Representing adolescents’ literacies: Case studies of three white males

Kathleen A. Hinchman, Laura Payne-Bourcy, Heather Thomas, Kelly Chandler Olcott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to explore how such social constructions as gender, race, and class were evident in three adolescent boys’ literacy practices. We considered the enactments of three white, teenaged, male, working class boys. Data gathering was orchestrated from a symbolic interactionist, critical ethnographic perspective, including participant observation, in-depth interviews, and collection of literacy-related in- and out-of-school documents, such as schoolwork and journals. These were analyzed with an eye toward answering the questions: In what literacy practices do these adolescents engage? How do they enact gender, race, and class in these practices? Results suggest that each boy enacted his literacies in different ways, suited to his own subjectivities, rather than in a straightforward exercise of traditional male hegemonies (Lesko, 2000). For instance, Nicholas was an immigrant, a speaker of English as a second language in a school culture that discriminated against him despite his perseverence with regard to academic literacies. The slightly built Chris used his oral and written communicative talents to find a place in a rural school culture that revered more athletic types but could not figure out how to transfer these skills to a new setting. Jared loved theater but was a late-shift maintenance worker in an urban culture that viewed theater as the pursuit of the marginalized and adolescent employment as diversion more than necessity. The complexities of their literate identities suggest that considering individuals’ enactments of gender, race, and class may be useful in some ways and overly simple in others, not reflective of the identity fluidity that must be developed to survive in the postmodern world (Gee, 2000).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-246
Number of pages18
JournalReading Research and Instruction
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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