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Language, Nation, and Identity in the Classroom

Legacies of Modernity and Colonialism in Schooling


David Hemphill and Erin Blakely

Language, Nation, and Identity in the Classroom critiques the normalizing aspects of schooling and the taken-for-granted assumptions in education about culture, identity, language, and learning. The text applies theories of postmodernism, postcolonialism, and other critical cultural theories from disciplines often overlooked in the field of education. The authors illustrate the potential of these theories for educators, offering a nuanced critical analysis of the role schools play in nationalistic enterprises and colonial projects. The book fills the current gap between simplified, ahistorical applications of multiculturalism and critical theory texts with only narrow applicability in the field. This clearly written alternative offers both an entry point to rigorous primary theoretical sources and broad applications of the scholarship to everyday practice in a range of PreK–12 classrooms and adult education settings globally. The text is designed for educators and advanced undergraduate or graduate students in the growing number of courses that address issues of cultural diversity, equity in education, multiculturalism, social and cultural foundations of education, literary studies, and educational policy.
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4 Globalization, Transnationality, and Citizen-Consumers


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4Globalization, Transnationality, and Citizen-Consumers

Classrooms are increasingly occupied by students who move within and between communities and nations. “Even when young people are not themselves traveling across national borders, or leaving their own bedrooms, they can find themselves, implicated within transnational networks” (Maira & Soep, 2005, p. xix). The movement of people across borders, the globalization of marketplaces and media, and the multi-faceted, shifting identities of students challenge educational theories that rely on a bounded conception of culture through which people’s traditions and identities are tied to the regions and nations where they reside. Cultures in schools have long been reified as homogenous and what Dirlik calls “spatially mappable entities” (1999, p. 17).

The increasing number of students who are embedded in social networks of two or more nations challenges fixed and homogeneous notions of race, geographic space, and social identity. There is a need, writes globalization theorist Arjun Appadurai, to reconceptualize the “landscape of group identity” to reflect current conditions in which “groups are no longer tightly territorialized, spatially bounded, historically unselfconscious, or culturally homogenous” (1996, p. 191). A relatively new discipline, transnational studies, confronts the reductive manner of describing communities as pure, stable, separable entities. Transnational theories challenge the “linear temporality of historiographic periodization,” “the inscription of neatly separate community narratives,” and other features of modernist discourse that underlie many educational practices and school curricula (Shohat & Stam, 2003, p. 2).

The idea of transnationality emerged in the work...

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