When Tactical Hope Doesn’t Feel Like Enough: A Graduate Student’s Reflection on Precarity and Community-Engaged Research

Megan McCool


In this reflection, using the work of Ellen Cushman and Paula Mathieu as a framework from which to extend, I explore how my positionality as a graduate student affected my experience wading into community-engaged literacy work. Specifically, I reflect on my time with a nonprofit organization that provides no-cost legal support and safety planning for survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and harassment. Indeed, because of the ethical imperatives that thoughtful community-engaged research requires—such as reciprocity and a tactical orientation—many graduate students find themselves occupying a precarious position. I assert that, yes, we must realize the precarious nature of graduate students doing community-engaged literacy research. However, we can also turn to useful approaches, such as tactical responsivity, to help us navigate these relationships with community partners.

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Publication of the Community Literacy Journal is made possible through the generous support of the English Department and the Writing and Rhetoric Program at Florida International University. The CLJ is a journal of the Conference on Community Writing.