“Hey dance Turkish style”: Media engagement and identity negotiations in a London Turkish complementary school

Vally Lytra

King's College London, UK

WS156: Interfaces between media, speech, and interaction

This paper emerges from a larger study on multilingualism and identity construction in complementary schools in four communities in the UK (ESRC, RES 000-23-1180). One of four case studies focused on Turkish-speaking young people attending two Turkish complementary schools in London (Creese et al. 2007d). Complementary schools are voluntary schools- also referred to as “community”, “supplementary” or “heritage” schools- which serve specific ethno-linguistic groups, particularly through community language classes.

Drawing on a variety of sources (i.e. field-notes, tape and video-recordings, semi-structured interviews and still photography) I explore how a group of boys engaged in media talk (e.g. evaluating the performance of rap musicians), media consumption (e.g. listening to Turkish and African-American rap music, exchanging music files via mobile phones) and media production (e.g. singing snippets of songs) during the lesson. I compare the children’s spontaneous media engagement with a more planned episode of music making initiated by the teacher. During this episode, the teacher introduced a poem about Mother’s Day and encouraged the class to perform it (e.g. by singing and/or dancing along while listening to the lyrics on the tape-recorder). I discuss how the teacher’s suggestion to perform the song triggered a parodic discourse on some of the boys’ part, transforming their performances into play and subversion. I argue that through different forms of media engagement this group of boys is negotiating aspects of their youth, gender and multicultural identities, demonstrating fluidity rather than fixity in the ways they identify themselves. These findings resonate with research on media engagement from an ethnographically informed sociolinguistics perspective. This line of research has shown that rather than passively reproducing what they watch and listen to, young people appropriate, localise and creatively transform mass-mediated cultural products for meaning making, social affiliation and identity negotiations (cf. Cutler 1999; Lytra 2007; Maybin 2006; Rampton 1995, 2006; Rampton, Harris & Dover 2002).

Session: Workshop (part 2)
Interfaces between media, speech, and interaction
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 04