Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Dr. Janice Almasi

Abstract

This four-month case study explored the connections among language, literacy, and identity development of five African American women as they shared narratives within a beauty salon context. The questions that guided the study were: (a) What language and literacy practices are enacted in the beauty salon? (b) In what way do African American women narrate their experiences? (c) What stories are shared by African American women in the salon? (d) What are the effects on the listeners of the narratives shared in the salon? and (e) How are social and cultural identities (co)constructed and performed in the narratives?

The narratives were analyzed using Reissman’s (2008) dialogic/performance analysis approach. The Identities in Practice framework applied, situated the work in relation to the four contexts for identity development (figured worlds, positionality, spaces for authoring, and making world through serious play) outlined in Holland, Lachicotte, Skinner, and Cain’s (2008).

The findings supported previous findings that storytelling events and the use of narratives were the primary means for African American women sharing their lived experiences in the beauty salon. This corroborated with findings from Richardson (2003) and others focused on African American female language and literacy practices. Three themes emerged from the narrative data, which reflected challenges the women experience in their social, racial/cultural, and gendered conversations and experiences. Additionally, two focal participants’ narratives were examined to explore the ways identity was performed through their use of language in the narratives. The analysis indicated Kelly and Pam were strongly affiliated to social and cultural identities that included identities about motherhood, gender equity, and activists in the Black community.

The importance of this research is to continue to explore the ways African American women build and shape their identities through language. Schools across the nation are neglecting the power and uses of language to build up the language and literacy resources of children that arrive to school with a history of oral traditions. Presenting school contexts as a space of authoring would undoubtedly create greater equity and access for others to learn about their lived experiences that make up a part of their educational experiences.

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