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Toward a Psychosocial Theory of Feminist Ethnic Studies Insurgent Knowledge: Writing Practices, Teaching and Learning, and Contemplative-Critical Epistemologies


This project locates feminist ethnic studies writing, teaching, and learning practices as an archive of psychosocial theory holding insurgent knowledge. Psychosocial theory is defined as an analytic and a reading practice linking structural, historical, and material conditions to intra-psychic- and intersubjective realities. Insurgent knowledges analyze and transform structures of material, psychic, and epistemic violence through nurturing creative power and fostering the collectivities and coalitions that unleash personal and collective transformations. Especially highlighted in this study are the forms of labor—affective, psychic, intellectual, and spiritual—entwined within such revolutionary knowledge in feminist ethnic studies histories. Archives of psychosocial theory analyzed include U.S. Black feminist theory, with attention to the works of Hortense Spillers, Patricia J. Williams, Saidiya Hartman, Barbara Smith, and Barbara Christian. The texts are read through considering historical changes over time within the development of the field of U.S. Black women’s studies. Gloria Anzaldúa’s body of work is also taken up through examining how her writing methods and spiritual practices infused her theories of the psyche, identity, a decolonized sensorium, and trauma. Chicana psychosocial theories of identity, including those by Norma Alarcón, are integrated alongside the analysis of Anzaldúa’s work. Additionally, the psychosocial contributions to learning, teaching, and writing of transnational feminists, namely Chandra Talpade Mohanty and M. Jacqui Alexander, are placed in conversation with feminist psychoanalytic clinicians Deborah Britzman and Lynne Layton, as well as Indigenous studies epistemologies, including work on education by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Sandy Grande, Sandra Styres, and Eve Tuck. Finally, the array of psychosocial theories in this project are used to develop the concept of “contemplative-critical” writing practices that explore “theory in the flesh” (Moraga, 1981) and “threshold identities” (Keating, 1996) in education practices. This dissertation is meant to collaborate in conversations on transformative education practices across several fields including ethnic studies; women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; trauma studies; writing studies; and contemplative studies.

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