Performative Politics and Radical Possibilities: Re-framing Pop Culture Text Work in Schools


  • Elisabeth Johnson


This article draws attention to radical possibilities in classroom work with pop culture texts when teachers and students acknowledge and explore the micro-level political work people undertake when negotiating meanings for those texts. Data from a year-long ethnographic study of pop culture in a tenth grade English classroom in the U.S. illustrates some ways youth used embodied pop culture texts like clothing, shoes, and accessories to negotiate racial and ethnic identities in the classroom. The author employs post-structural performance theory to analyze a moment of discursive conflict between two students - an event when categories of race, gender, and class circulated discussion of a pair of earrings. She argues that similar struggles over pop culture text meanings are events when people practice performative politics, i.e., performing, reproducing, and reinventing ways of being in school and the world. Such uses of pop culture texts carry radical possibilities for classroom participants and curriculum.

Author Biography

Elisabeth Johnson

Liz Johnson is Assistant Professor of Literacy and English Education with past work experiences as a K-12 educator and qualitative researcher. She is passionate about using “out of school” research and post-structural theories of embodiment to explore relationships between pop culture, literacy, and identity “in school” with students and teachers.






Cultural Studies and Curriculum