Identity, Agency and Imagination in Literacy Acquisition Narratives of Northern Cape Teachers

Keywords: agency; Communities of Practice; critical experiences of difference; critical and participative pedagogies; identity; imagination; post-structuralism; situated literacy


In South Africa and internationally, studies using post-structuralist frameworks and social theory have thrown light on the roles played by identity and the imagination and by school and the broader society in literacy acquisition. This article contributes to research on these themes, analysing extracts from literacy acquisition narratives written by language teachers in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. It explores the development of identity and agency that occurred through teachers’ experiential and imaginative engagement in communities of literate practice and concludes that the findings have pedagogical implications. Against the background of themes identified across 25 essays, extracts from four narratives are examined in detail, using concepts such as identity and community of practice. The analysis suggests that strong literate identities are rooted in literacy events and practices of home and neighbourhood communities, and in agency born out of experiences of difference encountered in society and through the imagination. It argues that such findings can be used to move teaching away from sterile and authoritative methods into more critical and participative pedagogies. 

Author Biographies

Liz Johanson Botha, Rhodes University

Research Associate, Education Department, Rhodes University

Monica Hendricks, Rhodes University

Director, Institute for the Study of English in Africa