Learning takes place : how Cape Town youth learn through dialogue in different places
Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is a multi-site ethnography that focuses on young people from one low-income, Cape Town neighbourhood, an area that I got to know well between 2008 and 2012, when I worked and conducted research there. I explore how young people from this area, that I call Rosemary Gardens, learn in three different places. These places are, firstly, classrooms at Rosemary Gardens High School, secondly, a community-based hip-hop/ rap group called the Doodvenootskap, and, thirdly, a youth radio show called Youth Amplified, which involved many young people from Rosemary Gardens. In each of the three places a ‘spatio-dialogical’ analysis was used to examine learning that emerges through collaborative interactions between people. Dialogic learning may take place when young people are exposed to multiple, different perspectives, which manifest through language. This form of learning is ‘spatialised’ because it occurs through sets of social relations that coalesce at particular moments to form ‘places’. Places are junctions or points of intersection within networks of social relations. I use the work of Bakhtin (1981; 1986) and Bourdieu (1977; 1991) to illustrate how, in each of the three places, language operates as a socio-ideological system that is divided, in flux and differentially empowered. This work on language as a social system was put into conversation with Lefebvre’s (1991) spatial theory, producing tools that were used as lenses through which to interpret the ethnographic fieldwork. What emerged was the centrality of the workings of language as a social system at Rosemary Gardens High School, Youth Amplified and amongst the Doodvenootskap. The control desired by educators, combined with the bureaucratic forces that restrict spontaneity in their teaching practices, resulted in the use of highly prescribed language forces dominating dialogic interactions at Rosemary Gardens High School. The different cultural influences and historical traditions, which produce the Doodvenootskap, led to the group reclaiming and reinventing varieties of language. At times this produced more sufficiently interactive forms of dialogic learning, amongst this group, and on other occasions they merely reiterated the words of others, without reflection or rigorous thought. Critical pedagogy, at Youth Amplified, laid the foundations for multiple contrasting perspectives and different linguistic forms to manifest. In the media and in the imaginary of the South African middle and upper classes, schools in neighbourhoods that were formerly reserved for ‘Black’ and working-class ‘Coloured’ children are generally perceived to be dysfunctional places. Young people who live in the neighbourhoods in which these schools are located, are assumed to learn very little. Research with youth from Rosemary Gardens discovered that this kind of negative portrayal is only one view of a multi-faceted set of stories. On a daily basis, young people from Rosemary Gardens use language in interactions with peers and adults, exchanges that shape their consciousness and influence how they make sense of the multiple social worlds which they partially produce.