Stories of resistance: digital counterstorytelling among South African pre service teacher educators
Stories of resistance:
among South African
educatorsBy Daniela Gachago, Franci Cronje, Eunice
Ivala, Janet Condy and Agnes Chigona
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
South African legacy of
classrooms in terms of power
Pedagogies needed to
facilitate engagement across
deeply divided, wounded
Post conflict pedagogies …
Engagement of students across
difference, conversations about inherent
power structures and privilege
„In a country that is oversensitive to race
talk, few young people or adults feel
comfortable talking about race, especially
when they have to speak about personal
experience „ (Jansen 2010, 10)
Young (2003): avoiding difficult topics
in education is a „reflection of societal
denial that cultural factors matter and that
such things as sexims, racims and white
Critical race theory (Solorzano, Delgado Bernal, Yosso,
5 themes: centrality of race and racism, challenging dominant
ideology, commitment to social justice, importance of
experiential knowledge, interdisciplinary perspective
One way to overcome this resistance to engaging critically
with students' historically situated and culturally mediated
lived experiences is the telling of stories (Aveling 2006).
Give voice to normally silenced people and subjugated
knowledge, in order to provide „a way to communicate the
experiences and realities of the oppressed, a first step on the
road to justice‟ (Ladson-Billings & Tate 2006, p.21)
„Oppressed groups have known instinctively that stories are an
necessary tool to their own survival and liberation‟ (Delgado
Stock stories/marjoritarian stories: generated from a legacy of
racial privilege, from stories in which racial privilege seems
natural (Yosso 2006)
Counterstories: stories about experiences that are often not told
(Delgado 1989), challenging social and racial injustice by
listening to and learning from experiences of racism and
resistance, despair and hope at the margins of society (Yosso
Stories of resistance
Critique of cultural reproduction
theories…individuals are not
simply acted on by structures…
Resistance theories emphasize
students‟ agency to „negotiate
and struggle with structures and
create meanings of their own
from these conversations‟
(Solorzano & Delgado Bernal
Critical digital storytelling
Vasudevan (2006, p.208) „the call for
counterstories intersects with the
possibilities of multimodal composing
wherein new digital technologies can be
used to create not only new kinds of texts
but also new kinds of spaces for storytelling
and story-listening‟, „creation of new selves
that challenged what they asserted as
negative assumptions from other adults in
their lives‟ (p. 209).
Rolon-Dow, R., 2011: „digital storytelling in
combination with a CRT framework, can
provide a window into understanding the
ways race operates in the lives of youth and
the microaggressions that students of colour
face in today‟s educational contexts‟ (p.
Context of study
South African pre-service teacher education in the
School of Education and Social Sciences in a
University of Technology in South Africa
Students in this course are differently positioned
in terms of gender, age, race and language and
come from highly diverse economic, social and
Final year project in „Professional Course‟:
development of short (3-5 mins.) digital
movies, based on a written script of maximum 500
words, including digital images, which are either
created by the student him/herself or sourced from
the Internet and background sound
Reflection on difference and how it affected
students‟ teacher identity
2012 student cohort
Data collection: 5 students‟ digital stories, their reflective essays and one focus
group conducted at the end of the project selected based on the potential for
Thematic analysis of focus group, reflective essays and multimodal discourse
analysis (Kress & Van Leeuwen 2001)
1. What are the functions of these counterstories?
2. What types of counterstories/stories of resistance did students decide to tell?
3. How can the emphasis on a multimodal pedagogical approach enhance the
telling of counter-stories?
Lebogang: Striving towards my success (racial & economic oppression)
Sibongile: Struggle for a better life (racial & economic oppression)
Vanessa: Breaking Free (gender based violence)
Rafiq‟s: Against the Tide (power relations in the classroom, teacher vs.
students, racial oppression)
Paula: Swept under the rug (racial privilege)
Functions of critical storytelling
Counterstories are per definition stories that are not usually told (Solorzano &
When I started voicing my story to people I think I was 19 or 18 when I finally spoke up and a lot
of people – most of the people I spoke to told me not to say anything…We have so many stories to
tell and I think we all just needed a platform. Each one just needed a platform and in these four
years we did so much talking in front of each other and so many orals and presentations but what
really mattered to us personally we didn‟t have a platform to air it. (Vanessa)
Building of communities among marginalised students (Solorzano & Yosso 2002;
Solorzano & Bernal 2001).
