This study is part of a larger conversation within educational policy and interdisciplinary circles that assumes discourse plays a central role in the production of social practices. Specifically, this study explores how the signifier ‘community’ and related signifiers of belonging are put to use, by whom, under what conditions, and the effects of such deployment within two overlapping sites, a school and a neighborhood, both marked off as “the Madrona community.” Considering the politics of space and social relations in a public school within a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in a Pacific Northwestern U.S. city from a discursive mode, this study reveals some of the polarizing and exclusionary effects certain constructions of community, “nested” within post-Brown and postmodern times, unwittingly produce.
Though a growing body of scholarship has noted that “community,” “rarely used unfavorably” (Williams, R, 1985, pp. 65-66), is a slippery signifier, standing in for a host of goals and practices related to school change efforts (Westheimer, 1998; Wineburg & Grossman, 1998), it persists as a naturalized entity (Hall, 1996) and is treated largely in descriptive terms. Consequently, the foundational center of community is tacitly left in place, rendering the gendered, classed, and raced dimensions of this center as well as the political assumptions grounding what constitutes a “good,” “moral” or “just” community unmarked.
Approached ethnographically, this study argues that ‘community’ is a discursively complex signifier, gendered, raced, and classed in complicated and intersecting ways, and thus imbued with power, always interested, and put to use for a range of purposes. Taking particular notice of the relationship between language and social practices, history, and networks of power, this study reveals two related findings: (1) the signifier community is “placed,” raced, and politicized through discourse; and (2) an abstract, romantic community discourse is put to use as an improvement strategy in the overlapping spaces of Madrona school and neighborhood. Left unexamined, this discourse produces exclusionary and polarizing practices, thus reproducing hierarchical social relations.
|School:||University of Washington|
|School Location:||United States -- Washington|
|Source:||DAI-A 70/09, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational sociology, Ethnic studies|
|Keywords:||Community, Discourse analysis, Gentrification, Neighborhood schools, Race, Resegregation, School choice, Schools as community|
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