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ERIC Number: ED546004
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 184
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-2675-7601-9
Learning in a Postindustrial Place: Reading the Multiple Texts of the City
Bodle, Aaron Thomas
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Michigan State University
In the second half of the Twentieth Century, many Western industrial cities underwent a gradual process of de-industrialization. This process reached its apex for many U.S. cities in the 1990s. The dramatic economic and social devastation that developed concomitantly with these economic changes left many urban policy makers, service workers, and educators searching for answers. Factory Town, the setting of this study, is one such city. In the past forty years, White flight, disinvestment, widespread poverty, and high crime rates in the city have resulted in the emigration of 50% of Factory Town's residents. Those who remain have inherited a cityscape that resembles a checkerboard of empty lots, abandoned homes, and brownfields. Among the many challenges these changes have presented, providing effective and meaningful education to the city's residents ranks among the highest. Viewing learning as a social process that is tightly linked to the contexts in which and for which it occurs, this dissertation was framed with the following questions in mind. What are the narratives of place that students encounter by virtue of living and learning in a postindustrial city? How do these narratives, as they are interpreted, composed, and expressed in practice serve as processes of place-making, or the active process of grasping one's relationship to the places they inhabit? How do students' experiences of place influence their sense of who they are, where they are in the world, and what is possible for the future? This work contributes to the growing field of place-based education by providing a complex and critical portrait of the pedagogical power of place in one postindustrial city. Fifteen high school students and two teachers associated with one urban high school agreed to participate in this project. As ethnography, the study was conducted using reflexive methodologies. It employed participant observation, a series of semi-structured interviews, auto-driven photo-elicited interviewing, and an ongoing analysis of my positionality as a researcher. Analysis and production of data occurred throughout the process from forming the research questions to the final stages of the writing process, heightening when data collection ended. Analysis involved open-coding, two stages of memo-writing, and peer debriefing techniques. Data were analyzed in relationship to theory in critical geography and place-based education. Places are inscribed with, and reify power relations stabilizing, directing, and organizing "who we are in relationship to 'where we are'" (Casey, 1993, p. xv). Students' experiences of Factory Town, for example, stabilized their sense of racial and class divisions as they were inscribed in physical borders that divided the city. On the other hand, students' readings of the non-aestheticized places of the postindustrial city, former industrial sites and residential neighborhoods produced a non-linear sense of temporality in which the past, present, and future were simultaneously present. These experiences opened a sense of possibility amidst narratives of decline dominating national and local discourse related to the city. The voices of the participants in this study provide a window into possibilities for place-based educators attempting to encourage students to develop an ethic of care for the places they inhabit. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
ProQuest LLC. 789 East Eisenhower Parkway, P.O. Box 1346, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Tel: 800-521-0600; Web site:
Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A