Literacy in English Gypsy communities: Cultural capital manifested as negative assets
American Educational Research Journal
The attribution of low literacy levels among Gypsy children to difficulties of access to schools neglects underlying sociocultural explanations. There has been little analysis in reports/studies of Gypsy attitudes toward literacy, nor of outcomes of acquisition. Informed by new literacy theory and by the discourse of previous ethnographic studies, and by acculturation theories, this article draws on findings from an ethnographic study of English Gypsies (1996-2000), and data from a follow-up study, involving original and additional participants (2005-2006). The article explores attitudes across age groups, highlighting social reasons for resistance to literacy, and argues that policy makers should consider effects on group membership and ways in which formal literacy can constitute a mechanism for disempowerment.
notes: This article focuses on literacy in the English gypsy community. Informed by New Literacy Theory, previous ethnographic studies, and by acculturation theories, the article explores attitudes across age-groups, highlighting social reasons for resistance to literacy, and ways in which formal literacy can constitute a mechanism for disempowerment. It draws on findings from an ethnographic study of English Gypsies (1996-2000 PhD ESRC studentship), and data from a follow-up study, involving original and additional participants (2005-6). The article is original in challenging the tendency of official reports to attribute low literacy levels among Gypsy children to issues of access to schools. However, there has been scant analysis in reports or studies of Gypsy attitudes towards literacy, or outcomes of acquisition. This article is significant in drawing out alternative socio-cultural explanations for low levels of literacy.
Vol. 44, Issue 1, pp. 5 - 39