Critical narrative analysis of Brazilian women's schooling discourses
Manning, Mariana Valois
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Historically, discourse has often been studied from researchers’ perspectives without giving voice to those involved. This study pays close attention to the voices of low socio-economic status women, including my grandmother, who made sense of their experiences through telling stories, subsequently analyzed their own narratives, and started negotiating change on both personal and societal levels. Instead of taking a clear stance, offering monological solutions asserting a priori moral stances, I inquire into the personal commitments of these individuals situated within and subject to complex social discourses. I learned with them as they acquired tools to promote change and started questioning institutional discourses. This dissertation informs theory and research methodology and praxis, mounting understandings of uniquely situated commitments. Lying at the intersection of discourse analytic approaches, critical pedagogy, and feminist theory, this study focuses on women in Northeastern Brazil who were part of a participatory/democratic literacy program, culture circles (Freire, 1959). In analyzing data, I combine Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 2003) and Narrative Analysis (Ochs & Capps, 2001), establishing Critical Narrative Analysis, which aims at promoting conscientization (Freire, 1970) and language appropriation (Chouliaraki & Fairclough, 1999). I analyze the cycle of oppression among rural women who dropped-out of school, migrated to urban centers to become domestic workers, some never returning to school. Additionally, I listened closely to the stories some women told, shedding light on how agency and identity were negotiated as women recounted stories of dropping-out-of-school (Rymes, 2001) as children and successfully returning-to-school as adults. These women’s narratives first conveyed the morality to which they oriented based on generic (patriarchal) moral imperatives. After joining culture circles, they constructed a situated, collective moral compass, developing a sense of agency. As their narratives changed, they employed grammatical and framing agency, voiced as they engaged in personal action and shifting internal conversations (Archer, 2003). Findings indicate their narratives align with the goal of social action and change proposed by culture circles. Overall, the study elucidates the potential role of emancipatory educational practices in the lives of women marginalized in schooling and society and informs the schooling histories of their children.