Council on Anthropology and Education
Oral Presentation Session
Drawing on experiences from 16 months of fieldwork at two private bilingual schools (one French-English, one French-Arabic) in Dakar, Senegal, this presentation explores how researcher and participants used language to negotiate power relations, agency, and positionality. In particular it focuses on field site access and how those experiences contributed to shaping researcher-participant relationships. Language was repeatedly used as a marker of belonging or exclusion, privilege or disadvantage, as I tried to gain access to spaces where my linguistic capital often positioned me as privileged outsider. I draw on theories of decoloniality (Quijano, 2007; Ndlovu-Gatsheni, 2013), which foreground the ongoing power dynamics established under European colonization that continue to privilege western epistemologies and ways of speaking, knowing, and being, as well as Tuck’s (2009) call for “desire-based” frameworks of research, which are “concerned with understanding the complexity, contradiction, and self-determination of lived lives” (p. 416). These theories allow me to both speak to the larger histories and structures that shape students’ schooling experiences, while also calling for the respect and recognition of student participants as complex humans. These theories also require the acknowledgement of my own complicity in the ongoing legacy of “damage centered” research (Tuck, 2009) carried out by westerners on the African continent.