Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Education

First Advisor

Kathleen D. Hall

Abstract

In a post-civil rights era, it is clear that the abolition of Jim Crow laws was limited in what it could achieve. Inequalities persist, race relations remain tense, and people of color still struggle to live out their full humanity. Promoting “minority recognition” and “diversity” represent our current attempt to move beyond Jim Crow and have become two of America’s most vaunted liberal values. These appear writ large in K-12 and higher education settings where scholars, practitioners, and administrators attempt to put these values into practice by instituting new policies and programs. Yet institutions remain incredibly resistant to change. As protests wage on across American campuses, students of color express disconnect between the stated values of institutions and their own lived experiences. Instituting new policies and programs around recognition and diversity have their own set of limitations and have not achieved the desired result.

This dissertation intervenes in the conversation by providing an ethnographic example of how one institution, founded by activists, put these values into practice in ways that move beyond formal policies and programs, and beyond a superficial recourse to our common humanity. The school in which I conducted fieldwork focused instead on everyday rituals, embodied practices of interracial care, and bearing witness to irreducible differences to construct solidarity between Asian and black students, who constitute the majority of the student body. These intimate, even familial, forms of interracial sociality begin to trouble common understandings of recognition- and diversity-work. At its heart, this dissertation is a study of ethics and activism, and how people imagine and enact more just and liberating futures.

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