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Museum Literacies in Mexico City: Formations of Power, Texts, and Identities

by A. Jonathan Eakle & Rosa Aurora Chávez-Eakle - 2013

Background/Context: Drawing from critical theory and new literacies studies, the article examines the design and production of museum literacies—broadly conceived to comprise reading spaces and objects, including language texts—and how these practices can be read in terms of political, social, historical, and economic relations. Because museums house and create texts that mirror various and sometimes conflicting cultural values, museum literacies can be revealing for education research and practice. For these purposes, Bonfil Batalla’s concepts of México profundo and México imaginario are explained and used to show how identities and power relations are embedded in the literacies of three Mexican museums.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The research goals were: (a) to investigate the literacies of three emblematic museums in Mexico City with diverse content (science, popular culture, and archeology), (b) to explore how museum exhibition designs and missions are related to identity and power relations, and (c) to examine from the perspective of museum designers how literacies are used, transformed, and resisted. These goals framed two research questions: (1) How might the design and production of museum literacies influence formations of identities? (2) How were museum literacies used, transformed, or resisted?

Research Design: In this qualitative research, three expert museum exhibit designers were extensively interviewed. These data were supported by visitor surveys, observations in and surrounding the museums, and artifacts collected using ethnographic tools during a one-year period. Data analyses were conducted in four phases following notions of hybridity that framed the research, proceeding with a cross-examination of the respective analyses produced by the two researchers, which share commonalities with the design and production of museum literacies.

Conclusions: The museum literacies of this investigation have implications for educators and researchers, especially those who work with Mexican migrant communities. If educators and education researchers want to connect with these communities, it is critical for them to better understand México profundo traditions that are very much part of these migrants’ everyday lives. As shown in the present study, literacies of Mexico City museums provide such opportunities. Exhibit designers presented indigenous Mexican heritage perspectives; however, those views were sometimes taken up by political networks to make use of identity constructs in attempts to hold and maintain power. Nonetheless, findings suggest that museums can be used as sites of resistance to imposed identities.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 3, 2013, p. 1-36
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16897, Date Accessed: 9/23/2021 8:48:14 AM

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About the Author
  • A. Jonathan Eakle
    Johns Hopkins University
    E-mail Author
    A. JONATHAN EAKLE (Ph.D., The University of Georgia) is an associate professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, where he conducts research on language and literacy practices in schools and informal learning environments, with an emphasis on museum literacies, symbolic systems, and the relations of visual arts, printed texts, and other media. Eakle serves on the advisory board of the Johns Hopkins University Press—the nation’s oldest academic press—and he is presently working on projects with the Smithsonian Institution. His coedited book on secondary school literacy is the third and most recent volume of a 50-year-old series pub¬lished by National Council of Teachers of English, and his recent book, published by Sage, centers on current debates in American education. His research also appears in Reading Research Quarterly, The Reading Teacher, and the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, among other venues.
  • Rosa Chávez-Eakle
    Washington International Center for Creativity
    E-mail Author
    ROSA AURORA CHÁVEZ-EAKLE is the director and founder of the Washington International Center for Creativity, where she practices psychotherapy and conducts creativity research. She earned an M.D. and a Ph.D. in medical sciences and completed a psychiatry residency at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the National Institute of Psychiatry Ramon de la Fuente, where she founded the Unit for the Study and Development of Creativity. Chávez-Eakle is also a candidate at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. She was visiting scholar at the Torrance Center for Creative Studies at the University of Georgia and a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University’s Department of Psychiatry. Chávez-Eakle’s research appears in the Creativity Research Journal, Neuroimage, and Salud Mental, as well as in other publications.
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