Ellen Cushman is Dean's Professor of Civic Sustainability and Professor of English at Northeastern University and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Her work explores how people use literacy and language to endure and create change.
I have been a scholar of literacy, race, and culture for two decades and a scholar of Cherokee literacies and empire for fifteen of those years. My research explores the ways individuals and communities use reading and writing to endure and create change. My work is premised on Cherokee ethics of reciprocity, civic responsibility and perseverance: I am a Cherokee Nation citizen and have served as a Cherokee Nation Sequoyah Commissioner.
My current research takes up Cherokee philosophies of collective change and reevaluates the commitment to civic-mindedness at the heart of American literary and rhetorical studies. Cherokees Writing Resilience: Everyday Literacies of Collective Action (working title) will be the first monograph to treat the common writings of Cherokee people as evidence of a lived ethic of individual perseverance and a people's collective resilience. I'm grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for supporting this book project with a fellowship.
Along with this book project, I'm currently co-leading a team developing a digital archive to support indigenous language learning through the translation of Cherokee language manuscripts housed in museums and archives around the country. The Digital Archive of Indigenous Languages Persistence (DAILP) project has been generously supported by an Institute for Museums and Library Services: Sparks! Ignition Grant, the Henry Luce Foundation: Indigenous knowledge initiative grant, and a Northeastern University Tier 1 grant. In 2021, the DAILP team received a National Archives: National Historical Preservation and Records Commission (NHPRC) award of $160,000 to expand the current corpus of texts into a fully-fledged digital edition, titled: Cherokees Writing the Keetoowah Way. The team was also awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities: Digital Humanities Advancement Grant, for $99,957 for two years to develop the translation environment for DAILP. The translation environment will make possible the collective work of translating these documents, which will feed the back-end lexical data infrastructure we have built. We are especially grateful for the continued support from the Henry K. Luce Foundation of $250,000 to evaluate the impact of DAILP and expand the number of Cherokee community members who produce audio files and translations.
My first book, The Struggle and the Tools (SUNY 1998), drew on ethnographic fieldwork in an inner city community to demonstrate the institutional reading and writing practices of community members. The research leading to this book earned the 1997 National Council of Teachers of English CCCC James Berlin Outstanding Dissertation of the Year Award and the 1997 Richard Braddock Award. My second book, The Cherokee Syllabary: Writing the People's Perseverance (University of Oklahoma Press, 2012), traced the instrumental, cultural and historical legacy of the Cherokee syllabary. With both my sole-authored books, my goal has been to provide evidence of the commonplace reading and writing practices that make for individual agency and community strength particularly during times of crisis.
I have also published two co-edited collections: Landmark Essays on Rhetorics of Difference, with Damián Baca and Jonathan Osborne (Routledge 2019) and Literacies: A Critical Sourcebook, 2nd edition, with Christina Haas and Mike Rose (Macmillan 2020). Mary Juzwik and I served as Co-Editors of Research in the Teaching of English, the premier research journal of the National Council of Teachers of English, from 2012-2017. I have published over 60 articles, book chapters, and essays — many of them co-authored with students and early career scholars. In 2017, I received the Distinguished Engaged Scholar Award from the Conference on Community Writing. I was elected Chair of the Coalition for Community Writing (2019-2021) by the Coalition for Community Writing Advisory Board.
Between 2016 and 2021, I served as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Northeastern University. In this position, I facilitated the hiring, retention, mentoring, and promotion of colleagues. I am Dean's Professor of Civic Sustainability and Professor of English in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at Northeastern University. I earned my PhD in Rhetoric and Communication from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1996.