Literacy, Strategy, and Identity in Interaction: Vietnamese and Mexican Immigrant Students in Urban Catholic Schooling

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Other Education
Reading and Language
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This year-long interactional ethnography of four first- and second-generation Vietnamese and Mexican immigrant youth enrolled in an urban Catholic school traced how participants used a series of literacy-focused interactional strategies to negotiate the complexities of the contemporary Catholic school landscape. Urban US Catholic schools have undergone a radical transformation in the last 40 years, from overenrolled neighborhood parochial schools serving largely white Catholic students (Walch, 2003), to contracting decentralized schools serving Catholic immigrants from Asia and Latin American alongside large numbers of non-Catholic African American students (Hunt & Walch, 2010; Irving & Fosters, 1996; Louie & Holdaway, 2009; NCEA, 2014). This dissertation study represents an effort to describe how four students, the children of political and economic migrants and refugees, used literacy-focused interactional strategies in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual urban Catholic school and parish. Using a Bourdieusian analytic approach (Grenfell, et al., 2012; Grenfell & Lebaron, 2014; Hardy, 2011), I examined the language and literacy practices of these four youth over the course of a year, looking particularly at their interactional strategies in their Grade 8 classroom and at the adjacent parish. In the tradition of literacy-focused interactive ethnography (Bloome, et al., 2005; Castanheira, Crawford, Dixon, & Green, 2001; Castanheira, Green, Dixon,, & Yeager, 2007), I collected interview, observational, and artifactual data about how students navigated the parish and school using their linguistic and literacy resources, and how the structure of Catholic schooling allowed for their particular resources to be circulated and recognized as legitimate. This ethnographic study was designed to highlight the unrecognized literate labour of immigrant youth, and to help educators identify how they might mobilize these literacies for language and literacy education in a way that honors their rich cultural, linguistic, and migratory legacies (Campano & Ghiso, 2011). It further hopes to demonstrate the contested nature of all literacy resources in schools, with a specific focus on the field of Catholic education as a site of contestation amongst various groups.

Gerald Campano
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