Main Article Content
Abstract: In this essay I bring together two spaces—street needle exchange and the university classroom—to explore harm reduction as an epistemological model that can be adapted pedagogically in our rhetoric, communications, and composition classes. I first identify capitalism in the classroom as an insistence on mastery and the relentless call to know, acquire, and achieve. I then offer harm reduction, a public health practice that rejects these iterations of capitalism, to instead ask how we might meet students where they are and how we might forego the rewards of telos for the discomfort of process and mess. I’ll argue in this piece that reducing the harms of capitalist-based writing and knowledge requires considered attention to the ways we are lured toward production (what we might even call “deliverables”). I explore the epistemological nodes of harm reduction—its emphasis on temporality and its privileging of process—as methods for teaching writing, rhetoric, and communications while also offering a pedagogical case study along the way.
Berlant, Lauren. (2007). Slow death: Sovereignty, obesity, lateral agency. Critical Inquiry, 33 (4), 754–780. https://doi.org/10.2307/4497751
———. (2011). Cruel optimism. Duke University Press.
Foucault, Michel. (2008). The birth of the clinic: An archeology of medical perception. London: Routledge.
———. (1990). The history of sexuality, volume 1: An introduction. New York: Vintage Books.
Harm Reduction Principles. (2020). National Harm Reduction Coalition. https://www.harmreduction.org/about-us/principles-of-harm-reduction
Lorde, Audre. (2013). Poetry is not luxury. In Sister outsider: Essays and speeches. Ten Speed Press.
Somerville, Siobhan. (2000). Queering the color line race and the invention of homosexuality in american culture. Durham: Duke University Press.
Snorton, C. Riley. (2017). Black on both sides: A racial history of trans identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Student 6, Anonymous. (2019). Mixtape catalog reflection. Seminar in Composition, University of Pittsburgh, unpublished student paper.