Writing Across Borders 2017, Bogotá

If I can manage to get some funding, in February 2017, I will be presenting at http://wrab2017.com/javeriana/, an international conference on academic writing and literacies. This will be my first WRAB conference. I’ve copied my abstract below.

I would be very grateful for any comments, suggestions, ideas and thoughts relating to the content of my abstract, to the conference itself, to Bogotá, and to the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana.

 Proposal for Wrab 2017 (Bogotá)

640px-flag_of_bogota What makes writing ‘academic’?

Building on studies in the field of Academic Literacies (Scott & Lillis, 2007), which have mainly adopted ethnographic approaches to provide thick descriptions of how academic writing works, this presentation further expands the sociological lens proposed by Lillis (2013) and introduces a socio-philosophical perspective (Archer, 2000; Bhaskar, 1989). This allows me to argue that what makes writing ‘academic’ requires an account of how agency interacts with structure (i.e. how the writer interacts with the socio-historical conventions that tend to determine what counts as ‘academic writing’) and of the contested notion of affordance (since Gibson, 1977). I foreground the extent to which academic writing (understood as both an activity and a text) is a social practice and reflect on the implications that such a view commits us to, including the need to foster diversity in what counts as ‘academic writing’. I trace some key historical and contemporary moments in the development and range of academic writings in Europe, specifically (but with comparative nods to non-European scholarly traditions), with the intention of highlighting the de facto diversity of genres and modes of scholarly writing, and the range of academic purposes which they fulfil. This will allow me to claim that such diversity warrants full recognition in our pedagogic, publishing, and research writing practices because by ignoring diversity, we risk losing sight of what ‘academic’ means, including the creative, reflective, and socially-engaged significance of ‘academic’ writings. By foregrounding diversity rather than conformity, I am able to reflect on the role that writer agency can play in influencing scholarly practices. This reflection will further propose ways in which we – as students, teachers, publishers, and writers – can shape the kinds of academic writings that we wish to engage with (Bazerman, 1988).


Archer, M. S. (2000). Being human : the problem of agency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bazerman, C. (1988). Shaping written knowledge : the genre and activity of the experimental article in science. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press.

Bhaskar, R. (1989). Reclaiming reality : a critical introduction to contemporary philosophy. London: Verso.

Gibson, J. J. (1977). The Theory of Affordances. Hillsdale: Erlbaum ; New York ; London : Distributed by Wiley.

Lillis, T. M. (2013). The Sociolinguistics of Writing. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Scott, M., & Lillis, T. (2007). Defining academic literacies research: Issues of epistemology, ideology and strategy. Journal of Applied Linguistics, 4(1), 5-32.

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