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Diasporic Dialogue: Mapping Resistance Through the Speech Acts of Black Women and Girls Over Time

Sat, April 18, 4:05 to 6:05pm, Virtual Room


This paper draws upon historical, sociological and educational studies to retrace Black women and girls educational and lived experiences overtime. Black women and girls are “haunted” by racial and gendered ideologies descending from colonial slavery and reproduced structurally and socially in everyday life (Cooper, 2015, Gordon, 2008, Morgan, 2004). Sharpe (2006) writes the “past is in our present.” Educational research shows that Black girls face constant surveillance which restricts their sense of self as they are expected to perform their language and expression, in order to prove themselves opposite to the binding stereotypes, institutional and socio-economic factors that render them vulnerable in school and public life (Alexander, 2010, Bhatia, 2017, Morris, 2016, Fordham, 1993, Girls for Gender Equity, 2018). However, there is limited educational research drawing historical connections between the experiences of Black women and girls using their own words. Through this relational approach, this study asks, how do the stories of enslaved and “free” Black women and girls’ educational and lived experiences relate?
Drawing upon methods of critical linguistics and discourse analysis, I review narratives, letters, diaries, dialogues, yearnings, demands, expressions of pain, radical possibility and freedom dreams to read “against the grain” (Hartman, 2018) to illustrate the interweaving connections across social, cultural, and historical landscapes experienced by Black girls and women writing, speaking, and living from 1730 to present day. By mapping the narratives of Black women and girls over time, this study will enhance how race, class and gender shape education from intergenerational embodied perspectives.
I ground my questions in my own narrative to examine larger theoretical questions and expand methodological frameworks from an embodied perspective (Dumas, 2016, Hartman, 2018, Kirkland, 2013). This study utilizes a mixed method approach and includes semi-structured interviews and critical discourse analysis to intervene in systemic oppression and transform race, class and gender disparities (Daiute, 2014, Fine, 2011, Hill-Collins, 2007). Interview data was collected through snowball sampling over two years. I draw upon audio recorded interviews, one group and two individuals, and textual analysis of selected texts by Harriet Jacobs, an account of Mary S. Peake of Virginia, and a letter written by Magdelena of St. Thomas. I utilize the Listening Guide method and Critical discourse analysis to take seriously the sociolinguistic and relational patterns of Black women and girls that continue to be misunderstood and maligned by traditional methods of analysis. My analysis captures multimodality of expression (Gilligan, 1981, Smitherman, 2015, Kynard, 2007) and maps the cultural landscape, time period, location of each participant, key themes, quotations and passages of each narrative.
Preliminary findings reveal many ways in which Black women and girls resist and repurpose life inside and outside of formal institutions. The data suggests an intergenerational “call and response” in the writing, speaking and preaching of Black girls and women who are creating space through discourses and reckoning with power. My study highlights how educational research and institutions must critically listen to Black women and girls across generations as their experiences make visible socially reproductive forces.