Crafting Critical Stories

Toward Pedagogies and Methodologies of Collaboration, Inclusion, and Voice

by Judith Flores-Carmona (Volume editor) Kristen V. Luschen (Volume editor)
©2014 Textbook XII, 233 Pages
Series: Counterpoints, Volume 449


Critical storytelling, a rich form of culturally relevant, critical pedagogy, has gained great urgency in a world of standardization. Crafting Critical Stories asks how social justice scholars and educators narrate, craft, and explore critical stories as a tool for culturally relevant, critical pedagogy. From the elementary to college classroom, this anthology explores how different genres of critical storytelling – oral history, digital storytelling, testimonio, and critical family history – have been used to examine structures of oppression and to illuminate counter-narratives written with and by members of marginalized communities. The book highlights the complexity of culturally relevant, social justice education as pedagogues across the fields of education, sociology, communications, ethnic studies, and history grapple with the complexities of representation, methodology, and the meaning/impact of employing critical storytelling tools in the classroom and community.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Editors
  • About the Book
  • Advance Praise for Crafting Critical Stories
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Weaving Together Pedagogies and Methodologies of Collaboration, Inclusion, and Voice
  • More Possibilities of Inclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Part I: Striving for Critical Consciousness: Excavating (Hi)stories of Privilege and Oppression
  • 1. Inheriting Footholds and Cushions: Family Legacies and Institutional Racism
  • Understanding Contemporary Racial Disparities
  • Data on Family Wealth Historically
  • Situating the Problem
  • Seizure and Sale of Indigenous Peoples’ Land
  • Transmitting Wealth
  • Germans in the Midwest
  • Southeastern Tennessee
  • Discussion and Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • 2. “I Knew When You Said Your Name in Spanish!”: On Being a White Puerto Rican in the Classroom
  • The Media Watchdog Project
  • “I Speak Some Spanish.”
  • “Are We Good Students?”
  • “I Feel Bad When I See That on TV.”
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • 3. Mediated Stories of Educational Mobility: Digital Stories in Teacher Education
  • The Course
  • Multimedia and Identity Construction
  • Contextualizing Stories About Class and Schooling
  • Digital Stories of Mobility
  • The Stories of Upward Mobility
  • Stories as Critical Pedagogy
  • Notes
  • References
  • 4. Here I Stand: College Students’ Critical Education Narratives
  • Week 1: What a Queer Class!
  • Assignment 1: Critical Educational Narratives—Our Stories as Texts
  • Tensions in Production—Shifting Narratives
  • Dialoguing Final Thoughts
  • Notes
  • References
  • 5. A Student-Teacher Testimonio: Reflexivity, Empathy, and Pedagogy
  • The Campus
  • The Class and the Students
  • Judith
  • Aymee
  • Reflexivity on Being a Student in the Classroom
  • Experience as a Teacher’s Assistant in Fall 2011
  • Testimonio as Sentipensante Pedagogy: Possibility to Connect Across and Beyond Differences
  • Concluding Thoughts: Reflections on Pedagogy
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • PART II: Bridging Diverse Community Knowledges Through Critical Storytelling
  • 6. Engaging Co-Reflexive Critical Dialogues When Entering and Leaving the “Field”: Toward Informing Collaborative Research Methods at the Color Line and Beyond
  • Entering the “Field:” Co-Reflexive Critical Dialogues From Intimate Strangers
  • Sherick
  • Kate
  • Leaving the “Field”
  • Sherick
  • Kate
  • Interpreting the Journey: Implications for Future Co-Reflexive Critical Dialogue Methods
  • Sherick and Kate
  • Notes
  • References
  • 7. The Rose Creek Oral History Project: Elementary Cross-Grade Social Studies Curriculum in Review
  • Multiple Perspectives in Social Studies Curriculum
  • The First Year: A Lesson in What Can and Cannot Be Said
  • Oral History Gathering and Critical Thinking
  • Student Innocence and Teachers’ Roles in Crafting Critical Understandings
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • 8. Exploring (Dis)Connections Through Digital Storytelling: Toward Pedagogies of Critical Co-Learning
  • Project Context
  • The Educational Histories/Educational Hopes Project
  • Community-Engaged Connections
  • Crafting Critical Connections Within Hampshire SMS Class: Linking Together Community-Engaged Learning and Digital Storytelling
  • Sharing Experiences: Building Small (Group) Communities
  • Visibility, Voice, and Active Learning
  • Navigating Co-Learning Relationships Across Communities
  • Conclusion: Moving Forward, Thoughtfully
  • Notes
  • References
  • PART III: Knowledge(s) of Resistance
  • 9. Critical Storying: Power Through Survivance and Rhetorical Sovereignty
  • The Theoretical, Methodological, and Methods-Process Story
  • Rivaling Strategic Survivance: Mary’s Story
  • Rivaling Rhetorical Sovereignty: Connie and Dana’s Story
  • Concluding Thoughts
  • Dana’s Reflection
  • Notes
  • References
  • 10. The Politics and Poetics of Oral History in Qualitative Research: This One’s for Nikki Giovanni
  • Nikki Rosa
  • Memories of Segregated Schooling: Using Oral History Methods in Qualitative Research
  • The Politics of Oral History in Qualitative Research
  • The Poetics of Oral History in Qualitative Research
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • References
  • 11. “Some of Us Got Heard More Than Others”: Studying Brown Through Oral History and Critical Race Theory
  • “We Got Desegregation But...”: Black Educators, Power, and the Disappointment of Brown
  • Lilly Davis
  • Fenton Peters
  • “Deep Down We’re All the Same”: White Educators Enforcing the “Law of the Land”
  • Dr. Clyde Muse
  • Dr. Tom Dulin
  • Can a Story Stand Alone?: Interrogating Oral Histories Through Critical Race Theory
  • Notes
  • References
  • 12. Mojarra Linguistic Syndrome, Evading Capture by the Tongue: Heritage Speakers of Spanish and Their Stigma
  • Defining a Heritage Speaker
  • El Síndrome de la Mojarra
  • Mojarra Language
  • Linguistic Difrasismo: From Thinking to Feeling Language
  • Sentipensando Palabras: Feelingthinking Words
  • Description of Project
  • Trabajo final
  • Final project
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index