Because of all the stress of the years we just lost each other.
We lost ourselves and this just kind of brought us back
together and reminded us who we were and what we meant
to each other. (Lebogang)
Functions critical storytelling
Act as model stories, window into a world that is different from what we expect,
modelling possibilities for life other than the ones they usually hear or experience
(Solorzano & Delgado Bernal 2001; Delgado 1989),
Today I am not just a teacher; I am an inspiration to others, to my family and friends, who all have
gone back to institutions of learning, not allowing anybody anymore to tell them what is possible
and not possible for a black person in this country. (Sibongile)
Potential for healing (Delgado 1989; Solorzano et al. 2000)
I didn‟t want to feel that guilt anymore but I wanted to express it and now that I have actually
expressed that guilt I don‟t feel it so much anymore. (Paula)
Types of resistance
Solorzano and Delgado Bernal (2001) argue that there are multiple strategies of
student resistance, some more overt than others.
Everyone at the specific school that I spoke to about this incident or about this specific person …
They always just said oh it‟s a teacher who has been here for years and it‟s not going to change and
because coming back to role models and values … I couldn‟t just stand by and leave it… I went
against the tide. Something that I guess not all people will do because it‟s inconvenient. (Rafiq)
More subtle resistance:
I think as a person you are not just in gender or your colour. You are much more … and you are
allowed to be outside the box. Your role is not only limited – from being a girl child to being a
mother or a woman, a wife… you can be much more than that and you can choose if you want to
have children or don‟t want to have children. It‟s not something that should be expected of you and
if you cannot fulfil it you are made to feel bad about it because even if you have children or you
don‟t have you still have – you are much more than what the society puts in a box… you can be
Placed at the intersection between conformist and
transformational resistance (Yosso and Delgado Bernal
Students‟ own survival in dominant structures, about the
strategies they employ, which „leave the structures of
domination intact, yet help the students survive and/or
succeed‟ (Yosso 2000, p.181)
Multi-layeredness and complexity of privilege and
oppression in the classroom
Promotion of individuality / creativity
My friends and family know me for being slightly different. You will notice in the video, ranging
from the music that I used in the video to colour….The colour of the pictures or the type of pictures
that I used. It‟s all there for a reason. (Rafiq)
Combination of different modes will result in different meanings: for
example, while a student may have aimed to tell a counterstory on shedding the
guilt that is associated with her White privilege in her narrative, the images she
chose for her story told a story of racial stereotypes.
Tension between the written script and the images selected for stories, which both
„undermined and enriched by various ruptures, contradictions and gaps that
emerge through the juxtaposition of sound and image.‟ (Rose Brushwood 2009: p.
Juxtaposition can show us our „unconscious and its ambivalences and resist the
often tidy confines of our conscious telling‟ (Milner cited in Rose Brushwood
2009: p. 212).
The particular set-up of this project in a highly diverse
classroom allowed the hearing of stories that are usually
not told and proved a useful way of unearthing these
resistance stories (Solorzano & Delgado Bernal 2001).
Created „new kinds of spaces for storytelling and story-
listening‟ (Vasudevan 2006, p.208), construction of
Only one story could be classified as
„transformational resistance story‟, which has the
greatest potential for social change - but importance of
focusing on more subtle, internal resistance stories, too
often unidentified, misidentified or ignored (Solorzano
and Delgado Bernal 2001)
Marginality as site of resistance – location of radical
openness and possibility (bell hooks 1990)
Multimodal analysis of student stories with
Dominant groups must join the marginalised in
their fight for social justice (Delgado 1989: p.
Involvement of both students who identify with
privilege and with disadvantage („nobody
escapes hegemony‟ Boler and Zembylas 2003)
Need to engage students and their community in
a conversation around issues of oppression and
privilege that can lead to social change, in order
to place this pedagogical intervention firmly in
the context of social justice education.
Questions and discussions?
More information found on our blog:
CPUT Research into Innovations in Teaching and
Learning Fund (RIFTAL 2011, 2012)
CPUT University Research Fund 2012
National research foundation 2012-2015
Facilitators and students of 2012 ISP Digital
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