Discourse Analysis & the Study of Classroom Language & Literacy Events: A Microethnographic Perspective

By David Bloome; Stephanie Power Carter et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Microethnographic Discourse
Analysis and the Exploration
of Power Relations in Classroom
Language and Literacy Events

Power is often discussed in studies of classroom language and literacy events either directly or by reference to related topics such as equity, democracy, freedom, justice, racism, classism, homophobia, sexism, and so forth. What is meant by power is often vague, undertheorized, or left as an unacknowledged empty sign. In this chapter we examine the potential benefits of microethnographic discourse analysis to sharpen the discussion and debate of what and how power is in classroom language and literacy events.1

One of our goals in this chapter is to show multiple ways to approach the microethnographic analysis of power relations by focusing on “how power is. ” We do not argue for a singular definition of power, or for a particular approach to the explication of power relations in classrooms; rather, we argue for approaches to microethnographic discourse analyses that are cognizant of the varied and complex definitions of power, remembering cautions by Barrett, Stockholm, and Burke (2001) that "power is not everything" (p. 473) and that "an abstract theory of power has little utility" (p. 473).

We begin by discussing three models for defining power, then we argue for a reflective stance in the microethnographic analysis of power relations in classroom language and literacy events. Finally, we examine the complexities of power relations in classroom language and literacy

____________________
1
Further discussion of multiple definitions of power can be found in Street (1995b, 1996) and Sheridan, Street, and Bloome (2000).

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