Teaching through storytelling is a transformative practice, particularly in multicultural classrooms. Story can situate us as tellers of our own truths, as witnesses to the experiences of others, and as compassionate allies to each other. Time after time, I have had the privilege of witnessing this alchemy in the life storytelling classroom. Students of diverse backgrounds and experiences open their ears and their hearts to others’ histories in new ways. Every personal story contains larger communal, social, and political meanings, often challenging preconceived stereotypes and prejudices. To repeat the oft-cited phrase from Chicana writer Cherríe Moraga, telling one’s story enables a “theorizing from the flesh,” transforming emotional memory into situated knowledge. Story has the potential, then, to enable everyone to become teachers and learners, of and from each other. The storytelling act itself creates a safe space for disclosure. As students read and listen to each other’s accounts, they recognize their own experiences in them and begin to share. The “I can really relate to that because something similar happened to me” phrase begins the process of telling, affirming, and reflecting. Story begins to work its magic.

If story has huge power to move the listener and/or witness to new realizations, it is also huge for the teller, in what our own storytelling can reveal to our selves about our selves. While telling stories clarifies different realities for others, they are self-clarifying and self-empowering. Not only in the therapeutic act of telling, but also in our ability to see our own experience in a new light, socially and culturally contextualized. This is the dual action of “theorizing from the flesh.” When classrooms become safe spaces for sharing, disclosure, and analysis, they also become empowering spaces for each storyteller.

