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Becoming Activist

Critical Literacy and Youth Organizing


Elizabeth Bishop

Becoming Activist is a revolutionary study of youth human rights activism and literacy learning. The book follows five urban youth organizers from the Drop Knowledge Project in New York City. Intentionally polyvocal, the voices of the five youth are featured prominently to highlight the shifting articulation of their activist identities in relation to social and economic justice. Becoming Activist explores critical literacy pedagogy beyond the confines of formal education. While it has been historically theorized within English classrooms, much existing research points to the limitations of conducting critical literacy in schools. In search of a space where critical literacy can be more fully realized, this book positions urban youth organizing as an alternative context for powerful community-based learning. A valuable read for educators, researchers, and young organizers, Becoming Activist offers insight into conducting literacy work to promote positive youth and community development. Ultimately, the idea of «becoming» is key to understanding and supporting youth activists as they grow to exercise their political power for positive social change.
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Chapter 7. Designing Ethical Research

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Primarily, this research is presented as a qualitative interview study with five urban youth organizers. I selected the specific participants because of their diverse commitments within the context of youth human rights activism in and around New York City. As I researched and worked to bridge the social and political with a focus on literacy, I engaged the participants in reflexive dialogue around the forces that pushed them to become personally and politically activist in the multiple cultural communities and issues in their lives.

The goals of this data collection and analysis were four-fold: first, to explore how urban youth organizers engage in critical literacy praxis in their activism and organizing; second, to examine how urban youth organizers articulate their identities as they become activists; third, to consider the implications that the various articulations of participants may have in the further study of youth organizing as an innovative out-of-school space for critical literacy praxis; and perhaps most importantly, to facilitate a dialogue around organizing with activists, educators, and researchers that contributes to greater connectivity and collectivity. In the pages that follow, I describe the theoretical framework for conducting this study. I move to detail methods for ← 73 | 74 → selecting participants, approaches and limitations to collecting data, methods for analyzing the findings, and some considerations of research validity.

Identifying urban youth organizing as the backdrop for this work, it is important to foreground the contention that urban issues are worthy of study by urban youth themselves. The...

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