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Uprooted at the Epicenter: A Bakhtinian Analysis of the Experiences of Adolescents in an Earthquake-Impacted School Open Access

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This study examined the voices of adolescents who experienced an earthquake in school. Recent literature and a preliminary analysis of news clips revealed a predominant reliance on the official discourse of adults in schools and in the reporting of the Ware earthquake by mainstream media sources, which overshadowed the unique voices, views, and understandings of youth and created a “deep gulf” (Landay, 2004, p. 113) between the languages of adults and the young. As a result, little was known about how adolescents constructed and communicated natural disaster experiences all the while navigating and negotiating the interplay of official and unofficial discourses in school. This qualitative inquiry sought to address these issues by drawing on a branch of discourse analysis—recognized as discursive psychology (Jorgensen & Phillips, 2002)—and Bakhtin’s (1981) theory of communication to explore and reveal the ways in which adolescents voiced their experiences of a substantial transformation in school. An analysis of the youth’s voices revealed how the adolescents simultaneously ventriloquated, appropriated, hybridized, and subverted the official language and primarily, constructed an internally persuasive discourse to communicate their earthquake experiences, and in so doing, revealed linguistic traces of both the official and unofficial social worlds. Conclusions show how adolescents construct their voices through dialogical engagements with More Knowledgeable Others (MKOs), concurrently produce and consume knowledge, and offer unique, novel, varied, and different perspectives of natural disaster experiences.

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