12.02.2009

who am i to do this? poetic musings on cross-cultural research

in 2004, i defended my doctoral dissertation.  this was both a proud and apprehensive moment for me, as i wrestled with questions of representation - had i done my boys justice? how were they being read and known at the end of this long process?  and how would they continue to be known as i made our stories known through my writing in years to come... i'm thinking about deborah appleman's essay titled, "are you making me famous or are you making me a fool?" and in the spirit of ongoing self-reflexivity, i reprint here the opening lines of my dissertation, complete with the opening epigraph:

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your
time. But if you have come because your liberation is
bound up with mine, then let us work together.
-Lila Watson

I am not an African American adolescent boy.
I have not been called a “superpredator,”
Or had prisons built in anticipation of my “delinquency” or on the basis of my third grade
scores on school-based reading assessments.

I am a South Asian American late-twenties woman.
I have been called a “good type of immigrant”
Whose school performance is lauded and whose labor is valued in an increasingly
globalized market economy; though my hue causes labor unrest.

We were a group of five African American boys and a South Asian American woman
Who told stories together
Had fun and played and
Made a place by co-constructing space to talk back, to
Story against and beyond the readily available and overly abundant
Images
of black boys in need
of remediation,
from deficient literacies;
in a state of corrections.
Ours are stories of ample reflection, hopeful digressions, strong critique, and possibilities.

These might be stories that no one wants to hear.
Who am I to do this?

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and an image that shows and tells much about our time together, that came to be known in our group as "our picture"