Concerning the other : empathic discourse in worldwide, national, and student-authored textbook historical narratives
- In my three-article dissertation, Concerning the Other: Empathic Discourse in Worldwide, National, and Student-Authored Textbook Historical Narratives, I explore how textbook authors empathize with marginalized groups. My data includes approximately 1,000 textbooks published from 1910 to 2010 from over 100 countries around the world, 50 U.S. textbooks published from 1860 to 2015, and over 100 digital history textbook chapters produced by approximately 250 students in three different U.S. high school settings. My first study begins at the global level. I use descriptive statistics to analyze the extent to which textbook authors empathize with discuss minorities, women, immigrants and workers. I measure where and when textbooks mention these marginalized groups as having rights and experiencing discrimination or oppression, themes which some previous scholars conducting cross-national research have called the valorization of diversity (Ramirez, Bromley, and Russell 2009). While previous cross-national research documents a linear expansion of all these variables from the mid-20th century onwards, I find that this expansion was preceded by an earlier expansionist wave beginning in the 1920s, which was followed by a receding wave during the mid-20th century before slowly rising again thereafter. I posit that the first wave can be explained by incipient global rights discourse that emerged in the aftermath of World War I and retracted after World War II as a reaction against Communism. For my next study, I shift to the national level and qualitatively examine the differing ways U.S. textbook authors compassionately discuss dominant groups vis-à-vis marginalized groups. I analyze how these authors construct historical narratives that engage a reader, such as their use of active versus passive writing style. Although textbook authors, in general, write in an increasingly distant manner over time, I find they are more likely to write about the suffering of minorities in a distancing way compared to dominant populations. I argue that textbook authors, traumatized by the Civil War in which white Americans committed violence against other white Americans, used alter their use of linguistic valence to highlight the suffering of Whites and downplay hardships experienced by Blacks and Native Americans in order to cement white unity among their readers. I use a similar methodology for my final study, where I narrow in to the local level to analyze students as the agents of historical production. Visiting two public high schools in the Bay Area of California and one private high school in North Carolina, I examine the extent to which high school students empathically portray the experiences of different marginalized groups when given free reign to create their own digital history textbook chapters. Although I find that students use the affordances of digital technology to create empathic narratives in novel ways, students still internalize the distancing writing convention of traditional textbooks authors while similarly being more likely to write empathically about dominant elites as well as groups in which they identify. Overall, I hope my research demonstrates to textbook writers and social studies teachers alike that history textbook authors can unconsciously entrench a lack of concern for the experiences of marginalized groups through both their writing content and style, and that writing styles can be just as important as content in influencing how readers might empathize with both the historical and contemporary experiences of marginalized groups.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Stanford University, Graduate School of Education.
|Ramirez, Francisco O
|Ramirez, Francisco O
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Graduate School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2017.
- © 2017 by Jeremy David Jimenez
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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