Methodological orientations: college student navigations of race and place in higher education

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University of Alabama Libraries

This inquiry explores how college students navigate the sociohistorical context of race on campus, guided by critical material and spatial theories. Specifically, I explore how students navigate the tangle of discourses surrounding race on a college campus from the history of buildings and monuments, the perceptions and stereotypes of the campus before arriving, and how they navigate, resist, and reproduce those discourses and rhetoric. This inquiry is informed by research from higher education, which has demonstrated not only a gap in experiences between historically marginalized students and their majority peers but a persistent culture of white supremacy that is reified through formal and informal policies and systems. Specifically, I take up the idea of belongingness in relation to White supremacy and higher education to explore how higher education outcomes that are often positioned as neutral are historically situated and hegemonic concepts that are reproduced through institutional practices. In other words, this research explores and works the tensions between the idea of belongingness as an achievable, boundable, and predictable outcome, and the persistent reproduction of racism and White supremacy in higher education that works against belonging. I explore the contradictions between what institutions say they do (with regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion) and how those values are experienced and encountered in higher education by students. This inquiry creates conversations between the experiences and navigations of students and the productions of place and space and race in higher education, moving between slippages in discourses between the South and Alabama, how the South is produced as racist, and how racism and White supremacy produce the South. This is followed by an exploration of disruptions in these slippages, moments where these slippages became visible, and the possibility for conspiratorial resistance, intervention, and reclamation of space. This inquiry suggests possibilities for higher education practitioners to consider the specifics of place, the context of our coeval becomings, even as we understand and take the global in perspective to inform how we make the place of higher education differently.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Educational philosophy