By NORMA GONZALEZ. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press, 2001. Pp. xiii, 215. Hardback $35.00.
In I am My Language, Norma Gonzalez uses language as a vehicle for understanding the complexities of life in the borderlands. Specifically, G examines the issue of identity--she seeks to understand how women and children within the sociohistorical climate of the borderland region of Tucson, Arizona, negotiate identity in their everyday lives. Her ethnographic study contributes a unique approach to understanding identity and culture as she illuminates a crucial connection between language and social processes, emphasizing the power dimensions involved in these processes.
G began her study with the idea that she would be able to code her data and categorize the interactions between mothers and children in neat prearranged frames. Instead, she found that 'language socialization is a multivocal process, involving contexts that cannot be examined only in the household, but must encompass regional, national, and transborder zones' (19). Her self-conscious discussions throughout the book of her struggle with 'traditional' methodological frameworks are constructive for researchers grappling with how to conduct research that accounts for diversity within groups. She encourages a new approach and favors theorizing practice--'that is, trying to figure out how we can theoretically understand everyday practices at the household level is key to exploring antiessentialist accounts of identities' (72). From her study, she found that the differential ways women socialize their children within the household can allow us to see the diversity within as well as between groups.
In the introduction to the book, G lays out four themes she seeks to develop: a) How speech is identity; b) the experiences of hybridity on the borderlands; c) the importance of eschewing reductionistic views of language and culture and d) the practical implications of her work for public policy, classroom practices and school policy.
A major aim of G's book is to dispel the myth of the essentialized Hispanic community. In Chapter 8 she argues that the concept of culture has become problematic in that it does not account for the diversity within groups. The author notes that within the last 15 years, anthropologists have argued about the nature of culture, from WRITING AGAINST CULTURE (Gupta & Ferguson 1992), to LOCATING CULTURE (Bhabha 1994), to her position, the DEMISE of the culture concept (Gonzalez 1999). Early anthropological studies on Latinos, she says, have objectified Mexicans and other Latinos, misrepresented them, and contributed to deficit models for analyzing the way Latinos perform in school, for...
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