Does Pocahontas Count? Sites of Engaged Process for Critical Literacy


  • Chelsey Hauge



This paper details my involvement as director of a media literacy program that brought together American And Nicaraguan youth to produce media about social issues. Grounded in civic engagement, youth leadership and media literacy, the program provided youth with media equipment and a series of workshops on digital literacy. Youth decided for their final project to re-create the colonial narrative Pocahontas. To me, this signaled a failure of critical media literacy programming to guide young people to tell critical stories. On further examination, I came to relate to this occurrence in a deeper way, wondering how they came to tell this story and discovering something rich and creative underneath the final product. In this paper, I explore the production process for this video, pushing at the boundaries of what constitutes both media literacy and civic engagement, and asking questions about how we understand what constitutes critical media literacy. Instead, I propose that when we focus on the product as what evidences critical literacy or civic engagement, we lose sight of the method. In this case, method was the home of powerful processes of literacy engagement around issues of class and race that were obscured by the use of the colonial narrative. This paper explores this tension, in order to both examine the challenges around producing a final product inextricably tied to colonial patterns of gender inequality and to give voice to the rich practices of critical literacy that the production process initiated.