Super heroes, villains, and politics: Elementary youth superhero narratives in an afterschool program

Francisco Luis Torres, Kelsey Tayne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to discuss how the superhero genre, when couched in a space and project that seek to act as a counter-world and is rooted in the life experiences of youth, can allow Latinx elementary school students the opportunity to create counter-stories. Such stories facilitated the process of creating “critical hope” in relation to oppressive political discourses. Design/methodology/approach: This is a qualitative study conducted at an afterschool club in the Western USA. Using the superhero genre, elementary school students, grades third-fifth, participated in a project in which they created superhero and villain narratives set in their community. Findings: The authors found that the superhero genre supported some Latinx students to develop counter-stories that engaged with and resisted the heightened xenophobic and racist discourse appropriated by then US presidential candidate Donald Trump in the context of the 2016 presidential campaign. These counter-stories allowed youth to engage in critical hope to imagine a better, more just world. Originality/value: In a time when young Latinx students are continually subjected to racism and xenophobia promoted by political figures and taken up by popular media and the general public, it is necessary to support students in creating counter-stories and critical hope that push back against oppression. Findings suggest that the superhero genre can support Latinx students to discuss, dismantle and counter hateful discourses while striving for hope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-390
Number of pages16
JournalEnglish Teaching
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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