Research in the Teaching of English
National Council of Teachers of English
This case study describes how one eighth-grade student, Jon, asserted Native identities in texts as he attended a middle school in the western United States. Jon--a self-described Native American, Navajo, and Paiute with verified Native ancestry--sought to share what he called his Native culture with others in his school wherein he was the only Native American, despite his perception that schools have historically suppressed this culture. To study how the texts that Jon designed in school may have afforded and constrained the expression of Native identities, the authors collected three types of data over the course of eight months: (a) interviews from Jon and his teachers; (b) fieldnotes from classroom observations; and (c) texts that Jon designed in school. Grounded in theories of social semiotics and multimodality, the findings from this study suggest that different forms of representation afforded and constrained the expression of Jon's desired identities in different ways due to their different physical properties, due to their historical and immediate uses in context, and due to the extent to which they fulfilled different metafunctions of communication. Recognizing the tensions and ironies associated with using some forms of representation, Jon sought to combine and use multiple representations to construct desired identities and to negate undesired ones.
Wilson, A. A., & Boatright, M. D. (2011). One adolescent’s construction of native identity in school: “Speaking with dance and not in words and writing.” Research in the Teaching of English, 45(3), 252-277.