Narrations of cross-cultural encounters as interpretative frames for reading word and world

Yolanda J. Majors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


This article describes how a group of African-American women read social relations as socially constructed texts. Such reading, I think, is a literacy skill, rehearsed and developed within classrooms and communities that cultural border crossers1 develop through their participation within specific discourses communities, as well as through their movement across different kinds of communities (Majors and Orellana, 2003). I draw from one ethnographic study of talk in an African-American hair salon to both illuminate and challenge notions of texts, literacy, literate contexts, and the permeability of such contexts with regards to skills acquisition and use. The study focuses on the public performances and social discourse of the women as well as their readings of these performances. Researchers of language and learning have argued that success and failure in school is contingent upon one's ability to successfully navigate processes of meaning-making through discourses (Cazden, 2001; Cole, 1996; Delpit, 1995; Gee, 1992; Lee and Majors, 2003). I want to ask what role, then, do the processes and skills of reading linguistic and paralinguistic cues play in facilitating this navigation? In what ways does an acknowledgment of these as reading skills illuminate the complexities involved in the social and arguably academic work participants do in constructing identities? And in what ways can such an acknowledgement help us to identify ways to develop school-based literacy skills?

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)479-505
Number of pages27
JournalDiscourse and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • African-American women
  • Cultural border crossers
  • Narratives
  • Social reading
  • Social texts


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