The transforming force of life stories and their centrality to critical pedagogy is at the core of this volume. Anchored in Freirian thought and practice, these essays speak to the power and importance of critical hi/storytelling in an era marked by standardized curricula, significant shifts in national demographics, growing economic disparity across the social strata, increasingly fragile life chances of students from marginalized communities, and renewed nativism and xenophobia. This volume is a vibrant response to the stranglehold that performance-based educational ← vii | viii → policies have had on the standardized K–12 curriculum in recent decades, endangering, if not completely erasing, experiential pedagogies from the curricular map. In today’s classrooms, there seems to be little space for hi/storytelling, despite its extraordinary capacity to empower students, foster engaged pedagogies, and bring schools, teachers, parents, and cultural communities together in common purpose. Building on a rich literature in liberatory education, the essays in this volume offer diverse pedagogical strategies of storytelling—life stories, oral histories, family histories, testimonies, and other forms of narrative—grounded in personal, family, community, and cultural knowledge. Their purpose is to place story at the pedagogical center, to explore new ways to bring marginalized, erased, suppressed voices and histories into focus, and to recenter knowledge construction to benefit all students, teachers, and communities.

In contrast to public schooling, higher education has been trending toward storytelling. Scholars in a wide range of academic disciplines and fields validate personal narratives as a way to gain deeper insight into the lived realities of peoples and communities in the 21st century. In addition to the fields in which story is central—literature, creative writing, theater, history, anthropology, and clinical psychology—storytelling also has commanded the attention of scholars in education, ethnic and cultural studies, legal studies, and even environmental studies. As a result, today we see an explosion of genres, modalities, and practices of storytelling with specialized names—narrative, biography, autobiography, oral history, life story, family history, fiction, creative nonfiction, testimonio, eyewitness accounts, counterstory, pedagogies of home, critical story, and so on. I have often thought that universities should offer an interdisciplinary major simply called “Storytelling,” where students can explore the centrality and power of this age-old practice across many fields. Academic interest suggests that narratives of lived experience are recognized for their potential to ground scholarly theory and practice, offering new ideas for research, teaching, and learning. Thus, young teachers often come out of their training with some knowledge of experiential pedagogies, and creative teaching and learning strategies. For those who have not, this volume offers a rich range of ideas and practices for classroom exploration.

One of these practices is digital storytelling. Digital multimedia technologies offer a unique opportunity in today’s multicultural classroom. Multimedia storytelling can be tremendously empowering, as students of all ages learn how to narrate, craft, share, and explore the power of their own stories and knowledge assets. Students not only tell their stories verbally, but make them as well. In this way, they become “authors” of stories, not just ← viii | ix → listeners. Making stories engages multiple creative skills in writing, performance, visual imagery, and sound. Today, even the youngest students can make digital stories. My college students make stories that they hope will move their audiences. If sharing stories in the classroom breaks down social and cultural barriers, seeing stories on the big screen multiplies their power tenfold. These intensely personal stories, narrated in the first person voice, bring historical and emotional depth to learning. Each member of the classroom begins to acquire fuller dimension, as an individual situated in a family, a cultural community, and a larger history. Digital technologies are not simply tools; they can be strategies for building communication and understanding.

All communities value storytelling in some fashion, but for marginalized communities storytelling can be a necessity, a strategy for emotional, historical, and cultural survival. Story becomes an integral part of family and community life, a didactic tool for navigating through hostile environments, and a form of cultural affirmation. However, the separation between home culture and school is often stark. Students from vibrant storytelling cultures fall silent at school, as school is identified with the hegemonic culture. However, when school becomes a place where home cultures, strategies, hi/stories, and assets are embraced, everyone wins. This volume offers a rich array of possibilities for integrating and creating new forms of knowledge in the classroom. The authors make a vital contribution to our understanding of the power of critical storytelling as a central feature of liberatory teaching and learning. As the coeditors of this volume argue, critical storytelling is an imperative, a fundamental pedagogy for a more just and humane future.

