Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Studies

Sub-Department

College of Education

First Advisor

Rhonda Jeffries

Second Advisor

Allison Daniel Anders

Abstract

This critical, analytic autoethnographic (Boylorn & Orbe, 2014; Anderson, 2006) dissertation details the journey of a young white woman practicing “woke whiteness work” in the pursuit of racial justice. The autoethnography illustrates the many complexities, layers, and tensions of racial justice work as a white woman, centering on the initial tension stemming from the spring 2014 semester where she was involved in a literary research project facilitating book clubs at a juvenile detention center with students who were incarcerated as part of an adolescent literacy course, while simultaneously enrolled in a Critical Race Theory (CRT) course. In an attempt to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline through literacy, several tensions arose from the juxtaposition of the two courses. It is a story of those tensions and the resistance she encountered that semester and over the course of the next four years (2014-2018). It is a critique of self, of whiteness, and the power of white hegemony in the academy, in research, in education, in scholarship, and in our minds. Through this critique, the role of white educators, scholars, researchers, and women is problematized in order to provide implications for educators, scholars, and researchers who are passionate about racial justice work. Similarly, this critique provides implications for embodying “wokeness” as an ontological state and epistemological understanding of the world; the author recognizes that “wokeness” cannot be claimed by white people, and that wokeness must always be about racial justice!

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