Deficit thinking redux: cultural deficit discourse and an urban community and school in Fiji

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Abstract

Cultural deficit thinking comprises a complex of coded labels and descriptive variables that focus an essentializing, critical lens on the parenting, values and ‘home environment’ of the poor and working class. With origins in the US, cultural deficit discourse's cooptation in Fiji is revealed in language used by school staff to assess Fijian students and parents identified with low-income housing estates. To understand how and why Fijians in housing estates were singled out for deficit labeling first requires excavating the colonial roots of cultural deficit models endogenous to Fiji, as Fijians became the conspicuous focus of local forms of surveillance and cultural reform during colonialism. It also requires exploring the context for the cooptation of deficit thinking, as efforts were directed to explain and redress lower Fijian educational attainment on the eve of Fiji's political independence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-170
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Identities
Volume20
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 4 2014

Keywords

  • Fiji
  • class
  • cultural deficit thinking
  • educational disparities
  • inequality
  • race

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