Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Looking west

Jeff writes about points of connection with Burroughs--one being St. Louis.

The thing about Columbia is it's almost exactly halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City. So looking west, what connections can *I* find?

A random Google search the other day: "secretaries." I'm interested in secretaries because of their role as actants in the circulation of communication and the circulation of affect in companies. I've been interested in thinking about secretaries, about the ways that their jobs resonate with writing instructors (common assumptions about their jobs dealing with routine, repetitive kinds of composing), for years. Since my first year as a doctoral student.

And so a few days ago I Google, and one of the first items listed is the website for the International Association of Administrative Professionals, headquartered in Kansas City (pictured below the fold).

Founded in 1942 as the National Secretaries Association.

1942? Hmmm. Seven years later, the Conference on College Composition and Communication would hold its first meeting. Like composition teachers, secretaries had been around in great numbers since the turn of the century. But it wasn't until the 1940s and the heyday of management that a professional organization makes its debut.

A professional organization that is quick to point out:
IAAP is not a union organization – we work in partnership with employers to promote excellence and lifelong learning

A professional organization that publishes a journal (Office Pro), with a regular column on "Style." The topic this month? Verbs.

I became interested in secretaries because of the correspondence, the connection between their work and my work. But there's more. My mother went to "business school." Do you know about these? They were training schools for secretaries. When my mother was growing up (in the 1940s), representative of the schools went door to door in the rural areas of Texas, looking for young women who might be inticed to move to the city, become a secretary.

And so my mother went. She was trained. And she interviewed for jobs, where she was asked, she tells me, "When are you going to get married?" Because the assumption was that what young women really wanted was marriage, and, once they got that, they would leave their careers behind.

Do you know when I interviewed at my alma mater, I was asked if I was married. If I had children. I was asked, because I was "family."

Language. Affect. Bound together. Secretaries circulate both.

And just down the road, their professional headquarters. I need to check it out.

1 comment:

bdegenaro said...

That raises the issue of disciplinary connections between secretary work and composition work: the imperative for particular literate features (clarity! brevity!), the involvement in "administrative" work, the multiple ways the work is gendered, the relationship to capitalist efficiency, etc. I think you're onto something interesting...