Introduction: The Call for Critical Studies of Genre

One incisive recent critique of North American genre studies states that “[students of genre]have tended to be descriptive, with the accompanying tendency to an uncritical acceptance of the status quo” (Freedman & Medway, 1994). Freedman and Medway call for studies of genre that:

  • Question the uses and ends of genres that uphold the status quo
  • Expose both dominant ideologies at work and narratives that are excluded by such ideologies rather than reify those ideologies

It is in response to this call that I wish to situate my own argument that, while conscious participation in workplace genres entails “learning one's professional location in the [naturalized and hierarchical] power relations of institutional life” (Paré, 2002), participation in other, less institutionalized genres has the potential to facilitate agency and consciousness-raising on the subject's part. I will demonstrate this by analyzing two genres:

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education's “Career Network: News and Advice” columns
  • The Invisible Adjunct weblog community

through the lens of Foucault's theory of power as working through normalization and Bakhtin's concepts of heteroglossia and hybrid constructions.