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Difference at play : an ethnography of discourse and drama in multiracial classrooms in a Francophone minority language school Schroeter, Sara


This dissertation explores discourses of difference used by students throughout one year in a Francophone minority language school. This ethnography was conducted in the students’ social studies classes, where drama was used as a (post)critical pedagogy to teach and explore differences embedded in the curriculum. Drawing on critical, Indigenous, and poststructural theories this project explores how the students used discourses of difference in their interactions in and out of the classroom and during dramatic work. This study reveals that the participating youth used categories of difference, like race, ethnicity, indigeneity, class, and youth, in ways marked by ambiguity, humour, irony, and dissatisfaction, as well as attempts to govern and discipline the boundaries of these constructed categories. Discourses of race consistently emerged in informal educational spaces, such as school hallways; however, the students avoided them in the formal classroom space, a practice linked to the dominance of whiteness in the Canadian educational context. Drama activities created liminal spaces that disrupted the discursive distinction between informal and formal educational spaces, allowing limited access to the students’ informal discourses of race during instructional time. Overarching schooling structures made seizing such moments difficult, in order to disrupt and unpack categories of difference. Furthermore, the students’ problematic racial humour and representational practices surfaced during and immediately following classroom drama activities in ways that reinforced colonial ideas about belonging and unbelonging in Canadian schools. This study fills gaps in existing research on Francophone minority language schooling by exploring how race, ethnicity, indigeneity, class, and gender intersected in the identifications and discourses of participating youth. These findings trouble the myth of seamless integration in minority language Francophone schools and suggest that linguistic affiliation is an insufficient basis for inclusion and that schools must work to address the significant impact that differences of race, ethnicity, indigeneity, class, and gender have on youth’s lives. Furthermore, this study complicates literature in drama-in-education by examining the possibilities and limitations applied theatre affords for unpacking categories of difference in the classroom. It proposes that pedagogical approaches that are explicitly anti-racist and decolonizing are needed in order to achieve such results.

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