Wooten, Jennifer Ann
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This qualitative study uses a methodology of performance to investigate how nine non-native teachers of Spanish in grades 6-16 in Georgia public schools construct and perform their second language identities. Specifically, the study employs the concept of cultural drag to consider how these non-native teachers of Spanish often perform as, or are expected by others to perform as, members of the cultures they teach (i.e, native speakers of Spanish). Similar to gender drag, cultural drag involves members of one group assuming characteristics of another, and here refers to non-native teachers’ assumption of characteristics of native speakers of Spanish. Organized in a manuscript format, the first article of this dissertation draws on Butler’s theory of performativity to establish the theoretical underpinnings of cultural drag. I then illustrate the characteristics of cultural drag – desire, action, revelation, and proliferation – by analyzing three language memoirs. The second manuscript further elaborates on cultural drag, now applied to study data. I examine the contradictory and ambivalent statements and actions that participants enacted related to their second language identities during individual interviews and performance-based focus groups informed by Boal’s theatrical techniques. The third manuscript focuses on one element of cultural drag, revelation. I further describe my use of Boal’s Forum Theatre, choosing to look concretely at how study participants acted out against being positioned as non-native speakers in the presence of school administrators when being a non-native speaker was interpreted as a professional liability. Analyses in these articles indicated that language learners / teachers deeply invested in their second language identities struggled with feelings of illegitimacy when caught in the native speaker / non-native speaker binary that privileges the native speaker and undergirds foreign language education. They felt empowered, though, when they questioned the validity of the ideal native speaker and focused on their abilities as both Spanish language users and English language users, amongst other identities. This project, then, moved from the personal experiences of the teacher-participants as related to their language learning and pedagogical practices to the interrogation of imitating, or performing as, the “native speaker” as the foundation of foreign language education.