Corridor Cultures

Mapping Student Resistance at an Urban School

240 pages

November, 2008

ISBN: 9780814720097



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Maryann Dickar is Assistant Professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the Steinhardt School of Education, New York University.

All books by Maryann Dickar

For many students, the classroom is not the central focus of school. The school's corridors and doorways are areas largely given over to student control, and it is here that they negotiate their cultural identities and status among their peer groups. The flavor of this “corridor culture” tends to reflect the values and culture of the surrounding community.

Based on participant observation in a racially segregated high school in New York City, Corridor Cultures examines the ways in which school spaces are culturally produced, offering insight into how urban students engage their schooling. Focusing on the tension between the student-dominated halls and the teacher-dominated classrooms and drawing on insights from critical geographers and anthropology, it provides new perspectives on the complex relationships between Black students and schools to better explain the persistence of urban school failure and to imagine ways of resolving the contradictions that undermine the educational prospects of too many of the nations' children.

Dickar explores competing discourses about who students are, what the purpose of schooling should be, and what knowledge is valuable as they become spatialized in daily school life. This spatial analysis calls attention to the contradictions inherent in official school discourses and those generated by students and teachers more locally.

By examining the form and substance of student/school engagement, Corridor Cultures argues for a more nuanced and broader framework that reads multiple forms of resistance and recognizes the ways students themselves are conflicted about schooling.


  • ”Provides an insightful analysis of the ways in which space and social relationships interact to produce school cultures. Dickar's detailed analysis of this urban high school contains important lessons about the limits and possibilities of school reform. This potent study is valuable reading for policy makers and educators searching for ways to promote meaningful and lasting reform in our nation's urban schools.”

    —Pedro A. Noguera, author of The Trouble with Black Boys: And Other Reflections on Race, Equity, and the Future of Public Education

  • ”The rich evidence and introduction of new analytic tools make Dickar’s work an intriguing contribution to educational research.”

    Book Notes

  • "A unique perspective on the problems facing schools in urban centers."


  • “Dickar’s analysis is sophisticated without resorting to jargon-laden prose, and should be relevant to and consumable by students, teachers, administrators, policy makers and academics interested in urban education reform, critical analyzes of race, class and gender, and domination and resistance. Above all, this work has important implications for understanding the processes by which urban youth and their schools negotiate their relationship.”

    Journal of Youth and Adolescence