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Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement

Narratives of Communal Agency in the Face of Power Asymmetry


Lilian Cibils

Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement is based on the vivid accounts of seven Latina immigrant women of how they learned to navigate the school system in the rural southwest of the United States. Their stories are presented within several contexts, the socio-political conditions of immigration overarching them all. The process of acquiring a new socio-cultural script offers a common frame to the narratives, which illustrate the central role of the community in finding spaces for agency in circumstances of vulnerability. As a contribution to educational theory, this book explores the official discourse of parental involvement within the broader context of social policy by pointing to a common underlying ideal parent norm across areas of policy related to family and women. It also revisits the concept of parental involvement through contrasting ideologies of motherhood, as it applies the concept of participation parity in everyday institutional interactions as a fundamental measure of social justice. Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement offers deep insight into the institutionalized patterns of formal inclusion/informal exclusion in the relationship of schools with Latina immigrant mothers, even within the best intended programs. Its focus on the persistent need for the implementation of culturally and linguistically sensitive approaches to home-school relations makes this a must-read for undergraduate and graduate courses in teacher education, education leadership and sociology of education. Teachers, administrators and policymakers committed to moving away from the prevalent view of mothers as people who mainly need to be educated also need to read this book.

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Chapter 2. A Situated Theory of Justice: The Significance of Structure, Process and Agency



A Situated Theory of Justice

The Significance of Structure, Process and Agency

According to this principle, justice requires social arrangements that permit all to participate as peers in social life. On the view of justice as participatory parity, overcoming injustice means dismantling institutionalized obstacles that prevent some people from participating on a par with others, as full partners in social interaction. (Fraser, 2010, p. 60)

The lens adopted in the analysis and presentation of the stories of the seven immigrant women introduced in the next chapter draws on critical social theory, most prominently on critical feminist conceptualizations of social justice expounded by Young (1990, 1997) and Fraser (1997, 1998, 2003, 2010). From this perspective, for a theory of justice to have any transformative power or be effective in any significant way it must be contextualized and situated: “If the theory is truly universal and independent, presupposing no particular social situations, institutions or practices, then it is simply too abstract to be useful in evaluating actual situations and practices” (Young, 1990, p. 4). This approach requires, not only an analysis of the patterns and structures of production and reproduction of inequity, but also a focus on the processes that generate and sustain these patterns, perpetuating them. In other words, a situated view of justice takes into account the articulation of agency and structure as manifested in everyday social interactions and institutional practices (Wharton, 1991; Young, 1990).←19 | 20→

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