The Water in the Fishbowl: Historicizing Ways with Words

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Arguing that the immediate historical context of desegregation is vital to an understanding of Shirley Brice Heath's Ways with Words, this article reports on materials from the archives of Heath's research housed at the Dacus Library of Winthrop University. What emerges from reading Heath's letters and other materials at the time she was researching Ways with Words is a portrait of an ethnographer trying to negotiate existing stereotypes and raw tensions in the scholarly and public discourse on race while attempting to adliere to the tenets of the ethnographic approach of the 1970s. Taking a critical race theory approach, the article suggests that these materials indicate that Ways with Words could most fruitfully be read at this point as a story of the persistence of prejudice - a story that suggests the failure of the arguments in favor of desegregation to broker lasting reforms toward equity, and one tlvit reveals tlie different and radalized meanings literacy acquires in response to historical shifts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)452-490
Number of pages39
JournalWritten Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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