Gee post #2: Joining a secondary Discourse

In Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction Gee brings up the idea of secondary Discourses. In Gee’s own words a secondary Discourse is “institutions in the public sphere, beyond the family and immediate kin and peer group” (Gee 8). What Gee means is that any group that you are apart of outside of your primary Discourse (your home life/main identity kit), is a secondary Discourse. For example, a secondary Discourse that I personally joined was my boyfriends family. This is an odd thing to consider a secondary Discourse, but hear me out. Growing up my primary Discourse was very different than my boyfriends. My family was not very affectionate, we didn’t spend time together, I was expected to excel and not just do my best, and my mother never supported my decisions. My boyfriends family was the complete opposite. They are very supportive of each other, family time is very important to them, and are very loving and excepting. So, you can see the culture shock I was thrown into here. When I first met my boyfriends family I thought the way his family was with each other was a little strange only because my primary discourse was so different. However, as I spent more time with them and started to become what felt like their family, I learned to love it.  While becoming a part of this secondary Discourse, my values of family and life began to change. I changed my way of thinking and doing and eventually being.

Gee and Discourses #1

In the article Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction, James Paul Gee introduces you to the idea of Discourses. Gee defines a Discourse as “forms of life which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes, and social identities as well as gestures, glances, body positions, and clothes”. In other words, a Discourse is what makes up a persons identity. According to Gee, we can tell when a person is a part of a certain Discourse or not depending on the way they act, talk, or write. Gee states that their are two separate Discourses that allow us to conclude whether or not someone is part of a certain Discourse or not.  These are primary and secondary Discourses. According to Gee, our primary Discourse is basically how we act and interact in our home life  and the way we are brought up through our family and close peers. Our secondary Discourse is how we act in public and social situations. We change our Discourse in different situations in order to fit in a certain group, place or clique. However, Gee believes that we can differentiate people who do not belong in certain Discourses. For example, growing up I was more advanced in school then my friends.  When we were separated into learning groups I would be put with the more advanced students while my friends were with the lower advanced students. I wanted to be with my friends so I would try and make the teacher believe that I couldn’t understand the work in the advanced learning group in hopes that I would be moved with my friends. Luckily for me, my teacher didn’t buy it. It was very obvious to her that I was far more advanced then my friends, and therefore she did not move me.  No matter how hard I tried, my teacher could tell that I was trying to fake my discourse.

Thoughts on experimenting with a power stance:

To test Amy Cuddy’s theory, that body language affects your mental interpretation of yourself, I did a high-power stance before class. Before class I held the “wonder women” pose in my room for two minutes, as Cuddy suggested in her TED talk. Cuddy states that when feeling powerful “you make yourself big, you stretch out, you take up space”. So I did exactly that. During class I felt exactly the same as I did in all my other classes before I did the power-stance. I even participated the same amount. This experiment only confirmed what I already believed, that doing a power stance does not change ones confidence.

Amy Cuddy Summary

Within the TED Talk Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are, Amy Cuddy begins to bring about the idea of how body langue affects our own emotions and mental observation of ourselves. She believes that we have the ability to change our way of thinking and self-esteem by simply changing our body language. In her words “Fake it until you make it”. Cuddy goes on to talk about how in the animal kingdom, dominance and power are shown through open stance and spreading out. While those who are less dominant make themselves smaller. Cuddy talks about an experiment she conducted where she asked her students (both male and female) to hold either a high-power or low-power pose for two minutes. After that the students were asked “How powerful do you feel?”. They were then given the opportunity to gamble.  What the found was that those who felt more powerful after a high-power stance were more likely to gamble than those who did a lower-power stance.

Personally, I don’t agree with her idea that our body language shows how we feel mentally about ourselves and our own self-power. I don’t think that by changing or body language can change our habit of thought. So essentially we can’t “fake it until we make it”. Personally I don’t think that my body language shows my personal feelings of confidence at all. I tend to sit with my legs and arms tucked in, but that does not necessarily mean that I feel inferior to anyone, or that I am not confident and less likely to participate in class activities. I sit that way because  that positon is comfortable for me. No matter what way I position my body I will participate in class the same.