Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

The Unhomely in Academic Success: Latino Males Navigating the Ghetto Nerd Borderlands

Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

The Unhomely in Academic Success: Latino Males Navigating the Ghetto Nerd Borderlands

Article excerpt

This qualitative study examines the ways in which Mexican-origin scholarship boys (Hoggart, 1957/2006; Rodriguez, 1982) use their conceptions and connections to their working-class "home" to achieve academic excellence all the while resisting hegemonic discourses in higher education. "Home" is framed as site of political memory, hope, agency, and struggle. Bhabha's (1994) notion of the unhomely provides additional theoretical grounding for exploring the schooling trajectories of the scholarship boys. This research moves beyond clean victory narratives by unpacking various traumas associated with social class mobility, bounded assimilation, and the politics of whitestream (Urrieta, 2009) knowledge and settings in higher education. The analysis of the students' identities and coping strategies provides valuable contributions to the dearth of research on academically successful Latino males that come from low-income settings.

Keywords: Latino males, urban education, higher education, identity

Haunted by the knowledge that one chooses to become a student. (Education is not an inevitable or natural step in growing up.) Here is a child who cannot forget that his academic success distances him from a life he loved, even from his own memory of himself. (Rodriguez, 1982, p. 48)

There is a long history of oppressed peoples all over the world seeking to find and be connected with "home." In the southwest, Chican@s (Chicanos/as) coined Aztlan as the physical, psychological, spiritual, and cultural homeland. The Palestinians face current struggles associated with claiming their "home," and graffiti artists and well-known hip hop artists have long sought to represent and link with their "home" (Carrillo, 2010). In fact, "the concept of homeland occupies a central position in the thought and development of most cultures" (Anaya & Lomeli, 1989, p. ii).

This artide examines the role of "home" and how the barrio past of Mexican-origin "high achievers" informs their identities. I use the term "ghetto nerd" (partially informed by Diaz, 2007) interchangeably with "scholarship boy" (Hoggart, 1957; Rodriguez, 1982), as a way to capture intellectual identities informed by workingclass and critical positionalities. Home is not only a physical space connected to the scholarship boys' working-class roots, but also a psychic, emotional, spiritual, and cultural metaphor that serves as a life-orientation "compass." To understand the role of "home" for Mexican-origin scholarship boys, I examine the life histories of two males who resist many of the racialized, gendered, and classed discourses of K-12 schools and higher education, all the while still achieving academic success. This conceptualization of "home" has significant consequences for the way schooling is approached and how strategies are formulated and enacted to achieve academic success and for the development of healing opportunities.

This is an important area of inquiry because Latino male students are "vanishing" from the higher education pipeline and there is a limited amount of work on Latino masculinities (Mirandé, 1997; Sáenz & Ponjuan, 2009). Latina women makeup sixtyone percent of Latin@ (Latino/a) students in higher education and Latino males earn only thirty nine percent of all bachelor's degrees earned by Latin@s (Sáenz, Valdez, Rodriquez, Bukoski & Lu, 2011). Also, drawing from Lopez (2011), since not all masculinities receive the same access to networks nor receive the same validation within the larger society (including schools), it is important to document the specific ways in which working-class Latino masculinities produce culturally situated notions of academic/intellectual manhood.


Mexican-Origin Scholarship Boys

For Hoggart (1957), the scholarship boy is an "uprooted and anxious" workingclass student that achieves academic success. There is a constant collision of two seemingly irreconcilable worlds, both cultural extremes (Hoggart, 1957; Rodriguez, 1982). …

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