Enregistering the voices of discursive figures of authority in Antonero children’s socio-dramatic play

Jennifer F. Reynolds


This study examines how boys from San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Guatemala develop their own perspective about what it means to be moral human beings in the world via discursive practices that contrast enregistered voices within an emergent performance genre that simultaneously doubles as socio-dramatic play-frame. This emergent genre exhibits both mimesis and alterity; children have appropriated a popular adult genre, within which their participation, originally, was highly circumscribed. In their own productions, however, they occupy the main character roles and enact re-accented “voices” of king and kin in highly competitive, proselytizing discourse. The resulting performance is a subversion of the social order where ‘the challenge’ of good defeating evil is undone, reflecting a child-centric critical stance. To wit, the boys refuse to be convinced by the authority of an overly patriarchal-colonial moral order. I build upon Sawyers’ (1995) model of play-as-improvisation to develop a synthetic framework in analyzing indigenous children’s play and childhood(s). The approach I espouse draws upon ethnographically informed studies of peer talk-in-interaction, verbal art as performance, and semiotic functionalism to examine how children “do heteroglossia” in and out-of-play frames of interaction as they construct selves capable of confronting the social order.

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