Purdue University Graduate School
Doing Difference Differently_Zhaozhe Wang.pdf (2.91 MB)

Doing Difference Differently: International Multilingual Writers’ Literacy Practices of Difference

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posted on 2021-05-07, 19:29 authored by Zhaozhe WangZhaozhe Wang

“Generation Z” multilingual writers are caught up in a globalized/globalizing and superdiverse linguistic and cultural contact zone as well as a neoliberal political and institutional environment. To understand how they inhabit their idiosyncratic literate worlds and practice their differences, I aligned myself with an ethnographic case study approach and investigated four writers’ ecologically situated and distributed literacy practices and experiences on and off the campus of an internationalized U.S. university. Through a conceptual framework I call “affordancescape” (a spatiotemporally stabilized ecological representation of structural, semiotic, experiential, social, bodily, and material relations that enable the human actors to rhetorically act and react) and methodology I name “trans-scape tracing,” I conducted semi-structured interviews and observations, videotaped writing ecologies, analyzed multimodal artifacts. Then, I reconstructed the four writers’ literate worlds that are always emerging and knotworked, rhetorically powerful, and rich in ecological affordances. These literate worlds define, bound, afford, constrain, tie and untie, mediate and remediate these writers’ practices of rhetorical differences.

The following three overarching research questions guided my data collection and analysis:

1. What does it mean to be “different” in the international multilingual students’ own terms? How do they practice self-perceived differences through various literate activities?

2. What are the ecological affordances that enable these students to practice their differences? How are these affordances knotworked? How do their practices of difference position nd reposition themselves?

3. How do we move toward a new understanding of international multilingual students’ practices of difference through literate activities?

Ultimately, I argue it is imperative to (re)examine international multilingual students’ practices of difference through literate activities against the global context characterized by the resurgence of nationalism and growing transnational migration, and the local institutional context characterized by internationalization and neoliberal corporatization, as the global and local trends deeply affect students’ bodily experiences in small and large ways. In Chapter One, I lay out in broad strokes the global and local contexts, the emerging issues, and the current scholarly responses to the issues. In Chapter Two, I introduce the analytical framework that I call “affordancescape.” Chapter Three is dedicated to the description of the research methodology that builds on the approach of ethnographic case study, which I call “trans-scape tracing,” as well as detailed data collection and analysis procedures. Chapter Four through Seven constitute the narratives of individual cases: Janus, Manna, Bohan, and Yang. In Chapter Eight, the last chapter, I revisit the individual cases through a holistic lens and provide suggestions for a new understanding of students’ practices of difference.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • English

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Tony Silva

Additional Committee Member 2

Margie Berns

Additional Committee Member 3

Thomas Rickert

Additional Committee Member 4

Irwin Weiser