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Beyond Mystic River Exploring the Discourses of White Working-Class Boston.

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Presentation on theme: "Beyond Mystic River Exploring the Discourses of White Working-Class Boston."— Presentation transcript:

1 Beyond Mystic River Exploring the Discourses of White Working-Class Boston

2 The question guiding my ongoing inquiry: What can I learn about the worlds, ways, and words of my most “difficult” students (my white working-class male students from South Boston) that will allow me to “get the point” of their writing and their ways of engaging with the academic community?

3 “We often...miss the central point because we do not know enough about the culture of, say, sports victories, car wrecks, and sexual anxiety in which it is imbedded.” Lad Tobin on reading the personal narratives of adolescent males (“Car Wrecks, Baseball Caps, and Man-to-Man Defense,” CE 1996)

4 My students: College freshmen From diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds—immigrant, minority, and/or working class Today I’m focusing on students from white, working class enclaves of Boston




8 Starting assumptions about all of my students : They are in the process of negotiating new social identities and new ways of using language as they enter new, academic discourse communities. They bring other social identities and existing discourse competence from their experience as insiders in other discourse communities of family, peers, work, etc.

9 My curriculum Focuses on language and social identity Involves students in ethnographic inquiry into – The familiar, informal discourse communities of families, friends, workplaces, etc. – The formal academic discourse communities of courses across disciplines. In Exploring Literacy, Longman, 2004

10 Why—some of the purposes of discourse community studies to help students understand their own competence as language users--as insiders in familiar discourse communities to help them see that all communities have insider ways, and that we're always in the process of moving from outsider to insider as we move between communities to help them see and name the resources of language that are available to them as they move within and among discourse communities to help them respect the language and ways of others

11 What we do: the how of our discourse studies Tape, transcribe (and translate), and analyze the conversations of insiders to the community Observe conversational settings, styles, genres, insider terms, shared values Read ethnographies of communication (Heath, Willis, Spradley, other student researchers)

12 Analyzing Discourse Data (from a Hallidayan S/F perspective) Shared knowledge (what people know and talk about) Shared ways (how people talk about these things: genres, speech acts, styles, insider terms, etc.) Shared purposes and values (why people interact as they do)

13 Being a White Working Class Kid from Southie (f) We are Southie girls. We are white, Irish- Catholic, tough-guy, funny, crazy, and good- looking. We like to drink and smoke. We are relatively poor. Most of the time life is overall just terrible. There’s never not a problem. But that is why we hang out so much, because we just make each other happy. We are extremely close and have been through a lot together.

14 A Southie Kid (m1) In my mind one of the things that keeps us so close is the place where we are from and that is South Boston (Southie). This town is the greatest place on earth and I could never think of any other place that I would want to be from... where you live is your home if you don’t like it you have to make the best out of it and just live life because your town should be part of your heart. That’s how it is in Southie and if you don’t feel the same way that all of my friends do then you’re really not a “southie kid”.

15 What’s talked about in Southie Drinking Sports (HS hockey/football; Red Sox) Girls and sex (for males) “Serious stuff” (for females)

16 Drinking (m) Johno : Timmmmmy whats up buddy u gonna run to the packie store or what were dyin ova here to get smashed Pat : aiight where should we drink down the beach as ussaual ? Chris: might as well no where else to drink the cops come every where else Johno: yeah hes right Timmy : aiight to the beach we go

17 Drinking (m2) The Glory Days: We got drunk, went to the football games, then went home and got drunk, followed by another round of drinking on Saturday night. Times were great.

18 Drinking (f) Kristen: Alright Elaine, you know the answer to a lot a things. How do you get boobs? Elaine: How do you get booze? Kristen: Yeah boobs. Kerrill: Yeah, where’s the booze at Elaine. I know you got a stash. We drink and talk about drinking. In this conversation, even my friend’s mother was drunk.

19 Sports (m1) Johno: the red sox are getting there asses handed to them right now they suck Chris: no shit I cant belive this if they don’t win the next one tomorrow its all ova for them they had such an awesome year now its going to be all gone Pat: I hope they pull it out its gonna be wicked hard tho only to teams in the history of professional sports have done it and they were both in hockey no had eva done it in baseball. Johno: aight im all done with this game lets get some beers if the sox cant win we might as well have some fun

20 Sports (m2) The first high school football game was coming up, and we decided that we should all go together, and pre- game it. In case one doesn’t know what pre-game means, the definition is simple. Prior to an event, such as a party or a football game, a group of people get together and drink a little alcohol until the game starts. Then those people attend the game, drunk, and hang out together afterwards.

21 Sports (f) All anyone talked about was the Red Sox playing the Yankees. These baseball games are definitely part of the wider culture.

22 How people talk in Southie “Call that fat fuck up.” (m1) We swear a lot. We don’t pronounce our Rs. (f) Kristen: “Do you understand how friggin’ mentally drained and strained my body is? We communicate the same way online in the chatroom (m2) James says “wtf, you guys get easy shit.” “WTF stands for “What the Fuck?”

