Mexican Immigrant Fathers and Their Children: An investigation of Communicative Resources Across Contexts of Learning

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Immigrant Education
New Latino Diaspora
Parent Involvement
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Situated in a recently established Mexican immigrant community in Pennsylvania, this dissertation investigates naturally occurring interactions in homes and school to reveal how Mexican immigrant fathers' participation shapes and is shaped by their young children's schooling. Drawing upon ethnographic and linguistic anthropological methods, I investigate participants' communicative repertoires, or how they deploy language and literacy resources in Spanish and English to meet their educational goals. This research examines three critical issues. First, how Mexican immigrant fathers' orient to models of fatherhood and married life from their upbringings in Mexico as well as their journey into family life in the US. Second, how participants' semiotic resources travel, are recognized, and are built upon across home and school contexts. And third, how Mexican immigrant men's positioning as certain social types, by teachers in schools and immigration officials in the community, affect their children's schooling. The findings indicate that racialization of the category of Mexican men makes them visible as potential "illegals" and invisible as caring husbands and fathers. These data challenge the gender bargain that Mexican immigrant couples are assumed to maintain and highlight the traditional and innovative ways that fathers are engaged in childcare, parent involvement, and other tasks that are often considered "women's work." My findings also highlight how Mexican adult males are oftentimes targeted for minor infractions under current immigration practices, which leads to family separations and educational challenges for their children, a younger generation of DREAMers and U.S. Citizens. In addition to contributing to theoretical and methodological insights regarding Mexican immigrant fathers and their children's schooling, this study illustrates how a communicative repertoires approach can reveal participants' range of real-world languaging, parent involvement, and biliteracy practices. Only by first understanding the contextualized realities of what Mexican immigrant fathers and their children are already doing can we envision new policies and pedagogies that build upon these dynamic practices to support children's schooling.

Betsy R. Rymes
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