norms critically; (3) An ecological culture by being aware of the demands of the academic writing and taking advantage of all modes to reconstructing meaning (Kramsch, 2009). Strictly speaking, the third culture engenders students’ resistance to dominant norms and promotes critical reconstruction on meaning in a textual form related to their sociocultural lens. Students become the “subject of enunciation” (Kramsch, 2009, p. 236) by engaging proactively and interactively with any worldviews and prevailing norms. They become familiar with multiple perspectives from different angles of cultures through critical readings and group discussions and use any resources in their classroom to negotiate their voice and identity.

The features of the third culture theory are akin to a contact zone pedagogy (Canagarajah & Matsumoto, 2016). According to Pratt (1991), a contact zone is a social space for cultures to have a meeting in which any conflict and negotiation can exist. Canagarajah and Matsumoto (2016) intensify it as a writing space to “engage with the social, semiotic, and materials affordances in writing contexts to develop critical self-awareness and adopt more complex voices in new genres” (p. 4). In particular, a contact zone allows the classroom as an ecological site to embrace all multiple resources in L2 writing instruction. Canagarajah and Matsumoto (2016) refer to those resources as affordances or “available useful learning resources” (p. 5) for negotiating intended norms and values and engendering a hybrid text. Hyland (2008) argues that when texts interact with other values and conventions, the voice will not remain original. Instead, voice becomes hybrid and unique as the on-going process of (re) constructing and empowering the cultural and individual identities of L2 writers.

For the hybrid contact zone, the Indonesian L2 writers’ affordances are (1) Collaborative discussion combined with individual reasoning; (2) The mixture of ‘We’ and ‘I’ as the identity markers of social and individual entities in society; and (3) the blend of common knowledge and academic resources. This pedagogy invests in students’ cultural resources and their cultural identities. Student writers learn through the exposure of blending conventions of the East and the West to refine their writing skills and create their own voice in a hybrid text. Also, they learn how to establish relationships with their readers who involve in constructing their voice. By having these experiences, students are shaped to be self-assured writers with ready-to-negotiate identity when they move from one writing discourse to another.

A writing teacher can get several advantages for serving an L2 classroom as a hybrid contact zone. First, students can improve their cognitive skills and enjoy privileges from their cultural resources as rhetorical options to construct their voice. Second, students can creatively compose a text by attending identity markers of ‘I’ and ‘We’ to present their authorial and cultural stances. Third, students can establish audience awareness through working collaboratively with their peers and a writing teacher. Fourth, students learn about the importance of originality by critically analyzing the authenticity of sources in academic situations and society. Fifth, students become competent in shifting easily in various writing conventions. These five benefits suggest the potential outcome by re-envisioning an L2 classroom as space for students to intersect and interact with norms and cultural values which are reflected in the pedagogical activities, to which I will now turn.

 

Pedagogical activities of Hybrid Contact Zone

In this part, I would like to address some activities for capitalizing on rhetorical resources, as mentioned earlier—critical reasoning, identity markers, and referencing— serving as the affordances in this hybrid contact zone. These activities can be adopted in a different genre of writing since the purpose is students need to attend their voice as the writer throughout their writing. The target students for these writing activities are at the advanced writer of high school or the beginner writer in college.  The hands-on activities along with theoretical lens are presented as follows.

 

Establishing a Writing Task

This hybrid contact zone employs an argumentative essay as a writing assignment for students since this text genre allows students to establish pro and con arguments together with evidence. Handoyo (2012) asserts that argumentative writing enables student writers to do an investigation, to take a stance, and to argue their evidence-driven position logically. The aim of the argumentative genre meets the purpose of the hybrid contact zone, which is to trigger students’ affordances: critical thinking and collaboration as the blends of Eastern and Western cultures. Students work together with their peers to structure their logical ideas and to do a peer-review process as a way to grasp critical thinking. By incorporating these collaborative works, a writing teacher creates a classroom as an interactive space for writers and their readers. As writers, students will learn to indicate and discuss their individual opinionated ideas with their peers. Respectively, students are trained to become better readers who are sensitive to rhetorical resources that writers convey in their text (Tardy, 2012). 

