Outreach and containment: The rhetoric and practice of higher education's community-based outreach programs and possible alternatives
AuthorBrown, Danika M.
AdvisorMiller, Thomas P.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis dissertation develops out of an extensive program of research investigating the intersection and apparent contradictions of two trends: the expansion of community-based activities and activist rhetorics in higher education, and the growing critiques of the university as functioning primarily for corporate and dominant interests. Employing Marxist critique, I examine the ways institutionalized higher education perpetuates problematic dominant socio-economic structures as well as the possibilities available from sites of higher education for challenging those structures through critical pedagogy and community-based programs. I contextualize my analysis of current practices in community-based learning by deconstructing the rhetoric of liberal ideology embedded within both the current and historical discourse surrounding the mission and development of public higher education with extensive analysis of the Land Grant Act in chapter one. In my discursive analysis of the discourse and history surrounding the creation of land grant colleges, I explicate the importance of a theory of cultural hegemony as it relates to universities functioning under dominant cultural logic. In chapter two, I analyze specific university-based community outreach programs in order to deconstruct and situate the rhetoric and practices of these programs in a broader socio-economic context. I draw out theories of cultural hegemony from Marx and Gramsci to identify and characterize American liberal capitalism as a system which depends upon perceived freedom and equity while requiring inequity and exploitation. I situate higher education within that system as a cultural institution that provides necessary means for capitalism (in the forms of technology, knowledge, and trained labor) as well as creates ideological apparatuses to contain possible resistance to the dominant system. I deconstruct and re-theorize the ways in which voluntarism and community service enable contemporary capitalism to remain hegemonic, and I look specifically at such activities generated from and institutionalized in higher education to critique the implications of this relationship. In the third chapter, I argue that although the tendencies of dominant institutions are to contain "radical" or transformational practices, no system is an utterly closed system. Consequently, the critical enactment of community-based activities in higher education may provide an opening for counter-hegemonic responses, but only through a carefully articulated theory of critical pedagogy. Drawing on Paulo Freire, Paula Allman, and others, I lay out the principles of critical pedagogy. I also outline what I understand to be necessary limitations on institutional work and institutionalized critical pedagogies based on the analyses of the previous chapters. Based on that critical pedagogy, in the final chapter I outline a practical method of enacting critical community-based work by looking at the issue of accountabilities, outcomes, and measurements in order to identify practices that may serve to create conditions for counter-hegemonic, transformative activities to occur. I conclude the dissertation with some reflection on activities in the university other than community-based learning programs where critical pedagogy has a significant role to play.
Degree ProgramGraduate College