My dissertation examines the characteristics of trauma narratives based on the Rwanda’s 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and subsequent war. I am focusing primarily on unedited, direct narratives written by Rwandan survivors.

This study explores these questions:

  1. What are the characteristics of unedited, direct Rwandan trauma narratives?
  2. How can composition teachers and others help writers compose trauma narratives?
  3. What aspects of the study’s writing curriculum might transfer to other contexts and cultures?
  4. What is the experience like of bearing witness to traumatized writers for writing facilitators?

This dissertation is based on composition field research conducted in July 2009 in Rwanda; analysis of the narrative artifacts employs framing and narrative theories and possibly LIWC content analysis. Implications for composition instruction, human rights field work, and the construction of collective memory will be explored.

Post-doctoral research

In summer 2011, I plan to return to Rwanda and conduct additional writing workshops with additional Rwandan demographic groups. I also want to partner with mental health researchers to conduct longitudinal research on the mental health aspects of this form of writing. And, if the Rwandan government is so inclined, I would very much like to help conduct some sort of national writing project.

If you are interested in collaboration, please send me an email: or


Presentation at Feminisms and Rhetorics (Oct. 2009)

Panel Description: Technical communication scholars have argued for research that is “deeply concerned about issues of ideology and power” (Blyler, 1998, p. 39), they have urged us to “translate critique into ethical civic action” (Scott, Longo, and Wills, 2006, p. 15), and they have called for research committed to social action (Herndl and Nahrwold, 2000). Building on such scholarship, this panel presents research on topics considered personal rather than technical. In so doing, speakers attempt to create a disciplinary space that allows for more complex understandings of the boundaries between public, personal, and technical.

Jen Osborne (panelist) presents a rhetorical analysis of Rwandan women’s trauma narratives from the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi Genocide. Written in July 2009, these narratives are based on “the restorative power of truth-telling” and can become public, even “political and judicial” documents (Herman, 1997, p. 181) for global communities who work for gender equity and social justice. Technical communicators and compositionists have the expertise to witness these personal acts of testimony and to negotiate their significance within broader, public contexts of medical rhetoric, public policy, and collective memory. These complex intersections of gender, language, communication processes, and trauma redefine public and personal, academic and activism.


Blyler, N. (1998). Taking a Political Turn: The Critical Perspective and Research in Professional Communication. Technical Communication Quarterly, 7(1), 33-52.

Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. New York: Basic.

Herndl, C. G., & Nahrworld, C. A. (2000). Research as social practice. Written Communication, 17(2), 258-296.

Scott, J. B., Longo, B., & Wills, K. (2006). Why cultural studies?: Expanding technical communication’s critical toolbox. In J. B. Scott, B. Longo & K. Wills (Eds.), Critical Power Tools: Technical Communication and Cultural Studies (pp. 1-19). New York, NY: State University of New York Press.

Presentation at Texas Tech May Seminar for Online Technical Communication & Rhetoric students and faculty (May 2009)

A videotaped recording of one of my presentations and Q&A sessions (~20 minutes)


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