Rina Benmayor
California State University Monterey Bay
September 16, 2012← ix | x → ← x | xi →


We would like to thank Christine Sleeter for suggesting that we work on an edited book that merged our scholarship. We are grateful to Ellen Correa, who has been instrumental and beyond helpful in organizing this book. Thank you for being a third set of eyes, a great colleague, and amazing friend. Similarly, Falguni Sheth has been a constant source of friendship and wise advice. Professor Rina Benmayor graciously agreed to write the foreword, and we are immensely appreciative of her mentorship, scholarship, and support. We thank the students in our Spring 2012 course for reading the first drafts of chapters, and for their insights on content and relevancy. We are indebted to the contributors in this volume for their patience and hard work on this project. Your chapters are powerful and your pedagogy critical in these shifting moments in education. We thank our families—Rodrigo, Glenn, Ethan and Will—as well as our colleagues and friends for their unconditional support. Gracias. Thank you.


We dedicate this book to Gabi Do Amaral, a brilliant student and beautiful human being, gone too soon. Judith dedicates this book to her grandmother, Carmen Romero Pérez, one of her first teachers—a wise storyteller. ← xi | xii → ← xii | 1 →


Weaving Together Pedagogies and Methodologies of Collaboration, Inclusion, and Voice

Judith Flores Carmona and Kristen V. Luschen

For many of us who would describe ourselves as teaching for social change, storytelling has been at the heart of our pedagogy. In the context of social change storytelling refers to an opposition to established knowledge, to Foucault’s suppressed knowledge, to the experience of the world that is not admitted into dominant knowledge paradigms. Storytelling is central to strategies for social change…(in) education. (Razack, 1998, p. 36)

As critical pedagogues teaching for social change, we believe in the power of stories to engage, transform, and catalyze social action. As teachers and qualitative researchers, we are immersed in stories—our own and those of others—and the productive interplay between the two. As pedagogues whose work focuses on addressing sociological issues in education, we believe that our work in the classroom and in the community is to engage students in critical reflection on their own (hi)stories in order to gain richer, more complex perspectives on the inequities in educational opportunities for historically marginalized populations. Similarly, as qualitative researchers, we experience the ethical tensions and artistry involved in re-presenting the lives of individuals and communities in ways that are authentic and acknowledge the situated nature in which stories are imparted.

This book spans the borders between teaching and research, to explore a practice common to both within social justice education, crafting critical stories. Critical stories are those stories that speak to the constitution of experiences within a sociopolitical context (Barone, 1992); that acknowledge their development within historically situated conditions; and that recognize the gaps and silences in dominant ways of knowing, and seek to illuminate ← 1 | 2 → counternarratives. Stories remind us that we cannot depend on statistical data to illuminate experience and compel change, but rather, it is also in the crafting of narratives and sharing stories that social transformation happens.

In his book, The Politics of Storytelling, Michael Jackson (2002) drew on Arendt to argue that

storytelling is a strategy for transforming private into public meanings…; the second is existential, seeing storytelling as a human strategy for sustaining a sense of agency in the face of disempowering circumstances. To reconstitute those events in a story is no longer to live those events in passivity, but to actively rework them, both in dialogue with others and within one’s own imagination. (p. 15)

In this way, storytelling is an empowering and transformative process. As collective counterstories emerge through dialogue and discussion, as the chapters in this book suggest, they prompt critical transformations in the knowledges of our students, ourselves, and our disciplines.


XII, 233
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2012 (September)
standardization oral history sociology pedagogy digital storytelling
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 233 pp.

Biographical notes

Judith Flores-Carmona (Volume editor) Kristen V. Luschen (Volume editor)

Judith Flores Carmona (PhD, University of Utah) is Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and in the Honors College at New Mexico State University. Her work has appeared in Race Ethnicity and Education, Equity and Excellence in Education, and Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social. Kristen V. Luschen (PhD, Syracuse University) is Associate Professor of Education Studies and a founding faculty member of the Critical Studies of Childhood, Youth and Learning Program at Hampshire College. Her work has appeared in several edited books and in the journals Educational Studies and Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning.


Title: Crafting Critical Stories
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