Representation of women from developing countries in realistic and historical fiction
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In the past, multicultural approaches to children’s literature have been interpreted as a form of sensitivity toward the representations of minority cultures, that is, the Other (Bhabha, 1994/2004). A more complex understanding of multiculturalism is necessary in order to move beyond simplistic representation of culture and the Self and to attend to differences from a global perspective. This study, a poststructural textual analysis of 15 realistic and historical fiction books for young-adults, uses poststructural feminist theories of subjectivity (Butler, 1992) and memory (Hilts, 1995; Loftus, 1994), and the postmodern theory of becoming (Deleuze and Guattari, 1980/1987) to challenge essentialist understanding of the concept of Other and representation, specifically in relation to portrayals of women and girls from developing countries. As poststructuralism “sees the person constructed through language” (Burr, 1996, p. 33), my textual analysis examines how the experiences and subjectivity of women and girls have been constructed in those books. To reflect on my own position as a researcher and reader within the research project, memory-based multigenre writings, a combination of conventional and digital stories, were used as a form of “text making” (Pahl and Rowsell, 2010) and tool for textual analysis. Beyond a critique of representation, the use of a textual analysis can be a useful resource in the pre-service teacher education classroom to develop intercultural understanding and move beyond simple “diversity” approaches in education that rely on a tourist perspective (Short, 2009) and surface-level information about another culture. Intercultural learning raises questions about language and the production of the subject; encourages discussions about ideology, power and positioning; and allows for multiple readings of texts. Further exploration is needed to critique simplistic representations of cultures in texts that market particular human experiences as culture-specific rather than variations of race, class, gender and economy-related social discourses.