Don't Follow the Yellow Brick Road: Symbolic Creativity as a Window into the Spirit during (Youth-led) Participatory Action Research
AuthorKemp, Kyla Alexandra
(youth-led) participatory action research
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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, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractArizona attempted to shut down Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program by banning ethnic studies, an action which was found to have violated students’ First and Fourteenth Amendment rights in 2017. While Culturally Responsive Instruction is now taught in the district, a critical pedagogy of the original program—youth-led participatory action research (YPAR)—has not been (re)instated at public schools in Tucson. The original purpose of the current dissertation was to explore the dynamism of freshman collective agency while researching a personally meaningful topic in a Tucson high school. However, when the partnering teacher felt the pace of the familia-centered project threatened students’ ability to present “completed” research to district stakeholders, educational leaders rescinded the project. The purpose then shifted to exploring how college student-researcher-activists’ creative use of everyday symbols during (Youth-led) Participatory Action Research (Y)PAR highlight the dynamics of their spiritual health: the (im)balanced summation of one’s motives, thoughts, emotions, and actions. The (Y)PAR participants (N = 3) investigated the impacts of district leadership by analyzing legal, local, and scholarly sources documenting stakeholders’ structural roles during and after Raza Studies in addition to reflecting upon their year of studying, organizing, and being removed from facilitating YPAR. The team created a conference called CoMADRES (Community of Malinches & Allies Dismantling Repressive Education Systems), where they presented their research alongside feminists in the community. A collection of autoethnographies was compiled from each member, including three observation reflections of team meetings, one individual interviews on the CoMADRES event and impact, as well as document analyses of three personal and five collective symbols of creativity that represent snapshots of each member’s and the crew’s spiritual health, respectively. Taking a queer of color critique and Mexican Traditional Medicine lens to the team’s narratives unveiled how each person experienced spiritual damage from the administration, manifesting as munia, envidia, susto, chusma, bilis, and espanto. Each person underwent a process of “still”ness (i.e., acts of physical immobility and restless reflection), as they missed classes, work, and team meetings. This “still”ness allowed members to see through the colonial wounds of being exiled from working with youth in schools and to accept—while neither consenting to nor resisting—the colonialidad/modernidad structuring the district. Discussing the intimate workings of the psyche while subject to spiritual illness caused wounded team members to hurt one another because their experiences were miscommunicated, misunderstood, and triggered prior trauma. Creating a presentation about their processes for CoMADRES reunited the team throughout these ex/internal choques. After re-connecting with familia at CoMADRES, each member believed activism was compatible with education but not with any level of schooling. Because schools are colonial/modern institutions, no pedagogy can decolonize public education. However, this dissertation documents our ability to continuously decolonize our souls by engaging with, making sense of, and regenerating from colonial wounds through “still”ness. Educational collectives may find this spiritual work of “still”ness particularly meaningful for embodying, practicing, and sharing with individuals who use everyday symbols creatively—irrespective of administrators’ participation.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Educational Leadership & Policy