Critical Emotionality: The Unspoken Pain of Latinx Womxn of Color Undergraduates in Higher Education Through their Community-Engaged Service
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Critical Emotionality: The Unspoken Pain of Latinx Womxn of Color Undergraduates in Higher Education Through their Community-Engaged Service

  • Author(s): Cardona, Gema
  • Advisor(s): Leonardo, Zeus
  • et al.

Research suggests that a college degree leads to greater civic engagement. However, less is known about the ways that civic engagement while enrolled at an institution of higher education influences college navigation, particularly for self-identified Latinx womxn of color undergraduates. Yet, this body of literature tends to emphasize the cultural and social benefits of the college student. That is, how community engagement is transformative for the individual student, rather than placing a greater focus on the communities they engage with through the service-learning program. Thereby the question guiding this investigation is as follows: How do Latinx womxn of color undergraduates make meaning of community engagement in various forms of both institutionalized and non-institutionalized forms of service learning they participate in, both as experienced and conceptually? To answer this question, I employ a testimonio and pláticas methodology to collect and analyze the collective understanding of intersectional forms of oppression experienced directly in the communities as witnessed by the Latinx womxn. A testimonio methodology allowed me to understand the complex dynamics of how the Latinx womxn straddled between the institution, which I refer to as Western University (WU), their community-engaged service, and their hometown communities and families. Two central theoretical contributions emerged from the data. First, participants conceptualized community engagement based on what I refer to as a praxis of vulnerability. A praxis of vulnerability is how the participants’ community engagement is intimately tied to their families and hometown communities, where home was re-made through the straddling across family/community, college, and their service work. Second, that the participants’ critical understanding of how their emotions of racial and gendered oppression relate to how they embodied and practiced their community-engaged service in higher education. I refer to this as the participants’ critical emotionality of how their service is not just with an intent for producing social justice, but also about the complexities of the vulnerabilities associated with the direct experiences with injustice. Broadly, this research challenges dominant ideals that community engagement in higher education is simply characterized by a partnership between the institution of higher education and the local community, especially when asymmetrical power dynamics are central to this partnership. Specifically, by employing an intersectional lens into the data analysis, this research provides significant contributions to the growing body of literature on emotionality in higher education that seeks to further understand the complexities of racial and gendered forms of oppression.

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