I know there are spelling and structural problems (though feel free to point them out, lest I overlook them), but am I making any sense here and what am I missing?
In reviewing contemporary literacy studies, there seem to be quite a few correlations towards the belief that literacy no longer means solely the study of reading and writing. Literacy studies seem to be taking on a newer, more holistic approach where the study of reading and writing is approached in contexts including social and economic backgrounds, belief systems and cultural aspects. From this idea of literacy studies being more inclusive of diversities, several scholars in the fields of linguistics and anthropology have dismantled literacy studies and within their new paradigms coined terms to further define and study the phenomenon of literacy. One such pioneer in this field is James Paul Gee.
Gee’s study of literacy makes use of the term Discourse (with a capital D) in his pieces, “Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction,” and “What is Literacy?”. Discourse is defined as an “identity kit:” a way of being in the world that encompasses speaking, gesturing, writing, body language, values, beliefs, attitudes, clothing and other such social practices that people engage in daily amongst family, friends, coworkers and strangers. He breaks the idea of Discourse down into four categories: primary and secondary, dominant and nondominant. The primary discourse is one that we are essentially born with or enculturated to at a very young age. It is the Discourse with which we first perceive the world and learn to interact with others.
Secondary Discourses are those that we acquire throughout our lives as we learn to interact in the various social circles we find ourselves within through the course of our lives. These would include schools, work places, churches, peer groups and other sources of social interaction.
The Dominant Discourse is a secondary discourse which brings us the
“acquisition of social ‘goods.’” (528) Gee contends that the dominant Discourse is the Discourse of the “mainstream,” or the Discourse where most people who find “success” (monetarily, socially etc.) need to be entrenched. A nondominant Discourse works for us on our social networks, but not in society as a large (a Discourse we might acquire as being a member of a social club). Discourses can overlap, of course, and as well they can conflict with one another.
Two points of interest in Gee’s study that can be examined are the conflicts one can encounter between Discourses and the desire to be a part of the dominant discourse. Looking at the pieces “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” and “Towards a New Consciousness” by Gloria Anzaldua will be one way of looking at these two concepts, but there first needs to be further study of Gee’s term “dominant Discourse.”
Gee states that secondary Discourses are hard to acquire but that control over a discourse can present certain benefits and fluent control over the discourse of the mainstream society (which Gee calls the dominant Discourse) can then lead to the acquisition of money, power, status etc. (538). However, Discourses are hard to acquire to the point of fluency and Gee contends that outsiders to the Discourse are often ostracized or held at bay. He maintains that “...someone cannot engage in a Discourse in a less than fully fluent manner. You are either in it or you are not” (529). He also writes that ...”true acquisition of many mainstream discourses involves at least while being in them, active complicity with values that [may] conflict one’s home- and community- based Discourses, especially for many women dn minorities” (532). One assumption that needs to be made about Gee’s argument is that the dominant discourse are by default those of the upper class white male, if we look at where the money power and prestige generally tend to fall at this time.
Enter Gloria Anzaldua. Anzaldua describes herself as a Chicana, Mestiza (compromising Indian, Mexican, white and black) lesbian woman who speaks English and eight different dialects of Spanish whilst managing to write her pieces. How to Tame a wild Tongue” and “Towards a New Consciousness” with a strong voice steeped in academia. Anzaldua exemplifies a woman who, according to Gee’s model, seems to have no dominant Discourse at all. She has not found a cultural or social group with which to completely identify with and no one language that she feels comfortable with. Thus she suffers with the conflicts she finds within the discourses that she is juggling. and with this, Gee’s model holds true. She writes. “Chicanas who grew up speaking Chicano Spanish have internalized the belief that we speak poor Spanish. It is illegitimate, a bastard language. And because we internalize how our language has been used against us by the dominant culture, we use our language differences against each other” (43). Gee’s study refers several times to this internal and external conflict between discourses (quote), but where Anzaldua seems to stray from Gee’s model of literacy is that although her discourse conflict with one another and create tension for her, she also struggles against the dominant discourse. She refuses to sacrifice her cultural identity for the so-called money power and prestige that she might acquire should she be able to become a member of the dominant discourse. Anzaldua refuses to change to be apart of the dominant discourse. Instead, she wants the dominant discourse to change to include her. Anzaldua says,
...wthin the culutre chicana, commonly held beliefs of the white culture frequently attack commonly held beliefs of the Mexican culture, and both attack commonly held belief os the the indigenous culture (50) she contiunes to say that ...it is not enough to stand on the opposite river bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal whit eocnventions. A counterstandce locks into a duel of oppressor and oppressed....the counteerstance refutes the dominant cultures views abd beliefs, and for this, it is proudly defiant....the counterstance stems from a problem with authority - outer as well as inner- it’s a step towards liberation from cultural domination....but it is not a way of life. At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and at once see through serpent and eagle eyes (50)
In the piece “En los dos Idiomas,” Marcia Farr’s study somehow seems to bridge the gap ever so slightly between the idea of the conflict between personal Discourses and that of the Dominant Discourse. Farr’s study exemplifies the idea that people can be happy between discourses and without the acquisition of mainstream discourse or the social goods that accompany it and without an abundance of conflict between the discourses.
Farr’s study shows how a group of Mexican immigrants were able to adequately cope with the literacy demands of first their own country, where many of the men of the study managed to teach themselves to read and write Spanish in order that they rise to the literacy demands made on them by their own personal situations, and then county that is neither part of their primary discourse and one of which they are excluded from the dominant discourse. Though they did not receive an abundance of money, prestige or power, from this exclusion, they seemed to show little unhappiness with this and in fact were proud of their coping skills and ability to support one another’s’s learning and successes in anew country. She writes that “...a social network of families exchanging resources with one another ...balh blah (483). They didn’t speak of feelings of exclusion or conflict but rather personal satisfaction and community strength to face any adversity the lack of discourse accusation might provide.....
Comclusion here somewhere