Postcolonial analysis of educational research discourse: creating (Mexican) American children as the



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Texas A&M University


Research is a modern practice whose production of knowledge needs to be critically and continually examined. The pursuit of knowledge is not a neutral and objective endeavor; it is a socially situated practice that is embedded within power/knowledge/culture configurations. Historically, research discourses have labeled and positioned minority groups to an inferiority/superiority matrix, illustrating how research can create an oppressive otherness/alterity. Thus, the general purpose of this study was to critically critique research from the postcolonial perspectives of alterity and colonial discourse. In particular, the study sought to deconstruct the conceptual systems that create the alterity of (Mexican) American children within research discourse. The study was in part guided by Said's (1978) analysis of the colonial discourse in Orientalism. There were two parts to the study that analyzed one hundred and nineteen research documents from 1980-2004. Phase I identified the discursive themes that construct that alterity of (Mexican) Americans by employing a qualitative content analysis method. Phase II employed a discourse analysis method to deconstruct theconceptual systems and sites of power in the production of knowledge that position (Mexican) Americans as objects of research. The analysis disclosed that the conceptual systems that construct the alterity of (Mexican) Americans are structured by modern and colonial research structures that project a hegemonic Westernized vision of research, education, and human existence. Under these conceptual structures, there are multiple levels of alterity ascribed to (Mexican) Americans that continue to (re)inscribe positions of inferiority; as objects of research, they are constantly placed in a comparative framework against the dominant cultural norms. Some of the key sites of power in the production of knowledge about (Mexican) Americans are illustrated by the researcher (as author) and the university (as a privileged location). The conclusions problematized research as an apparatus that reconstructs hierarchical differences and reinscribes colonial relationships where the Other is defined only from a Western and culturally dominant perspective of separateness.