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I Won't Stay Indian, I'll Keep Studying

I Won't Stay Indian, I'll Keep Studying: Race, Place, and Discrimination in a Costa Rican High School

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    I Won't Stay Indian, I'll Keep Studying
    Book Description:

    While teaching and researching on an indigenous reservation in Costa Rica, Karen Stocker discovered that for Native students who attended the high school outside the reservation, two extreme reactions existed to the predominantly racist high school environment. While some maintained their indigenous identity and did poorly in school, others succeeded academically, but rejected their Indianness and the reservation. Between these two poles lay a whole host of responses. In "I Won't Stay Indian, I'll Keep Studying," Stocker addresses the institutionalized barriers these students faced and explores the interaction between education and identity.   Stocker reveals how overt and hidden curricula taught ethnic, racial, and gendered identities and how the dominant ideology of the town, present in school, conveyed racist messages to students.   "I Won't Stay Indian, I'll Keep Studying" documents how students from the reservation reacted to, coped with, and resisted discrimination. Considering the students' experiences in the context of the Costa Rican educational system as a whole, Stocker discusses policy shifts that might reduce institutionalized discrimination. Her interpretation of the experiences of these students makes a significant contribution to anthropology, Latin American studies, critical race theory, and educational theory.

    eISBN: 978-0-87081-878-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: “Mi delito es ser de aquí”: Racism and Placism in Costa Rican Education
    (pp. 1-10)

    In 1977 a legal process began that resulted in the town of Nambué² being arbitrarily named an indigenous reservation in 1979. This was done despite the fact that Costa Rican history claims the country’s indigenous populations had become extinct in the colonial era, four centuries earlier. Nambué was one of twenty-three demarcated reservations where peoples self-identified as indigenous or where indigenous peoples were known to have lived at the time of colonization. Nambué fit the latter criterion. Although all of Guanacaste—the northernmost province of Costa Rica—is considered Chorotega territory, just one small area was selected to become the...

  5. 1 The Husband’s Anthropologist: Positionality of an Unwitting and Unwilling Double Agent
    (pp. 11-22)

    Although my research focus was on the ascribed and projected identities of Nambueseño students, my own identity—both the aspects of it that I projected and those imposed upon me—soon became an equally salient issue. My fieldwork experience was wrought with the tension between roles described by Barbara Tedlock in the quotation that begins this chapter. I straddled several seemingly opposed communities of belonging. I crossed, invaded, and transgressed gendered, racial, professional, and personal realms, which in my experience were far less clearly delineated than their concise labeling suggests. Although it has become customary to position oneself within anthropological...

  6. 2 The Founding Father: An Ethnographic Portrait of Santa Rita
    (pp. 23-38)

    Profesor Antonio, a handsome (by Riteño standards) male teacher, was the protagonist of numerous rumors. If he spoke to the teenage girls who swooned over him, gossip had it that he was taking advantage of female students. When he purposely avoided conversations with the girls, however, the gossip network in this exceedingly homophobic Catholic community declared him gay. The teachers’ lounge—dominated by a group of mostly white teachers, primarily from Santa Rita—was almost constantly abuzz with rumors of pregnant students, community scandals involving students’ parents, and judgmental chatter displaying a simultaneous fascination with and fear of homosexuality. One...

  7. 3 Ni chicha ni limonada: Identity Politics in and About the Reservation
    (pp. 39-86)

    In my interviews with them over the years, some inhabitants of the Chorotega Indigenous Reservation expressed the opinion that they were labeled indigenous only as a result of their residence within the boundaries of a reservation. Others considered that Nambueseños’ practice of “traditional” culture—the preparation of certain foods, narrative tradition, living in thatched-roof houses (ranchos)—was symbolic proof of their Indianness. Several enthusiastic participants in the building of a rancho in 1998 considered such symbols emblematic of belonging in the national culture (and in contradiction to indigenous culture), which has adopted these symbols and adapted them for its own...

  8. 4 “Aquí son cuatro o cinco que valen la pena”: Mechanisms of Boundary Maintenance
    (pp. 87-120)

    On the local level, the effects of ethnic categorization were many. In spite of the assimilationist motivation behind the creation of indigenous reservations in Costa Rica, a principal result was to set Nambué (and the other reservations) apart from their surrounding towns. Thus, as noted in earlier chapters, the ethnic identity of Nambué’s inhabitants hinged on place. Although place of residence was the most commonly used marker of difference between Nambueseños and those outside the reservation, other lines of division were also drawn to distinguish among individuals who came together in the high school setting, where lines of distinction were...

  9. 5 “Nada más de estar usando la lógica”: Curriculum and Teaching Methods in SRHS
    (pp. 121-140)

    Joaquín, a Riteño seventh grader, brought me his recently graded English exam and asked me to look over a section he got wrong. The instructions called for students to arrange the disconnected parts of a dialogue taken from their workbooks in a logical order. The “correct” answer involved putting the dialogue in the order it was presented in the workbook, although the teacher had assured me she would accept other valid arrangements as well. I ordered the parts of the dialogue in a way that made sense to me as an English speaker. My ordering of the phrases matched Joaquín’s...

  10. 6 “A qué me va a servir esto en la bananera?”: Teaching Identity and Its Consequences in the Post–High School Realm
    (pp. 141-168)

    Early in my fieldwork, I requested permission from a teacher to observe eighth graders in her classroom. Profesora Rosa María invited me into the room where she taught and graciously offered me a seat at her desk. From there I had a stellar view of all the students in the room. It was not the students who most caught my eye that day, however. On the wall facing me were two posters. One, higher than the other and to the right, depicted a child with straight blond hair, blue eyes, white skin, and a thin curved line as a smile....

  11. 7 “Para no dar a torcer el brazo”: Strategies of Student Resistance
    (pp. 169-200)

    Throughout my fieldwork I witnessed student acts that in some way countered school policy, curriculum, teaching style, and the like. Although I might interpret as resistance acts such as deliberately sporting a nonuniform sock color in a school where frequent sock checks affected grades, tucking in shirts sensually, and student clowning and witty retorts, resistance theorists require the categorization of such acts as resistance to rest on more certain evidence. Toward the end of my year of fieldwork at Santa Rita High School (SRHS), I told Jacobo I planned to write a chapter on resistance and asked if wearing an...

  12. 8 “Cuesta escribir algo de que nadie puede decir nada”: Conclusions, Applications, Implications, and the Ethical Dilemmas of Applied Anthropology
    (pp. 201-218)

    Increasingly, applied anthropology² requires a certain sensitivity to multiple audiences.³ In the case of my research, these audiences were of not only various realms but opposing ones. As I mentioned early in this book, I was well aware of my professional duty of being accountable to those who made my research possible. To which community—Riteño or Nambueseño—however, was I primarily committed? Both communities contributed to my research in innumerable ways. Yet to support one was to betray the other. What, then, does advocacy look like in a research population that is divided on the fundamental issue the anthropologist...

  13. Appendix 1: Interview Protocols
    (pp. 219-222)
  14. Appendix 2: Teachers’ Affiliations
    (pp. 223-224)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-242)
  16. Index
    (pp. 243-248)