Writing Center Journal


In this hybrid essay, I engage creatively with the illusory nature of contingent work, presenting three episodes from my personal experiences as a contingent writing program administrator (WPA) during the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, I interrogate these experiences by building on past critiques of “comfortable” writing centers, applying Sara Ahmed’s work on the affectiveness of (dis)comfort in order to examine comfort and its uneasy relationship with labor. For whom is the writing center expected to labor to provide comfort? Whose comfort, and moreover whose safety, is jeopardized or made invisible in the process? In answering these questions, this essay proposes that writing center work during the pandemic offers three valuable insights into contingency: first, how contingency is a state that generates semantic shifts around its workers, such as the slippery meaning of “comfort”; second, how contingency reproduces itself aesthetically in “comfortable” writing center spaces; and finally, how writing center professionals might work to resist the exhaustive demands of contingency within writing center work.