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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric and Technical Communication (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Humanities

First Advisor

Nancy M. Grimm


Writing center scholarship and practice have approached how issues of identity influence communication but have not fully considered ways of making identity a key feature of writing center research or practice. This dissertation suggests a new way to view identity -- through an experience of "multimembership" or the consideration that each identity is constructed based on the numerous community memberships that make up that identity. Etienne Wenger (1998) proposes that a fully formed identity is ultimately impossible, but it is through the work of reconciling memberships that important individual and community transformations can occur. Since Wenger also argues that reconciliation "is the most significant challenge" for those moving into new communities of practice (or, "engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavor" (4)), yet this challenge often remains tacit, this dissertation examines and makes explicit how this important work is done at two different research sites - a university writing center (the Michigan Tech Multiliteracies Center) and at a multinational corporation (Kimberly-Clark Corporation). Drawing extensively on qualitative ethnographic methods including interview transcriptions, observations, and case studies, as well as work from scholars in writing center studies (Grimm, Denney, Severino), literacy studies (New London Group, Street, Gee), composition (Horner and Trimbur, Canagarajah, Lu), rhetoric (Crowley), and identity studies (Anzaldua, Pratt), I argue that, based on evidence from the two sites, writing centers need to educate tutors to not only take identity into consideration, but to also make individuals' reconciliation work more visible, as it will continue once students and tutors leave the university. Further, as my research at the Michigan Tech Multiliteracies Center and Kimberly-Clark will show, communities can (and should) change their practices in ways that account for reconciliation work as identity, communication, and learning are inextricably bound up with one another.