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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 7. Linguistic Resources: Centrality, Contingency and Invisibility



Linguistic Resources

Centrality, Contingency and Invisibility

[. . .] power is neither monolithic nor invariant; it is not simply something that can be physically possessed, but a relation which always implies social exchange on a particular set of terms. By extension, it is a relation that is constantly being renegotiated as symbolic and material resources in a society change their value. […] power does not operate only at the macro level of powerful institutions such as the legal system, the education system and the social welfare system, but also at the micro level of everyday social encounters between people with differential access to symbolic and material resources—­encounters that are invariably produced within language. (Norton, 2013, p. 47)

This chapter intends to lay bare the workings of exclusion from the formally inclusive spheres of US public schools by pointing to the paradoxical invisibility of language as a crucial symbolic resource. Some such instances of exclusion taken from the narratives of the women interviewed illustrate this point. It is important to bear in mind that the context of these interviews, the area served by these schools in the rural Southwest, may otherwise appear to be one of the friendliest environments to Spanish-­speaking immigrant parents in the US. It is, therefore, necessary to expose this jarring contrast between the general sense of a highly welcoming context and the repeated moments of exclusion and invisibility highlighted by each one of the women who shared their stories, which...

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