When Discourses Collide: An Ethnography of Migrant Children at Home and in School

When Discourses Collide: An Ethnography of Migrant Children at Home and in School

When Discourses Collide: An Ethnography of Migrant Children at Home and in School

When Discourses Collide: An Ethnography of Migrant Children at Home and in School


"When Discourses Collide examines the discourse systems at work and play for three fifth grade migrant boys during an apple harvest season in south central Pennsylvania. The study is a critical ethnography that explores the lives of these children as they interacted in their families, in their friendships, with their teachers, and with their classmates. The book allows the reader to enter the homes of these children and know their families. It then moves into the classroom and seeks to address the issue of how dominant mainstream discourses overpower the discourses of marginalized children. Through countless examples, the author reveals discourse "collisions" that help to explain why schooling was such a frustrating experience for these boys, whose home language and home culture did not reflect that of the mainstream." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Joe L. Kincheloe

I am extremely proud to have played a role in developing and publishing Marianne Exum Lopez's When Discourses Collide for Peter Lang's Rethinking Childhood series. Marianne brings a deep knowledge of and passion to her study of the migrant workers' boys and their tragic entrapment in the colliding discourses of school and home. I watched her during her research phase of the project and listened to her analyses and reflections as she began to put the manuscript together. Obsessed with a desire to be fair to all parties involved--the boys, their families, teachers, school leaders, and members of the local communities surrounding the schools--Marianne struggled to understand the complex reasons that social actors operated as they did. She agonized over how to depict the ways particular individuals' and groups' needs and interests often conflicted with those of others. The harmful consequences of such social processes disturbed her greatly.

Lopez's sensitivity and concern for her subjects is easily discernible in the following pages. The boys are not faceless students caught in interpersonal social, cultural, and educational forces, but are multidimensional beings about whom we come to care. The discursive dynamics so carefully documented here are not merely abstract processes but are delineated as complex, human-shaped forces that never play out simply and mechanistically. The general and particular really do intersect in this ethnography in a way that provides readers with a powerful insight into how cultural, social, and economic forces influence the educational performance of students. Many studies promise such insights but don't deliver. Lopez's work refuses to be seduced by the sirens of facile generalization, as it labors to portray the humanness, the messiness, the noise of the intersection of macro-social forces with individual lives.

As a reader of When Discourses Collide I emerge from my encounter with a more rigorous notion of the workings of discursive power. Lopez's facility is to make this often theoretically abstruse concept into an everyday, concrete feature of the migrant boys' lived experience. Theoretical speculation comes alive as we listen and watch the boys at home and at school, the different assumptions shaping their respective "life worlds," and the consequences of such . . .

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