Hybrid Stories, Hybrid Identities: Conceptualizing Performance Texts

Alecia Marie Magnifico · Jen Scott Curwood · Erica Halverson · Dawnene Hassett

In both in- and out-of-school settings, youth are engaging in new literacy practices. In this symposium, we will explore the effects of taking part in digital writing and performance activities on youth literacy skills and identity development.

As Bruner (1996) explains, the process of creating narratives helps us make sense of the “sea of stories” in which we live, both personally and socially. Youth grow up entangled in affiliations, from “soccer player” to “average student” to “bilingual”, and must tell stories about the convergences and conflicts among those communities in order to communicate with others and develop a sense of identity (Gee, 1996; Bruner, 1996). To create meaning, we constantly perform stories about who we are — or more strongly, “we tell ourselves stories in order to live” (Didion, 1979, p.1).

With this in mind, our symposium will examine several genres of performance texts that youth create both in school (K–12) and in after-school organizations.

As Paget (1993) suggests, performance texts “have narrators, drama, action, shifting points of view… [and they] make experience concrete, anchoring it in the here and now.” In other words, as they tell and retell their stories, youth employ these various textual and performative features, as well as respond to established literary and visual works, in order to reflect on their lived experiences and come to a greater understanding of themselves and their place in the world (Côté & Levine, 2002; Halverson, 2005). By rewriting, remixing, and retelling their own stories, youth are engaged in the productive work of identity development — creating stories and selves that are “half someone else’s” (Bakhtin, 1981), but also “half their own” (Jones & Norris, 2005).

Symposium presenters will discuss the following topics:


Bakhtin, M. M. (1981). The dialogic imagination: Four essays. (Michael Holquist, Ed.) Austin: University of Texas Press.

Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Côté, J. E., & Levine, C. G. (2002). Identity formation, agency, and culture: A social psychological synthesis. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Didion, J. (1979). The white album. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Gee, J. P. (1996). Social linguistics and literacies. New York, NY: RoutledgeFalmer.

Halverson, E. H. (2005). InsideOut: Facilitating gay youth identity development through a performance-based youth organization. Identity: An International Journal of Theory and Research, 5(1), 67–90.

Jones, R. H. & Norris, S. (Eds.) (2005). Discourse in action. New York, NY: Routledge.

Paget, M. A. (1993). A complex sorrow. (M. L. DeVault, Ed.) Philadelphia: Temple University Press.