Realigning Funds of Identity with struggle against capital: the contradictory unity of use and exchange value in cultural fields

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The Funds of Knowledge (FOK) and Funds of Identity (FOI) approaches have demonstrated potential in engaging school curricula with the lived experiences of disadvantaged communities. However, both approaches are not without critique. Our own previous work (drawing on Bourdieu) highlights how FOK/FOI methodologies can result in surfacing exchange value (capital) in the home in ways that re-position some students’ access to the school curriculum, while leaving hegemonic practices of schooling unchallenged. In this paper, we propose a new theorization of funds as a cultural commodity of “knowing-in-practice”. Following Marx, this commodity is seen as a dialectical unity of use and exchange value – a relation that implies development arising through internal contradictions. We exemplify this empirically through an analysis of the Mexican American Studies (MAS) program. We illustrate how MAS harnessed students’ lived experience of oppression into a commodity through a critical curriculum which questions the system (use value) whilst offering exchange value through standardized assessment. This contradictory relation can imply development – for students and the system – if socio-material forces engage favorably. Viewing “funds” as a cultural commodity helps to understand and predict developments arising in practice, and may help identify practical action that exploits such contradictions.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
JournalMind, Culture, and Activity
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2021

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