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Corridor Cultures

Mapping Student Resistance at an Urban School

Maryann Dickar

Publication Year: 2008

For many students, the classroom is not the central focus of school. The school's corridors and doorways are areas largely given over to student control, and it is here that they negotiate their cultural identities and status among their peer groups. The flavor of this "corridor culture" tends to reflect the values and culture of the surrounding community.

Based on participant observation in a racially segregated high school in New York City, Corridor Cultures examines the ways in which school spaces are culturally produced, offering insight into how urban students engage their schooling. Focusing on the tension between the student-dominated halls and the teacher-dominated classrooms and drawing on insights from critical geographers and anthropology, it provides new perspectives on the complex relationships between Black students and schools to better explain the persistence of urban school failure and to imagine ways of resolving the contradictions that undermine the educational prospects of too many of the nations' children.

Dickar explores competing discourses about who students are, what the purpose of schooling should be, and what knowledge is valuable as they become spatialized in daily school life. This spatial analysis calls attention to the contradictions inherent in official school discourses and those generated by students and teachers more locally.

By examining the form and substance of student/school engagement, Corridor Cultures argues for a more nuanced and broader framework that reads multiple forms of resistance and recognizes the ways students themselves are conflicted about schooling.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

This book could not have come into being without the help of many people. First I wish to thank the co-editors of this series, Michelle Fine and Jean Maracek, and the reviewers whose names I do not know, for their astute questions that pushed my thinking and deepened my reading of school culture at Renaissance High School, and strengthened my...

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Introduction: Student Resistance and the Cultural Production of Space

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pp. 1-23

The day before school started one September, I lost my classroom on the quiet south side of the building to a new Freshman Block program. My reassigned room on the noisy east side was an old computer room filled with Mac Classics bolted to the tops of tables. Though some computers worked, most needed repairs or were missing keyboards. During...

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1 “The Covenant Made Visible”: The Hidden Curriculum of Space

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pp. 25-48

It is no coincidence that this study of Renaissance focuses on spatial formation, because the significance of space is so overwhelming at the site itself. When I interviewed for a teaching position at Old School in 1989, I was awed by its impressive architecture as I approached from the bustling main street. When I walked through the front door I was greeted by a WPA mural and a grand marble staircase that took visitors to administrative...

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2 “In a way it protects us and in a way . . . it keeps us back”: Scanning, School Space, and Student Identity

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pp. 49-75

Before the first day of school, Renaissance, like most high schools, runs a freshman orientation day where new students and their parents are invited to learn about the school, procedures, what to expect the first day, and opportunities at the school. One year I was asked to attend with some of my debaters. The event was to begin with an introductory session...

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3 “It’s just all about being popular”: Hallways as Thirdspace

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pp. 77-107

During the four minutes between periods, I usually stood in the hallway to help move students along to class. Though this was a general expectation of all teachers, many did not do it, perhaps because standing in the halls—the nexus of student culture—was an exercise in futility. Because I spent two years teaching in a classroom on the corridor that was...

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4 “If I can’t be myself, what’s the point of being here?” Language and Contested Classroom Space

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pp. 109-140

One day during lunchtime I sat grading assignments in my classroom when Natalia and her friend Clarissa stopped by. Natalia was an insightful student in my class though marginally engaged in school. Her attendance was spotty and she was quiet in class, though outside of class she was boisterous and witty—a leader. The girls joined me at the table...

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5 “You have to change your whole attitude toward everything”: Threshold Struggles and Infrapolitical Resistance

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pp. 141-163

One day during lunch as I sat with a group of teachers in the staff resource room, a new teacher asked how we dealt with kids who didn’t bring pens. We all laughed at the question because it was the kind of question that seemed so trivial on the surface and yet was such a serious classroom...

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6 “You know the real deal, but this is just saying you got their deal”: Public and Hidden Transcripts

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pp. 165-188

One semester, while teaching about the democratic revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, I handed out the first page of C. L. R. James’s The Black Jacobins, a historical classic that poses the Haitian Revolution as one of the most significant events in history. I also distributed an encyclopedia item on the event. In contrast to James’s enthusiasm...

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7 A Eulogy for Renaissance: Looking Forward

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pp. 189-196

In June 2007, on the restored green lawn of the Old School campus, Renaissance High School graduated its last class. Failing to significantly improve student outcomes, it met the same fate that the original Old School had thirteen years earlier. This book chronicles Renaissance’s school reform effort and offers insight into why the student-centered and democratic model failed to bring about the hoped-for changes. Having worked doggedly...


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pp. 197-198


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pp. 199-206


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pp. 207-212

About the Author

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p. 213

E-ISBN-13: 9780814785263
E-ISBN-10: 0814785263
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814720080
Print-ISBN-10: 0814720080

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 647699959
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Corridor Cultures

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Educational psychology.
  • Urban schools -- United States.
  • High school students -- United States.
  • Classroom management -- United States.
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