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Contesting Stereotypes and Creating Identities

Social Categories, Social Identities, and Educational Participation

Andrew J. Fuligni

Publication Year: 2007

Since the end of legal segregation in schools, most research on educational inequality has focused on economic and other structural obstacles to the academic achievement of disadvantaged groups. But in Contesting Stereotypes and Creating Identities, a distinguished group of psychologists and social scientists argue that stereotypes about the academic potential of some minority groups remain a significant barrier to their achievement. This groundbreaking volume examines how low institutional and cultural expectations of minorities hinder their academic success, how these stereotypes are perpetuated, and the ways that minority students attempt to empower themselves by redefining their identities. The contributors to Contesting Stereotypes and Creating Identities explore issues of ethnic identity and educational inequality from a broad range of disciplinary perspectives, drawing on historical analyses, social-psychological experiments, interviews, and observation. Meagan Patterson and Rebecca Bigler show that when teachers label or segregate students according to social categories (even in subtle ways), students are more likely to rank and stereotype one another, so educators must pay attention to the implicit or unintentional ways that they emphasize group differences. Many of the contributors contest John Ogbu’s theory that African Americans have developed an “oppositional culture” that devalues academic effort as a form of “acting white.” Daphna Oyserman and Daniel Brickman, in their study of black and Latino youth, find evidence that strong identification with their ethnic group is actually associated with higher academic motivation among minority youth. Yet, as Julie Garcia and Jennifer Crocker find in a study of African-American female college students, the desire to disprove negative stereotypes about race and gender can lead to anxiety, low self-esteem, and excessive, self-defeating levels of effort, which impede learning and academic success. The authors call for educational institutions to diffuse these threats to minority students’ identities by emphasizing that intelligence is a malleable rather than a fixed trait. Contesting Stereotypes and Creating Identities reveals the many hidden ways that educational opportunities are denied to some social groups. At the same time, this probing and wide-ranging anthology provides a fresh perspective on the creative ways that these groups challenge stereotypes and attempt to participate fully in the educational system.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-11

Educational achievement and opportunity often differ according to the social categories with which societies divide up their world, such as ethnicity, race, gender, or caste (Buchmann and Hannum 2001; Shavit and Blossfeld 1993). Within the United States, inequalities in attainment and opportunity continue to be an entrenched...


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Chapter 1. Past as Present, Present as Past: Historicizing Black Education and Interrogating “Integration”

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pp. 15-41

One of the objectives of the works included in this volume is to interrogate the so-called achievement gap between mainstream white and Asian American students as compared to minority students in general and black students in particular. The current chapter focuses on the latter, although our analysis has implications for the...

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Chapter 2. Essentialism and Cultural Narratives: A Social-Marginality Perspective

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pp. 42-65

Using an interdisciplinary perspective, I propose a life-span developmental framework to study social marginality. This framework will help further our understanding of the unique developmental changes in the lives of children and youths from marginalized communities. Social marginalization is experienced at multiple...

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Chapter 3. Relations Among Social Identities, Intergroup Attitudes, and Schooling: Perspectives from Intergroup Theory and Research

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pp. 66-87

One of the best-known manipulations of social identity and intergroup attitudes within the classroom is the blue-eye/brown-eye “experiment” performed by Jane Elliot, a third-grade teacher in Riceville, Iowa, in 1967. Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Elliot felt compelled to teach her students about...


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Chapter 4. Racial-Ethnic Identity: Content and Consequences for African American, Latino, and Latina Youths

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pp. 91-114

A large number of sociologists and psychologists have argued that racial-ethnic identity is a central part of self-concept for racial-ethnic minority adolescents. While these scholars have proposed that positive racial-ethnic identity should be related to general positive self-regard as well as specific positive outcomes, such as...

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Chapter 5. Social Identity, Stereotype Threat, and Self-Theories

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pp. 115-135

Each of us possesses multiple social identities. For example, our sex, age, race, social class, religion, political beliefs, and professions are all potential social identities. In certain contexts in which we find ourselves, that social identity may be devalued. For example, Democrats at the Republican National Convention, gays and...

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Chapter 6. Ethnicity, Ethnic Identity, and School Valuing Among Children from Immigrant and Non-Immigrant Families

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pp. 136-159

Ethnic-group differences in school achievement in the United States are distressing. At all school levels, African American and Latino students have lower grades, lower graduation rates, higher dropout rates, and lower standardized achievement test scores than do white and Asian students (see Burton and Jones 1982; Jencks...

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Chapter 7. Women of Color in College: Effects of Identity and Context on Contingent Self-Worth

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pp. 160-179

The performance of women and minorities in secondary school has received considerable attention from social scientists, policymakers, and educators. Educational achievement predicts many life outcomes, including lifetime earnings and health. Consequently, social scientists, educators, and researchers want to understand factors...


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Chapter 8. The Meaning of “Blackness”: How Black Students Differentially Align Race and Achievement Across Time and Space

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pp. 183-208

This chapter explores the ways African American students differentially align race and achievement in moving from a predominantly white high school to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In contrast to popular and academic discourse, which suggest that black students enter school with racialized conceptions...

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Chapter 9. The Role of Peers, Families, and Ethnic-Identity Enactments in Educational Persistence and Achievement of Latino and Latina Youths

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pp. 209-238

In this chapter we examine the intersection of identity and educational achievement among Latina and Latino adolescent students who live in a large, urban community. In a time when achievement and accountability are the watchwords of educational practice and policy, we seek to understand the role that various academic and social, interpersonal...

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Chapter 10. Family Identity and the Educational Persistence of Students with Latin American and Asian Backgrounds

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pp. 239-264

Several studies highlight the generally positive role played by minority children’s ethnic identification in dealing with the challenges that they face to their educational progress (in this volume, see Oyserman, Brickman, and Rhodes, chapter 4, and Lawrence, Bachman, and Ruble, chapter 6). Converging evidence suggests that contrary...


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pp. 265-274

E-ISBN-13: 9781610442336
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871542984
Print-ISBN-10: 0871542986

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 608448952
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Contesting Stereotypes and Creating Identities

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Educational sociology -- United States.
  • Stereotypes (Social psychology) -- United States.
  • Group identity -- United States.
  • Minorities -- Education -- United States.
  • Educational equalization -- United States.
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