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Smartness as Property: A Critical Exploration of Intersections Between Whiteness and Disability Studies


by Zeus Leonardo & Alicia A. Broderick — 2011

Background/Context: Two scholars who each primarily identify as a scholar of critical race/whiteness studies and a scholar of disability studies, respectively, engage in this article in a purposeful dialogue that responds to the invitation put forth by Baglieri, Bejoian, Broderick, Connor, and Valle to engage with the construct of inclusive education, writ large. Through purposeful engagement with one another’s discourse communities, the authors explore both the challenge and the tremendous promise of more theoretically integrated efforts toward abolishing ideological systems of oppression in schooling.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: This article explores “smartness” as an ideological system and particularly explores the ways in which it intersects with whiteness as ideology. Using Cheryl Harris’s analysis of whiteness, the authors argue that smartness works as a form of property, with all the advantages that come with membership in the group.

Research Design: Analytic essay.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Analogous to Roediger’s claim about whiteness, the authors argue that smartness is nothing but false and oppressive, and as such, attempts to theoretically rearticulate or rehabilitate smartness may serve to illuminate, but ultimately fail to dissolve, the normative center of schooling.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 113 Number 10, 2011, p. 2206-2232
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16431, Date Accessed: 5/28/2016 12:01:36 PM

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About the Author
  • Zeus Leonardo
    University of California, Berkeley
    E-mail Author
    ZEUS LEONARDO is associate professor of social and cultural studies in education and affiliated faculty of the Critical Theory Designated Emphasis program at the University of California, Berkeley. He has published many articles and book chapters on critical educational theory, race, and Whiteness studies. He is the author of Ideology, Discourse, and School Reform (Praeger), editor of Critical Pedagogy and Race (Blackwell), and coeditor (with Tejeda and Martinez) of Charting New Terrains of Chicano(a)/Latino(a) Education (Hampton). His articles have appeared in Educational Researcher; Race Ethnicity and Education; and Educational Philosophy and Theory. Some of his essays include: “The Souls of White Folk,” “Critical Social Theory and Transformative Knowledge,” and “Pedagogy of Fear: Toward a Fanonian Theory of 'Safety' in Race Dialogue” (with Ronald Porter). His recent books are Race, Whiteness and Education (Routledge) and the Handbook of Cultural Politics and Education (SensePublishers), and he is working on Critical Frameworks on Race and Education (Teachers College Press) and Education and Racism (Routledge).
  • Alicia Broderick
    Teachers College, Columbia University
    ALICIA A. BRODERICK is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her work is grounded in commitments to pursue inclusive schooling from a collaborative stance informed by disability studies in education (DSE) and other criticalist perspectives. Her research and teaching interests include critical explorations of cultural representations of dis/ability (particularly autism), and the role of DSE in pursuing socially just and inclusive schooling.
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