23 Southie Speech Acts (f) We insult, we bitch, we greet, we sweet talk (well only a few of us do that). We swear. We give people shit. We gossip, joke, beg, tease, mutter order, pressure, argue, like, babble, flirt, dare, apologize, call, admit, hassle, and strait bullshit...We’re always “busting people’s balls” and “putting you on the hotseat.” We “fuck with people” and have “rank down contests.”

24 Southie ways (m1) We have special ways in which we connect. One is by making fun of each other. “Johno, ur a lil bitch who listens 2 the sappy love rock shit.”

25 Insider terms (f) Some of the words we say that others may not know are butterface, 5s, biiiit, boga, nightrider, Waynie B, Ferngully, Ali bin, Dum Ho, etc. Butterface is an insulting remark, You would call like an ugly girl that or something. You say it like: yeah you’re a butterface, everything looks good but ya face.

26 Nicknames (f) Waynie B. is this real weird shady dude in Southie, and my friends used to call me that because I was real shady and grounded all the time. Ali honestly has the most nicknames than anyone I know. What we usually do is just add something on the end of Ali, with Ali bin, like Ali bin Betty, Ali bin Honda, Ali bin bowling ball, Ali bin redhead. She has millions.

27 Nicknames (m2) We wanted to have a name for our group. Alex thought of “tapakegadaya.” Tap-a-keg (of beer)-a-day. The name never stuck. It was too hard to remember. So we decided to call ourselves the Brew Crew.

28 Me I am the big dude in the Red Sox Jersey Next to me is my good friend Skipper Some of my nicknames include Poncho, Gutter, Flounder, and Buzzsaw (because I snore loud)

29 Shared values (f) Respecting each other. Being there for someone when they need you. And looking out for each other. If you are with a group of people and someone starts saying shit to one of your girls, you better get their backs and start talking shit right back. This is true when it comes to fights too. If one of your girls is fighting someone one on one, and other girls try to jump in and mess up your girl, you have to jump in and mess up that girl, or if you’re not that tough, at least try to help out your friend as much as you can.

30 Shared values (m1) Love and loyalty. To get by in this world you need your friends and you need people to stand by you when you’re about to crumble. Loyalty is being there when someone needs you and staying true to that person never talking behind ones back never being an asshole to that person (to a certain extent) and just being there for that person.

31 Reframing local experience (f) My discourse community is very different from that of Roadville’s. We are not traditional or religious at all really. Like Blanca said, “In Roadville, people quote from the Bible for any need they have in every day life. We could never do that...” However, we are all technically Catholics, but probably the worst ones ever because we don’t go to church and we do a lot of bad things.

32 Reframing continued (f) We are a lot like Trackton though. We tell a lot of stories like they do. We also exaggerate situations and things going on to look better, and things like that. We talk a lot of “junk” too like they do. We also do not talk in proper form most of the time, and we use a lot of our own words and expressions, which are not at all grammatically correct.

33 Reframing (m2) When one is part of a different setting, he or she may take on a different social identity...I basically go from being the “well-behaved son” around my parents to the crazy kid at the party with The Brew Crew to the older brother figure with Shannon [a friend]. It’s not that I’m acting when I take any of these roles. Each side of me comes out differently when I’m around different people

34 Reframing continued (m2) This is pretty much the same thing that Spradley and Mann say during their ethnographic study of the discourse community at Brady’s Bar. The crowd there is a college age group, predominantly made up of males, who get together and drink. (Sounds similar, huh?) In this bar, men act extremely masculine. I’m sure that outside this bar, the same men treat woman with respect. Maybe it is just the flow of the liquor into their blood streams or maybe its just being around other males, but most people in this bar act like “alpha-males.”

35 Reflecting on why (m2) Why, one may ask, would a group of people who aren’t racist or sexist use language so vulgar, and obviously offensive, especially to woman? Well, the reason is because we are 18 year old males. We all have female family and friends, some of these friends are as close to us as the boys from the “BC” are. If we ever heard anyone speak about “our girls” this way, things wouldn’t be pretty. Things are just different when you are hanging out with an all male community. Many have heard the phrase “bro’s before hoes’” before, and to an extent, that is the attitude that a group of guys have when they are together.

36 Why continued (m2) Another “why?” that a reader may be asking is the following question. Why would a group of underage, responsible students get together and drink? To be honest, I really do not know. Alcohol is obviously a socially enhancing substance. However it is just something that we had in common before we started hanging out. We do not act irresponsibly when we do drink though. We do not drink and drive, we do not end up throwing up every weekend. Drinking is just something we do in a celebratory manner. Our intoxication is similar to that of wedding guests. They get together to celebrate the coming together of people. This is exactly what we do.

37 Moves students make Stepping out of their experience to examine and name it Explaining insider ways in terms that outsiders can understand Seeing relationships between their local worlds and very different ones in other studies Reflecting on the why of their experience

38 What I’m learning To see my WWCM students as individuals, not just as baseball-capped “Southie kids.” To question how gender intersects with my own preconceptions and expectations To pay more attention to what makes sense and why within a community where “Most of the time life is overall just terrible. There’s never not a problem” and where the only things you can count on are “loyalty and love.”

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