This theoretical argument examines ideological underpinnings of cultural resistance displayed by disadvantaged students in the South African context, with implications for other cross-cultural contexts. The construct of pedagogical justice examines teacher practices as the site for leveraging engagement by scaffolding students' lifeworlds to examine sources of tension between social codes undergirding school subjects and upward mobility narratives requiring distancing from home-community relationships. I explore implications of Bourdieu's theory of schooling as social reproduction and Bernstein's theory with regard to what he calls pedagogical recontextualization at the site of the school. These class and cultural tensions are particularly challenging in the post-apartheid South African context where continued class inequities in a school system trying to promote multi-lingualism fall short. Data documenting re-configuring pedagogical practices in South African township schools as sites of critical theorizing among teachers and adolescents provide evidence of re-structured educational goals and persistence among disadvantaged youth.