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Against Disposability: On Alternative Schooling, Silence, and Abolition

  • Author(s): Anderson-Zavala, Chrissy
  • Advisor(s): Cruz, Cindy
  • et al.

Against Disposability: On Alternative Schooling, Silence, and Abolition explores how deficit figures of young people inform the limits and possibilities of schooling. This dissertation utilizes participatory ethnographic and archival methods to engage: (a) the enduring narratives of “trouble” and “troubled” young people; (b) continuation high school students’ experiences of structural violence within schools; and (c) what students’ insights reveal about alternative visions of schooling. Throughout their history, continuation high schools have operated under shifting mandates to work with the young people that mainstream schools struggle or refuse to serve. Informed by education scholarship concerned with deficit narratives about young people who “do not fit” in school, abolitionist critiques that denaturalize the “known” other, and feminist scholarship that traces everyday structural violence, this research asks: what do figures of youth deviance, deficit, and delinquency reveal about how the American school system structures difference? What are the pedagogical implications of the limits of these figures? I argue that hypervisible figures of young people as “trouble/d” foreclose young people’s personhood through historically embedded and persistent racist, sexist, ableist, and ageist notions of deficit. I further explore how such deficit subject positions require young people to perform immaterial and material forms of labor as “delinquents” or un-value in school spaces. I denaturalize these figures to both mark the limits of schooling in its current form, but also to call for alternative visions of education based in relationality. Therefore, this dissertation explores two sides of how to write young people: 1) the manners in which young people, especially young people of color, have been narrated—or “written” upon—in school spaces; and 2) how we might move toward pedagogies of relationality—or writing and teaching that is an invitation to be with. I call for a pedagogy of relationality that works against eclipsing figures and enables us to imagine toward futures not characterized by punishment, hypervisibility, and differential access to childhood. Against Disposability invites those in the field of education to challenge the persistent, ready-made narratives imposed on young people who “do not fit” in order to move toward more just and liberatory visions and practices of education.

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