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.

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JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing is an interdisciplinary journal of curriculum studies. It offers an academic forum for scholarly discussions of curriculum. Historically aligned with the "reconceptualist" movement in curriculum theorizing and oriented toward informing and affecting classroom practice, JCT presents compelling pieces within forms that challenge disciplinary, genre, and textual boundaries.

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