Moving between opposing worlds : the moral experiences of white, anti-racism educators in Saskatchewan
Plett Martens, Vonda Lynn
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This research explores the moral experiences of White, anti-racism educators in Saskatchewan. As members of the dominant group, while at the same time being defenders of the rights of minority groups, the unique positioning of these individuals raises intriguing questions of moral experience. Although there is a large body of research regarding issues of racism, there is very little research focusing on the experiences of individuals working in the field of anti-racism; this research seeks to address this gap in the literature. Using a critical interpretive approach (Lock and Scheper-Hughes, 1990) grounded in the assumptions of constructionism, and relying upon Kleinman’s (1995; 1999) theory of moral experience, I interviewed 12 self-identified White, anti-racism educators using an open-ended life-history interview followed by a semi-structured interview. The interview questions were inspired by the racism literature reviewed; my own experiences as a White woman negotiating my place in the study of racism; Kleinman’s theory of moral experience; and a collection of secondary theories deemed potentially useful to understanding various dimensions of participants’ experience. Four broad domains of moral experience are identified and explored in this research. First, participants’ understandings of race, racism, and anti-racism are examined. Veyne’s (1988) theory regarding the plurality of “programs of truths” is used to make sense of what might be read as contradictions in participants’ constructions of these concepts. Second, the experience of actually doing anti-racism education is considered in terms of participants’ descriptions of their involvements; which they frame alternately as educating Whites, ‘helping’ the racialized, and changing racist structures. Foucault’s (1977, 1978) theory of power and de Certeau’s notion of tactics (1984) prove relevant to understanding aspects of participants’ experiences in this domain. Third, the relationships between Self and various Others (i.e., the White Other, the racialized Other, the anti-racism Other) are explored. Todorov’s (1984) typology of the Other is used to make sense of these complex data. Finally, participants’ descriptions of their experiences of Self (including past, present, and future Selves) are examined. Goffman’s (1961) theory of moral career and Turner’s (1995) theory of liminality are applied to understanding elements of participants’ varied experiences of Self. In reviewing participants’ accounts across these broad domains, I argue that their noted success and confidence in navigating a challenging moral landscape might be understood in terms of their skill in moving between dual worlds that operate according to distinct logics of morality. Potential applications for the field of anti-racism are discussed.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeMcMullen, Linda; Haig-Brown, Celia; Findlay, Isobel M.; Downe, Pamela J.; Thompson, Valerie