reviewed by Ceola Ross Baber - August 31, 2012
Multicultural educators have always acknowledged the complex nature of cultural identity (e.g., Gollnick & Chinn, 2012; Nieto & Bode, 2012). In addition they have continuously sought to understand (a) how culturally diverse students use their identities to navigate and survive the assaults of schooling and (b) how teachers can affirm the capital that these students bring to school through more culturally relevant/responsive curricula and instructional strategies (e.g., Gay, 2010; Ladson-Billings, 2001). In (Un)knowing Diversity: Research Narratives of Neocolonial Classrooms through Youths Testimonios, Tricia Gallagher-Geurtsen moves this acknowledgement and quest for understanding to a postmodern level. She effectively uses postcolonial theory to create a research-based critique of schools and schooling in the United States. Mainstream or dominant views become neocolonial flows; culturally and linguistically diverse students or minoritized youth are the colonized who resist neocolonialism through their postcolonial flows that are ultimately manifested as hybriditymultiple, shifting, and dynamic identities (Gallagher-Geurtsen, 2012, p. 10).
(Un)knowing Diversity consists of an introduction and seven chapters. The introduction, What Makes a Real American? Diversity in the Neocolonial Classroom, provides a rationale for utilization of postcolonial theory. The author lifts up several constructs of the theory and illustrates their application to schools and schooling. Chapter Two, Praxis: Testimonio Work, presents a clear description of this critical qualitative research strategy of inquiry. Gallagher-Geurtsen explains the underlying assumptions of testimonio narrative inquiry through concrete examples from her research with minoritized youth.
In Lationa/o critical race theory (LatCrit), testimonio extends the basic critical race theory of counter-storytelling (Perez Huber, 2009). In Chapters Two through Six of (Un)knowing Diversity, Gallagher-Geurtsen presents the testimonies of five young adults; they include four females and one male ranging in age from 15 to 21 years old. Two are college students, both preparing to become teachers; the remaining three are in high school. The students come from a variety of socioeconomic statuses (working class to upper middle class) and different family structures (single mother, single father, mother and father, adopted). Ana has a Columbian and European heritage. Cynthia is Mexican American. Nadya comes from a Russian, Cuban, and Roma background. Amelia is Filipina American. Dung is Vietnamese American. Gallagher-Geurtsen begins each testimonio with the youths statements about aspects of their narrative that are important to them, followed by her analysis of each youths neocolonial flows. She then closes the testimonio with important messages for teachers.
Although each testimonio is unique, there are three dominant themes across the narratives: language, identity, and biculturalism/biracialism. All of the youth clearly articulate the pervasive oppression they have observed and experienced in schools. All of their neocolonial flows speak not only to their resilience, but also to the strength of their resistance through complex hybridity. Lastly, their collective testimonio brings into the 21st century the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (1972) No One Model American statement on multicultural education. The focus of that statement was the importance of cultural pluralism in our society and in our schools:
If cultural pluralism is so basic a quality of our culture, it must become an integral part of the educational process at every level. Education for cultural pluralism includes four major thrusts: (1) the teaching of values which support cultural diversity and individual uniqueness; (2) the encouragement of the qualitative expansion of existing ethnic cultures and their incorporation into the mainstream of American socioeconomic and political life; (3) the support of explorations in alternative and emerging life styles; and (4) the encouragement of multiculturalism, multilingualism, and multidialectism (AACTE, 1972, p. 2).
That fourth thrust can be interpreted as what Gallagher-Geurtsen names hybridity and what Cross (1991) called a multiculturalist identity in his revised racial identity model.
In Chapter Seven, Now What? Decolonialization and Revolution in the Classroom, Gallagher-Geurtsen offers some guidelines for democratizing and decolonizing schools and schooling. A fundamental assumption is that critical and authentic collaboration with minoritized youth is a non-negotiable prerequisite for this democratization and decolonization. The essence of this chapter is captured in the following question: (H)ow can teachers and students recognize and critique their own and schools neocolonial flows, and then become border crossers who read and write the world from multiple postcolonial perspectives, even when this may mean letting go of cherished beliefs, ideologies, and power? (p. 142). I would extend this quote to include researchers, whether they are teacher-researchers in the schools or scholar-researchers in the academy. As researchers, we must continue to collect testimonies and other types of narratives from minoritized youth across cultural borders (race/ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, religion, and geography) and use their narratives to test and generate theory. As practitioners we must achieve praxis by engaging our students and ourselves in transformative teaching and (un)learning.
(Un)knowing Diversity: Researching Narratives of Neocolonial Classrooms through Youths Testimonios is an important contribution to the fields of critical qualitative research and critical multicultural teacher education. It needs to be on the reading list for qualitative research methodology courses, and it would be good supplemental reading for graduate level courses in teacher education programs.
American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (1972). No one American. Retrieved from AACTE website: http://aacte.org/pdf/Programs/Multicultural/multiculturaledstatement.pdf
Cross, W.E., Jr. (1991). Shades of blackness: Diversity in African American identity. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research and practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Gollnick, D. & Chinn, P. (2012). Multicultural education in a pluralistic society (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Huber Perez, L. (2009). Disrupting apartheid of knowledge: "Testimonio" as methodology in Latina/o critical race research in education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 22(6), 639-654.
Ladson-Billings, G. (2001). Crossing over to Canaan: The journey of new teachers in diverse classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Nieto, S. & Bode, P. (2012). Affirming diversity: The sociopolitical context of multicultural education (6th ed.). New York: Longman.