Elusive Culture

Schooling, Race, and Identity in Global Times

By Daniel A. Yon
Foreword by Stuart Hall

Subjects: Anthropology Of Education
Series: SUNY series, Identities in the Classroom
Paperback : 9780791444825, 192 pages, February 2000
Hardcover : 9780791444818, 192 pages, February 2000

Table of contents



Mapping the Field

The Discursive Space of Schooling

Portraits of Identity

Talk of Race and Identity

Gendering Race and Racializing Gender

Toward an Understanding of Elusive Culture




A fascinating ethnographic study of a high school in Toronto, with surprising insights into how these adolescents identify themselves in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality.


"At one point I thought of myself as a Black person and that limits me because as a Black person there are things that I am suppose[d] to be. So I had to shed that. I am not just Black. I am a woman, and that limits me as well. [But,]…if I think that I am limited then I don't dare risk anything or try to do anything. So 'bust' being Black and 'bust' being a woman…. " — Margaret, a student at Maple Heights

Elusive Culture is a fascinating ethnographic study of youth engaged in a passionate quest for identity in global times. It explores questions of identity and culture at a Toronto high school, a space wherein teachers and students alike shift and slide in relation to the policies and practices of anti-racism, multiculturalism, and the competing discourses of identity. Drawing on personal observations, conversations with students and teachers, experimental work in drama, use of video, and student writings, Yon develops a complex view of identity and culture, one attuned to the ambivalent and contradictory processes of everyday life.

Daniel A. Yon is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at York University in Toronto.


"Elusive Culture brushes provocatively against the grain of most ethnographic texts, refusing to work out—and work out of—a rigid set of binary oppositions and gesturing instead toward the evocative intersection of spatial practices, ambivalence, routed-ness, and subjectivity.

"Employing the concepts of difference, globalization, diaspora, and identity in an attempt to understand how subjectivity is constructed out of the concrete social practices of everyday lived experience, Yon is able to draw important attention to the specificity of racism and racist subjectivities that have eluded many critical ethnographers. Elusive Culture is a major contribution to the literature on critical ethnography. " — Peter McLaren, author of Life in Schools and Schooling as a Ritual Performance

"This is a wonderful work that has compassion and passion toward youth, as well as, at times, adult disbelief. " — Victoria I. Muñoz, author of Where "Something Catches": Work, Love, and Identity in Youth