Complexities of Capital: Readings of Cultural Capital in the Education of Youth on the Margins
Rita Harvey

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Pennsylvania

Primary Discipline

Focusing on the interactions between teachers and students at a small residential juvenile facility in the Northeast, this dissertation project examines the complexities and nuances of the enactment and interpretation of adolescent displays of cultural capital in educational settings. While research on adjudicated youth focuses on the academic and social weaknesses of adolescents who have contact with legal systems, this project contributes to the literature that moves beyond these deficit narratives. Grounding my data collection in participant observation and unstructured interviews, I use ethnographic methods to examine the circumstances under which adolescents display cultural capital and how teachers interpret and reframe these displays. Adolescents display an array of dominant and non-dominant cultural capital, but these displays are highly contextualized, and contingent upon relational dynamics on the part of both students and teachers.
About Rita Harvey
Rita Harvey is a doctoral student in the Education, Culture, and Society division of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in African American Studies from Columbia University. After completing her B.A., Rita taught at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, while pursuing her M.S.Ed. in Urban Education from the City College of New York. Her dissertation project focuses on classed and racialized readings of cultural capital of adjudicated adolescents. Her broader research interests include the voices of young people who sit at marginalized intersections of race, disability, gender, and class, and the strategies they feel are most effective for their education.

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