Katrina M. Powell
BiographyI grew up in Virginia and have hiked nearly every trail in Shenandoah National Park. As a kid I heard stories about families forced from their homes in order to form the Park. I was not only fascinated with the facts of these stories—that some 500 families were displaced and that homes were burned in front of landowners—I was also taken by the way these stories were told. Early on I wanted to understand how the displaced tell stories about removal, and how their identities are intertwined in the telling. After leaving careers first in journalism and then technical editing, I went to graduate school with the intent of learning how to teach writing. Two threads of research emerged during this time: representing a disciplinary self in writing and autobiographical writing. Though the texts were different (college writing assignments across disciplines and autobiography/memoir), the methodology I developed to examine them was similar. While studying hand-written letters written by displaced families in Shenandoah’s archive, my study in narrative, genre, autobiography, and discourses of power began to coalesce. The letters have led me down a path to develop a theory of displacement rhetorics, where I examine the ways autobiographical texts come in contact with other texts about displacement, and the implications of understanding individual stories of displacement to inform our understanding of historical events, eminent domain law, and narrative identity. My research interests also concern rhetorical representations of the self across genres and technologies, and how identities are tied to issues of literacy. Whether I am examining memoir, letters, oral histories, or novels, I analyze the ways that writers construct selves that adhere to or resist cultural codes.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
displacement narratives, autobiography, human rights rhetorics, transnational feminist rhetorics, research methodologies, rhetorical theory