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Ethical Awakenings: Stories of White Male Educators’ Commitment to Social Justice and the Interruption of Privilege

Stephany, Bryan (2019) Ethical Awakenings: Stories of White Male Educators’ Commitment to Social Justice and the Interruption of Privilege. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study is an anti-racist counter-story of white male educators’ commitments to social justice and their attempts at interrupting privilege. The author uses a qualitative methodological approach to unite personal narrative essay and phenomenological interviewing to collate narratives around the exploration of whiteness and power. At the heart of the project is a deep interest in seeking an ethic that fosters a social justice praxis for educators by exposing the underlying structures of whiteness through “witness” testimony. Using Butler's (2005) theory of subject formation, the author advances a theory of social justice that focuses on relation.
The author makes active the context for tensions between his white male subjectivity and social justice praxis and then interweaves the narratives from participant interviews to elucidate how white subjectivity works with and against social justice in complex ways, especially within educational contexts. A close look is given to white educators’ experiences in communities of color and the connections between the participant narratives and the author’s own. The author highlights the significance of personal rupture, in which the self is exposed to new ontological, epistemological, and ethical possibilities at critical junctures on the life journey. A case is made for the curricular value of utilizing self-study – examples of which include personal narrative essays, autoethnography, and autobiographical approaches – in shaping students’ ethical commitments to responsibility towards others as well as potentially exposing fissures at the ontological horizon that might lead authentic personal and social changes. The author draws meaningful interpretations by discussing relevant themes shared among the personal narratives and identifies key experiences that led participants to new ways of understanding and relating to others, exemplifying ethical responsibility. By drawing connections between white subjectivity and ethical commitments to social justice, the author makes a case for the curricular value in considering new and creative ways of fostering student interaction with difference and how those interactions might draw students towards responsible action. Conclusions from the interpretations suggest the importance of relation as a key component of ethical responsibility, highlighting the significance of recognizing the self’s opacity as a form of social justice activism.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Stephany, Bryanbms65@pitt.edubms650000-0002-5448-9476
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGunzenhauser, Michaelmgunzen@pitt.edumgunzen
Committee MemberGarman,
Committee MemberQuigley,
Committee MemberLoving,
Date: 16 December 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 13 November 2019
Approval Date: 16 December 2019
Submission Date: 12 December 2019
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 163
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Education, Whiteness, Social Justice, White Privilege, Personal Narrative, Qualitative Methodology
Date Deposited: 16 Dec 2019 14:51
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2019 14:51


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