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Immigration, Motherhood and Parental Involvement

Narratives of Communal Agency in the Face of Power Asymmetry

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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 11. Becoming a Resource: The Articulation of Agency and Structure

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·11·

Becoming a Resource

The Articulation of Agency and Structure

Subjects are not only conditioned by their positions in structured social relations; subjects are also agents. To be an agent means that you can take the constraints and possibilities that condition your life and make something of them in your own way. (Young, 2002, p. 101).

The notions of agency and structure adopted throughout this book draw on the theory of structuration put forward by Giddens (1984). In it the concept of agency means not only acting but also being capable of doing so, and carries the implication, as well, that at any point in their behavior the person(s) could have chosen to act in a different way. Being capable of exercising power to bring about transformation is described as the sine qua non of agency:

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