Majors – “‘I wasn’t Scared of Them, They Were Scared of Me’: Constructions of Self/ Other in a Midwestern Hair Salon

Majors, Yolanda J. “‘I Wasn’t Scared of Them, They Were Scared of Me’: Constructions of Self/ Other in a Midwestern Hair Salon.” Anthropology and Education Quarterly. 35.2 (2004): 167-188.Print.

In this article Yolanda Majors applies the theoretical frameworks of critical discourse analysis, critical race theory, and Cultural-Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) to ethnographic data from an African American hair salon in the mid-West. In her analyses, Majors shows the ways in which African American women use African American women’s literacies and Black discourse practices to individually and collectively negotiate and create meaning, construct and read social texts, construct their own counter-texts that challenge dominant narratives and beliefs, and create dialogic spaces for themselves to engage in these practices.

She uses data from the salon that features a narration from Darlene who assumes several roles – “counselor,” “teacher,” “master stylist,” and “storyteller.” Majors focuses on the ways that Darlene’s narration of a social text helps her to forge her own identity in the midst of a cross-cultural interaction. Darlene’s talk reflect’s her racialized, gendered, and social class position.

The dialogic interaction created between Darlene, her employees, and her clients as she tells her storyis in line with Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1981) view of dialogicality where readers are considered authors and reading is a dialogue between a previously created text and a reactive text created by the reader (182). On this point, Majors says,

Such a perspective transforms the traditional concept of reading into a contingent dialogic process, in which the reader becomes a border-crosser in doing her/ his imaginary scholarship in the process of reading. (182)

Majors asserts that her analyses provides a insight as to how educators can make room for the literacies and discourse practices that African American women use in community-based settings in “academic” settings as well:

The identities people construct through their adoption of these language varieties are viewed as impediments to their academic learning – as personal skins to be shed in acquiring passports to success. This illustration of Shoptalk disrupts such assumptions and offers a more grounded view of the role of language variation in achieving literate skills (Lee and Majors 2003).

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