Seeing Possible Futures: Khmer Youth and the Discourse of the American Dream


Theresa A. McGinnis is an assistant professor and director of the master's degree and CAS programs in the Literacy Studies Department at Hofstra University (


In this article, I add to the critique of the myth of the American Dream by examining ethnographically the ways its dominant discourse is circulated to Khmer American middle school children of migratory agricultural workers. Drawing on social theories of discourse, I juxtapose the ideology embedded in the American Dream Discourse with the complexities of urban immigrant life. By looking at four Khmer students' worldviews and experiences, I provide a nuanced analysis of the complexities involved in the students' responses to the Discourse. The findings challenge the notion of meritocracy and suggest that educators need to investigate their role in supporting and promoting student agency. [Khmer American (Cambodian), Discourse, urban education, immigrant student populations]