School as a Context for “Othering” Youth and Promoting Cultural Assets

Feb. 01, 2012

Source: Teachers College Record, Volume 114 Number 2, 2012.


In this study, the authors build on existing research and theory by defining “othering” as a personal, social, cultural, and historical experience involving
(a) cultural and racial ambiguity,
(b) categorization and labeling,
(c) hierarchical power dynamics, and
(d) limited access to resources. In addition, we further define and understand youths’ cultural assets from a collectivistic perspective.

The authors are interested in identifying and understanding community and indigenous strengths of “othered” youth as embedded in social and ecological systems.

Research Questions
The authors used an ecological approach to dissect the experiences of “othered” youth through an investigation of their marginalization and assets.

The questions guiding this research are:
How are these incidents handled?
What are the norms in school for dealing with racialized and cultural encounters?
What are the buffers or factors that may help students maintain a sense of cultural pride in the face of marginalization?
What cultural assets emerge in schools and how are they related to students’ experiences with “othering?”

Research Design
This sequential 18-month qualitative study included observations and interviews.
Multi-informant data with ten Native Hawaiian adolescents and five teachers and counselors of Native Hawaiian youth were used in an attempt to give voice to their experiences in urban public schools in Hawaii.
These two perspectives provide points of convergence and divergence in conceptualizing how schools “other” youth.

Grounded theory and Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) were used to generate themes that arose from student interviews that were then compared with interview data from school personnel.
These separate, but related data sources offered perspectives across generations, power relationships, and cultural identities.


The findings revealed five emergent themes: multiple identities, stereotypes, racism, coping strategies for racism, and cultural pride that highlight cultural assets and experiences with being the “other” at school.
The authors discuss these findings in terms of how they relate to their definition of “othering” and from an ecological and relationally informed approach to community and cultural assets that are reciprocal and interactive.

Updated: May. 23, 2012