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Unformatted text preview: (Un)Necessary Toughness?: Those "Loud Black Girls" and Those "Quiet Asian Boys" JOY L. LEI Vassar College This article examines the process of identity construction and its relationship to discursive and representational acts in producing students as academic and social beings. Drawing on Judith Butler's work on gender performativity, I focus on two student populations — black females and Southeast Asian American males — and analyze the symbolic and material effects of the production of them as racialized, gendered Other through the repeated stylization of their bodies and behavior. The materialization of the students as "loud black girls" and "quiet Asian boys," however, opens up the potential for disrupting the hegemonicfbrces of regulatory norms. Recent research on race and student identity in U.S. schools has revealed a complicated relationship between identities at the interpersonal level and discourses of knowledge at a structural level (e.g., Davidson 1996; Ferguson 2000; Fordham 1996; Lee 1996). It is within this relationship that the symbolic realm (in which histories, experiences, and people are represented) and material realities collide, interact, and coexist. It is also within this relationship that identities are created, imposed, appropri- ated, resisted, and embraced. In the dominant U.S. racial discourse, which has evolved from a history of Eurocentric representations, people of color have been cast in mono- lithic characterizations that homogenize diverse populations into subor- dinate racial groups. This discursive system perpetuates the positioning of people of color as the Other, and the white, European American culture as the mainstream and the norm. These regulative representations serve as effective tools for maintaining the power and status of the dominant group (Hall 1997; Lee 1996; Prager 1982). Locked within confining stereo- types, many individuals of color, the model minorities, the noble savages, the black athletes and musicians, struggle between fulfilling roles mat bring them "success" and rejecting them as oppressive mechanisms, finding it difficult to see other alternatives. In this article, I examine the process of identity construction and its re- lationship to discursive and representational acts in producing students as academic and social beings. This analysis is part of a two-year ethno- graphic study I conducted at a public comprehensive high school I call Hope High. I focus on two student populations—black females and South- east Asian American males—and discuss: (1) the ways their racialized Anthropology & Education Quarterly 34(2):158-181. Copyright © 2003, American Anthropological Association. 158 Lei (Un)Necessary Toughness 159 and gendered identities were constructed both for them and by them; (2) how others treated these students and made sense of their behavior based on the dominant discursive and representational systems of ra- cialized and gendered normality; and t (3) how the students, in construct-...
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This note was uploaded on 12/07/2010 for the course ANTHRO anthro 169 taught by Professor Prof.tomdouglas during the Fall '10 term at UC Irvine.
- Fall '10