The Strategic Rhetoric of an “At-Risk” Educational Identity: Interviewing Jane

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This essay explores how communication research on “at-risk” students relies on under-theorized understandings of identity as seemingly stable traits and characteristics. In this sense, “at-riskness,” as a cultural identity, is dangerous precisely because it encourages researchers to link identity difference with failure, rather than to explore the presence and perpetuation of particular ideologies. We illuminate such ideological tensions through our analysis of a complex educational identity—an in-depth interview with an “at-risk” student—where we locate strategic rhetorics (i.e., discursive constructions that reify normalized assumptions about educational success and failure) that demonstrate how ideology constitutes the phenomenon of educational risk.

Keywords: Critical Pedagogy; Cultural Identity; Educational Risk; Performativity; Strategic Rhetoric

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2005

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