This article uses ethnographic research to examine how women and men in rural El Salvador used literacy classes to accomplish their own social purposes. Employing a sociocultural, feminist framework, the author argues that men and women valued classes as an opportunity for social interaction. Moreover, the classes were a gendered social space that helped women to relieve isolation and men to spend their time purposefully and "avoid vices" like drinking. These needs were rooted in gender relations (an inequitable gender division of labor, the restriction of female mobility, the sanctioning of drinking as masculine behavior) and socioeconomic conditions (unemployment, postwar social fragmentation). Attending classes allowed learners to construct identities that challenged dominant conceptions of gender. The article proposes that serving the human longing for affiliation is a legitimate, essential role of adult education. It concludes by suggesting ways to analyze and support social interaction in adult and literacy education.
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