For a writing task, a writing teacher provides a writing prompt for student writers with specific time allocation for completing the essay. Handoyo (2012) suggests a writing prompt as a description of the task, including the role of a writer, readers, issues and a way to address the issues. The prompt is not supposed to confine students’ creativity, but it serves as clear guidance for organizing the essay. Atkinson (2016) and Hyland (2008) assert that writers have control over their credible account of their identity in a text, which is constructed in a social, discursive space. This argument means that student writers have the freedom to adapt and to use any social materials to create their ownership in writing, including topics on life issues. For this essay, students decide their own topics that are captivating and familiar with their everyday lives.  The following sample is a writing prompt that a teacher use for students’ writing assignments.

 

Sample of Writing Prompt

You are going to write an argumentative essay about something that you are interested in, and it can be closely related to your daily life. The topic you choose must be complex so it can be argued from multiple points of view. Investigate this topic with readings and discussion. Write a 500-word long argumentative essay, demonstrating your critical thinking. Your readers are your peers; thus, your writing should be interesting and clear for them.

In the process of gathering ideas and brainstorming for the topics for their essay, students are deemed to do observations and readings. While students are mapping out their ideas, a writing teacher inserts and mediates the learning of cultural-based voice with the introduction of identity markers and originality of resources.

 

Locating Identity Markers and Common Knowledge

Writing is a literacy practice, and by all means, it cannot be inseparable with readings (Canagarajah & Matsumoto, 2016). In their studies, Canagarajah and Matsumoto (2016), along with Phan (2009), supplied their students with certain readings to support their understanding of voices. Following this activity, a writing teacher can develop students’ awareness of multi-voiced natures of texts by discussing two academic articles by Elbow (2007) and Kuntjara (2004). Elbow’s article is selected since it corresponds to the metaphor of voice: speak what a writer thinks in his text, which draws upon the Western value. In this article, Elbow also explains some arguments for attending and not attending voice in writing. Elbows sets foundations for student writers about voice construction. Students will observe the use of ‘I’ as the identity marker that is frequently employed by Elbow in his article as it reflects his Western cultural identity. 

In Kuntjara’s (2004) article, students will learn about the effects of collectivist cultures by observing how Kuntjara, an Indonesian writer, presents her voice in her article. In this article, students locate the use of ‘We’ and ‘I,’ and discuss some possible considerations done by Kuntjara to use these identity markers. Students need to understand that the use of ‘We’ is acceptable in academic writing, given that there is a clear referent in the text (APA, 2009). Together with a writing teacher, students compare those two articles by identifying identity markers, contexts, language styles (active and passive voices), and intended readers. Additionally, drawing upon Tardy’s argument (2012), the writers’ cultural backgrounds are used as extra-textual identities by students as readers for constructing the writers’ voice. All those components serve as the affordances for students in determining writers’ identities and voices in different texts.

For the following activity, a writing teacher will train students with two types of ideas: common knowledge and opinionated ideas as the basis for students to construct their arguments. Students identify these thoughts and common knowledge in Kuntjara’s (2004) article since she is an L2 writer who possibly brings those ideas to her text. In particular, a writing teacher emphasizes the notion of common knowledge. Phan (2006) suggests recognizing any common knowledge which culturally takes place in any text with phrases by using common phrases “We believe” or “We think” (Kuntjara, 2004, p.18). Thus, by teaching explicitly for any possible existence of common knowledge in writing, a teacher urges students to make a careful decision. Students’common knowledge can be presented to the readers but students need to clarify its meanings and avoids false information. This stage will be the outset for familiarizing the students with a different type of authorial voice within ideas before they craft their writing. Students will gain deep-rooted awareness of various ideas in texts to develop arguments and adopt critical thinking.

