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Media & Communication Studies
This research project examines the ways that college students talk about race and race-related problems in the classroom. Specifically, it identifies the discursive moves students use to cultivate a sense of camaraderie, unity, and agreement between them when talking about topics that could be divisive. The data collected for this project include recordings and observations of three sections of a seminar taken by all first-year students at a small liberal arts college over a two-week period when they discussed Alexander’s (2010) book, The New Jim Crow. In total, 12 classes were examined, and interviews were conducted with 11 of the students. Discourse moves made by students include white students working to show black students that “we are more similar than different” to maintain a comfortable classroom environment, while black students try to suggest that “we are more different than similar.” Furthermore, students use a comedic approach to keep the conversation light and friendly and also use distancing moves to emphasize that the members of the class (“we”), are exempt from the problems related to race that are going on in the world. The implications of an emphasis on harmony and conflict avoidance are considered.
Sayegh, Chelsea B., "Distancing Moves, Emphasizing Sameness, and Humor: The Cultivation of a “We” in Classroom Discussions About Racism" (2015). Media and Communication Studies Summer Fellows. Paper 1.