Literacy artifacts and the semiotic landscape of a Spanish secondary school

Poveda, D. (2012). Literacy artifacts and the semiotic landscape of a Spanish secondary school. Reading Research Quarterly, 47 (1), 61-88.

In this article, I examine literacy artifacts placed by students in different locations of a state-run secondary school in the city of Madrid, Spain. The data were gathered as part of a two-year long multilevel ethnography focused on the social and academic trajectories of immigrant students in Spanish compulsory secondary education. The analysis draws from concepts developed in semiotics, linguistic anthropology, literacy studies, and social geography.Two broad types of literacy artifacts configured the school’s semiotic landscape: political texts and graffiti. In turn, these artifacts were tied to two youth expressive styles present in the school: left-wing anarkas and Latino reggaetoneros. Students associated with these expressive styles tended to have different ethnic backgrounds and followed different socioacademic trajectories: anarkas tended to be of Spanish origin and often moved on to preuniversity education while reggaetoneros were predominantly Latin American and were geared towards vocational/remedial forms of secondary education. Drawing from concepts in social geography, the analysis suggests that anarka texts occupied official spaces in the school and were construed as “in place” while reggaetonero artifacts occupied unofficial spaces and were construed as “out of place.” I argue that this distribution, alongside other institutional practices and discourses,contributed to the construction of Latin American origin immigrant students’ less favorable academic trajectories.

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