Becoming Neoliberal Subjects: Resistance and Complicity in a Mentorship Program for Middle and High School Latino Boys
Michael Singh

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Berkeley

Primary Discipline

The current educational crisis of Latino young men and boys has led to a proliferation of school district and community programs seeking to remedy the achievement gap experienced by Latino boys through Latino male mentorship programs. Indicative of neoliberal shifts in Latinx education, these programs often involve public-private partnerships and assume an individually damaged Latino boy in need of technocratic and innovative solutions, rather than structural changes. My work enters this conversation on boy of color mentorship through an ethnographic case study approach, examining one Latino male mentorship program in an urban school district in California. Data collection for this study include interviews with administrators, philanthropists, mentors, and students, document and media analysis, as well as a full-year of participant observations in three different school sites in which the mentorship program operates. Preliminary findings reveal the ways neoliberal logics frame the goals of the program, pathologizing identity practices seen as unproductive, and discursively constructing an idealized Latino masculinity that was deemed respectable, individualistic, entrepreneurial, and both heterosexual and patriarchal. Furthermore, participant observations illustrate the way these neoliberal values become animated and normalized by mentors and boys through a variety of practices in the everyday routines of the program. Despite the pervasive presence of neoliberal framing of the problems of Latino boys, my research also uncovers moments of resistance, highlighting the ways both mentors and students attempt to refuse neoliberal logics and promote alternative framings of Latinx education.
About Michael Singh
Michael V. Singh is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. He is also a graduate fellow at the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues as well as a member of the Designated Emphasis program in Women, Gender, & Sexuality. Michael’s doctoral research explores the ways neoliberal logics surrounding urban education inform the ways race, gender, and sexuality are conceptualized, embodied, and at times resisted in a Latino male mentorship program. His work provides a timely addition to the growing research on boys of color and calls for a critical and intersectional engagement with the cultural politics of specifically Latino masculinity. An article based on his dissertation pilot study, titled “Role models without guarantees: Corrective representations and the cultural politics of a Latino male teacher in the borderlands,” was recently published in Race Ethnicity and Education.

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