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Agency in Borderland Discourses: Examining Language Use in a Community Center With Black Queer Youth


by Mollie V. Blackburn — 2005

This article focuses on the ways in which a small group consisting mostly of Black queer youth makes sense of their use of language to assert agency in a world that is often heterosexist, homophobic, ageist, and racist. The author draws from the work of Gee and Anzaldúa to identify what youth call "Gaybonics," as a Borderland Discourse that is intertwined with Ebonics. The author and youth worked together in a youth-run center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth to analyze the ways that these youth engaged in Gaybonics to elicit pleasure and subvert oppression, and, when their borders were violated, they shifted from this discourse to another to retaliate against hatred. When youth analyzed their use of Borderland Discourses, they came to understand the ways that they engage in such discourses to position themselves as agents and the power they can (and cannot) access by engaging in various discourses. The author asserts that youth need opportunities to explore such access to power through language, particularly in the margins, as conceptualized by hooks. Finally, the author calls for work with youth that not only supports their assertion of agency but also their efforts at activism.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 1, 2005, p. 89-113
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11690, Date Accessed: 10/20/2017 12:15:27 PM

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About the Author
  • Mollie Blackburn
    Ohio State University
    E-mail Author
    MOLLIE V. BLACKBURN is Assistant Professor of Literacy, Language, and Culture at the College of Education at Ohio State University. Her research is critical and activist in nature and works to explore the ways in which youth engage in literacy performances to construct their identities and work for social change. She is author of ‘‘Exploring Literacy Performances and Power Dynamics at The Loft: Queer Youth Reading the World and Word’’ in Research in the Teaching of English (2003) and ‘‘Losing, Finding, and Making Space for Activism Through Literacy Performances and Identity Work’’ in Penn GSE Perspectives on Urban Education (2003).
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