 

Constructing Arguments Collaboratively and Critically

Students organize their essay consisting of the introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs, in a cogent and coherent manner. To build arguments for their essay, students identify their original ideas and any common knowledge. They attend those ideas as claims with clear reasons and evidence. For avoiding any false assumption, a writing teacher assists students in having a careful reflection and discussion about the relationship between common knowledge and their society, in particular. Students also need to have a reliable line of evidence from some studies to support their arguments.

During this process of constructing their critical argument, students have discussions with their peers to initiate any critical reasoning and advocate ideas for their arguments. Chandra’s (2004) findings show that Indonesian cultures rely on meeting together to reach any critical agreement. Thus, in this hybrid contact zone, students can have group discussions for identifying, clarifying, questioning, defending and deliberating their claims as well as reasons. Students will consider and make their individual decisions based on the consensuses of their discussion and prior knowledge. Handoyo (2012) pinpoints all individual and collective experiences become rhetorical resources for students that tap into multiple and critical ideas.

To advance the process of developing arguments, a writing teacher trains students on how to have proper citations and references in academic writing. Since these two topics encompass many areas for documenting resources and need a separate time to be taught; thus, a writing teacher needs to introduce these subjects. The Purdue OWL is a valuable resource for a teacher to scaffold academic honesty by acknowledging sources of writing and avoiding plagiarism. Before writing a draft, a teacher asks students to compile their resources and citations used for their writing. A writing teacher also initiates students to work in groups and map their arguments along with their citations. According to Pecorari (2016), students need to know their motives to cite particular resources. Therefore, in their group discussion, students will clarify their decision and negotiate their purpose of choosing particular resources. A writing teacher assists students in interpreting citations and paraphrasing them. Pecorari (2016) suggests the use of reporting words such as “suggest, argue, show and report” (p.337) in a paraphrase.

A writing teacher needs to advocate students' process of negotiation. A writing teacher teaches students the clear concepts of voice, the differences between Western and Eastern cultures embedded in writing norms, and the process of cultivating critical thinking. After having all those pedagogical activities, students finalize their argumentative essay and submit it. This argumentative essay serves as a hybrid text for students through which they attend identity markers and logical arguments derived from collaborative and individual works.

 

Possible Challenges of Implementing Hybrid Contact Zone

This hybrid contact zone creates a space for students to negotiate their voices in the intersection between their local values and dominant norms. The hybrid text is the product of this process. However, some following challenges might exist in this hybrid contact zone.

First, as the advocate of this writing pedagogy, thus, a writing teacher should have solid knowledge or experiences about voice in L2 writing and cultural values of Indonesia. A teacher should not submit to the supremacy of Western norms nor the stereotypes of collectivist cultures. With sufficient understanding, a writing teacher can explain different types of voices in various text genres and assist students in attending their voices. Having academic articles with a range of authors from different cultural backgrounds, students can increase their awareness of language styles and identity markers. Students also learn how to negotiate their voices to serve purposes and genres required for their texts.

Second, during the peer-review process, students might avoid giving critical ideas to their friend’s writing because they want to maintain their relationship through politeness (Chandra, 2004). A writing teacher can suggest the students comment on their peers’ drafts and give no identity as reviewers instead of saying their comments directly to the person. A writing teacher provides adequate training for students as readers by focusing on the use of identity markers, the structure of arguments, and the use of citations. Students learn to be responsible not only to write their papers but also to collaborate with their readers in constructing and negotiating their voices.

In conclusion, this article has aimed to discuss the process of constructing voice in L2 writing classrooms and situate it in the Indonesian context. This L2 classroom serves as a hybrid contact zone for the process of negotiating asymmetrical relations between the West and the East. The Indonesian cultural values become the affordances in this hybrid contact zone for constructing L2 writers' voices. This process prompts students’ creativity, critical reasoning, and cultural awareness in text production through the amalgamation of Eastern and Western cultures. When students gain all these abilities, they can adapt to any new writing situation flexibly and present their authorial voice positively as the signature of their identity.

 

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  • Attending Voice in the Hybrid Contact Zone
    Inggrit O. Tanasale, Indonesia