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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Voices in the silence : narratives of disadvantage, social context and school mathematics in post-apartheid South Africa Swanson, Dalene M.


"Voices in the Silence" is a critical exploration of the construction of disadvantage in school mathematics in social context. It provides a reflexive, narrative account of a pedagogic journey towards understanding the pedagogizing of difference in mathematics classrooms and its realizations as pedagogized disadvantage in and across diverse socio-political, economic, cultural, and pedagogic contexts. The fieldwork mostly occurred within the Cape Province of South Africa, in schooling communities with socio-economic, cultural and historical differences. Research took the form of interviews, discussions and participant observation, in a recent post-apartheid context. In resistance to perpetuating hierarchized, linear or scientistic approaches to research within traditional social sciences and mathematics education, I embrace an arts-based methodology. Through narrative, I engage with socio-political, cultural and pedagogic implications of the social construction of disadvantage in school mathematics discourse and practice. The dissertation, therefore, offers interdisciplinary approaches to critical concerns of inequity and access, calling on the emotive, spiritual, embodied, and personal domains of experience in problematizing the (re)production of disadvantage and certain socio-cultural practices that school mathematics supports. The concept of silence is introduced to interrogate the interstitial/intertextu(r)al places of 'lack' and 'deficit', and competing ideological positions and discourses of power, which inform the pedagogic and lived realities of "disadvantage" in mathematics classrooms within different contexts. "Moments of articulation" within fieldwork define utterances and somatic performances embedded within narrative contexts and their attending discourses, and instigate investigation, deliberation and engagement in analyzing the multiple ways in which disadvantage takes root/route. These signpost where 'voices in the silence', in discourse, context, and the subjectivities they (re)produce, may be recognized, problematized and rearticulated through narrative. This dissertation's major contribution is to open up spaces for dialogue with(in) silence through a reflexive narratizing. Ultimately, "Voices in the Silence" is an invitation to a dialogical pedagogic journey that seeks to provide roots/routes of engagement with the ideals of social justice and an egalitarian society. It attempts to find narrative moments within the difficult terrain of research work and lived experience where constructed and pedagogized disadvantage can be re-imagined and transformed into transcendent pedagogies of empowerment and hope.

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