Fostering Allyship in Ourselves and Our Students: Findings From a Duoethnography on Social Justice in Higher Education

Fostering Allyship in Ourselves and Our Students: Findings From a Duoethnography on Social Justice in Higher Education

Annemarie Vaccaro, John Olerio, Jana Knibb, Desiree Forsythe, Karin Capobianco, Chiquita Baylor
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5268-1.ch003
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This chapter focuses on the development of allyship in higher education contexts. The findings discussed are the result of a 10-week duoethnography project conducted by one faculty member and five doctoral students who are also higher education practitioners. Group dialogue and individual memoing revealed central struggles in considering approaches to cultivating social justice allyship with undergraduate students. There is a certain tension in trying to promote allyship to privileged students as something more than individual sacrifice while also properly acknowledging and communicating the risks inherent in decentering systems, structures, and institutions that benefit from white supremacist, sexist, ableist, heteronormative hegemony. The duoethnographic data are presented to encourage readers to become active participants in making meaning of the various perspectives on allyship.
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Higher education literature about social justice is replete with calls for allyship (Broido & Reason, 2005; Edwards, 2006; Evans & Washington, 2018; Johnson, 2013; Johnson, 2017; Quarshie, 2014; Patton & Bondi, 2015). Although scholars define allyship in different ways, Patton and Bondi (2015, p. 489) simply explain: “allies are people who work for social justice from positions of dominance.” Higher educators can play an important role in the development of college student allies who work for social justice. Broido (2000) specifically described: “the importance of the academic experience in students’ development as social justice allies, both as a source of content information and as a way to translate that information into knowledge through meaning-making processes” (p. 16). Yet, the process of developing social justice allies is neither clear nor easy. This chapter explicates the tensions higher educators experience when seeking to cultivate allyship in themselves and their students.

Data for this chapter were gleaned from a 10-week duoethnographic project about social justice in higher education. One common feature of duoethnography is that the research product and meaning making processes are informed by varied lived experiences regarding a shared phenomenon (Monzó & SooHoo, 2014; Norris & Sawyer, 2012; Norris, Sawyer & Lund, 2016; Sawyer & Norris, 2009, 2013). One faculty member and five education doctoral students (all employed as staff or faculty at four different post-secondary campuses), used duoethnography to explore a host of social justice issues in the context of our varied personal and professional experiences. This chapter shares our meaning-making about fostering allyship in ourselves and our students. In alignment with the duoethnography tenet of “reader as coparticipant and active witness,” our goal is for this chapter to prompt readers to consider their own understandings, behaviors, and expectations about the complex topic of social justice allyship (Norris & Sawyer, 2012, p. 24).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Minoritized: Used in place of minority (noun) to highlight the social oppression that minoritizes individuals.

Tokenize: Purporting to invite someone from a minoritized group by selecting a token or representative. Tokens are often expected to represent and speak on behalf of an entire minoritized group.

Allyship: The process of being an ally or advocate for a minoritized individual/group or social justice issue.

Cognitive Development: A process of learning and development rooted in thought, problem solving, meaning making.

Social Justice: The goal and process toward achieving a society where every person has equal access to the resources they need.

Ally: An individual with privilege and access to sources of individual, institutional, and cultural power who works for social justice.

Duoethnography: A collaborative qualitative research strategy, rooted in social justice where multiple researchers participate in intensive dialogues about their experiences with a particular phenomenon.

Higher Educator: An employee in an institution of higher education who holds a staff or faculty role.

White Savior/Savior: A person who acts out of their own superiority and/or self-interest to “help” or “save” those who are oppressed or seen as less fortunate.

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