Digital Latin@ Storytelling: testimonio as Multi-modal Resistance

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Computers & Composition Digital Press


Digital storytelling has become a familiar genre in computer and composition scholarship, sometimes framed within pedagogical exigencies for multimodal composing (Comer and Harker; Kirtley; Yang). Multimodal composing can underscore how orality and aurality offer potential for communities of color with long oral traditions that often include storytelling (Banks; Selfe; Villanueva). In Testimonio: On the Politics of Truth, John Beverley draws attention to the Latinx storytelling practice of testimonio (testimony) and highlights the ethos of the genre as one that “speaks truth to power.” Latinx critical race theory (LatCrit) scholars have begun to advocate the centrality of testimonio in digital spaces because of its agentive effects on student identity that also contribute to community building. The genre of digital testimonio is undergirded by the centrality of experiential knowledge in LatCrit scholarship that challenges the dominant narratives normalizing and dismissing the systemic oppression of people and communities of color. I posit that the integration of digital testimonio into writing courses would benefit diverse student populations because the ability to write for a public audience works against the experience of feeling silenced as a so-called imposter, an affirmative action beneficiary, or a scholarship student who does not belong. Digital testimonio exposes students who do not experience systemic or institutional oppression to experiences that inform them of their roles as allies.

This chapter shows how personal stories in culturally relevant multimodal storytelling contribute to scholarship that has been excluded from the landscape of academic print literacy. I build on Ellen Cushman’s assertion in “Wampum, Sequoyan, and Story: Decolonizing the Digital Archive” that a digital story “represents the social practices of storytelling as epistemological activities” (116). Testimonios including digital ones, contribute to decolonial knowledge that breaks from—and often speaks against—dominant colonial narratives, thereby providing sites of knowledge production for examination. In this chapter, I look at the culturally relevant multimodal writing practice of digital testimonio, a genre whose features overlap with traditional digital storytelling; however, digital testimonio articulates an exigent methodology for marginalized populations to resist dominant narratives. Digital testimonio is a Latinx digital writing practice that makes use of the different semiotic affordances of multimodal communication in online environments, and it embodies a resistant ethos in an academic space to engage with issues of race, class, gender, and disability. The digital genre of testimonio affords further opportunities to communicate these messages of an individual “speaking truth to power” through modes that do not require authorization by the gatekeepers of traditional platforms of publication and media distribution. This connects with my earlier work, in which I examined how Latinx rhetoric and composition scholars create decolonial knowledge with blogs. Similarly, testimonio also “demonstrates how digital spaces can provide alternative platforms (Haas) for discursive practices that challenge and complicate colonial standards, traditions, and narratives about writing” (Medina “Poch@” 96).

Chapter of

Racial Shorthand: Coded Discrimination Contested in Social Media