Kate Vieira

Kate Vieira
Assistant Professor
E-mail Kate Vieira
Social history of literacy, transnational migration, materiality of literacy, qualitative research methodologies, multilingual writing, Latino/a Studies
View Kate Vieira's CV


My interests in literacy and migration stem from my teaching background: elementary school ESL in the U.S. and high school EFL with the Peace Corps in Latvia. I completed my MA in literary studies and PhD in composition and rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin, and have served on the writing studies faculty at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


My first book, ‘American by Paper’: How Documents Matter in Immigrant Literacies, is under contract with the University of Minnesota Press. Documented and undocumented, all 40 million migrants currently living in the U.S. must negotiate papers, and they often do so through everyday acts of writing. American by Paper details how migrants write to attain papers, how they write when they cannot attain papers, and how their writing can function as papers. It describes how migrants in two communities—one from the Azores, largely documented, and one from Brazil, largely undocumented—come to experience literacy not as a means of assimilation, as educational policy makers often believe, nor as a means of empowerment, as literacy scholars often hope, but instead as papers, those authoritative bureaucratic objects that are the currency of highly literate societies. I argue that scholars must take seriously both literacy products (papers) and practices (everyday reading and writing) to equip students to intervene in the powerful institutions that regulate transnational lives. Articles associated with this project have been published in College English, Written Communication, Literacy in Composition Studies, and an edited collection, Feminist Rhetorical Resilience.

I am also at work on a second book project, Literacy Learning in Migrants’ Homelands. While much research addresses migrant literacy in host coutries, this tri-continental qualitative project asks how mass migration shapes writing in migrants’ homelands. Homeland residents often receive what I am calling “writing remittances”—the letters, emails, chats, and laptops that migrants send home to their loved ones. I compare writing remittances’ use among migrants’ family members in two home communities—one marked by mass out-migration (in Latvia) and the other with modest out-migration (in Brazil). In a third field site, this time in a community of Latin American and Eastern European migrants in the Midwest, I examine how migrants view their engagement in homeland literacy education. Early results suggest that contrary to concerns about brain drain, emigration can actually promote literacy learning in homelands, as residents take up, exchange, and invest writing remittances in local and global economies of literacy. By detailing the local consequences of the global circulation of literacy, this project rethinks key literacy concepts, such as literacy’s ability to travel, from a transnational, digital, and materialist perspective. This project has been funded by the Department of Education, The University of Wisconsin Research Competition, the Vilas Associates Award, and the Spencer Foundation. You can learn more about the project here.


I design both graduate and undergraduate courses with one central goal: for students to develop the scholarly habits to research how writing works in the world.

Upcoming undergraduate classes include:
Studies in Writing, Rhetoric, and Literacy (English 204) - Course Trailer
Why is Writing Hard?, a faculty led comm-B class (English 236)
Literacy and Cash, a special topics class on the role of writing in global economies (English 550)
Introduction to Composition and Rhetoric (English 304)

Upcoming graduate courses include:
Writing and the Global Movement of People (English 706)
Perspectives on Literacy (English 702)
Qualitative Methods in Writing Studies (English 703)