Kate Vieira joins the English department from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She completed her master’s and doctoral degrees at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is delighted to return as a faculty member.
Vieira studies the social history of literacy and migration. She is currently working on an ethnography of two U.S. migrant groups and their relationships to official papers — visas, green cards, passports. A key insight: Many immigrants experience literacy through the papers that enter their lives.
Welcome, Kate! Tell us more about your research.
Papers are powerful. If you look closely at people’s experiences of papers — what they have to do to get them, how they manage if they can’t get them — it becomes clear that for many people, literacy is not necessarily about individual empowerment. It is about regulation, bureaucracy, about having (or not having) the right document to go where you want to go.
After receiving your Ph.D. here at UW-Madison, you are back as a faculty member. How’s that feel?
Is there anything I’m not excited about? I’m thrilled to be in such a forward-thinking place, with top-notch programs across the board. The Digital Humanities Initiative is just extraordinary, with lots of implications for the study of literacy. The Composition and Rhetoric program here has a national reputation for innovative scholarship. I could go on …!
What courses do you teach?
I’m on research leave for the fall, but in the spring I’ll be teaching English 239, a Comm-B faculty-led course, and English 309, an undergraduate introduction to Composition and Rhetoric, with a focus on writing pedagogy.
What can students expect in the classroom?
I help students explore their own relationships to writing. This sounds a little touchy-feely, but when we start with a respect for the personal — really understanding why the blank page makes us sweat, for example — we can more deeply understand the powerful social processes that shape literacy historically, cross-culturally, globally.
What do you like best about Madison?
Within one month of living here, one of my new neighbors gave my bike a tune-up, and another neighbor gave me a trailer to cart around my daughter and my groceries. My commute to campus along the Lakeshore Path is just dreamy.