WRITING FOR PUBLIC AUDIENCES
Pictures Courtesy of Artist & Muralist: Catherine Tilly
Dissertation Title: I don't think any kid should be here: A Critical Ethnography on Learning in the Carceral Context
Dissertation Committee: Drs. Jim Spillane, Shirin Vossoughi, David Stovall, and Sepehr Vakil
Using a critical ethnographic approach, my dissertation examines a Midwest County juvenile detention center as a site of learning. Bringing together cultural historical activity theory and institutional theory frameworks (CHAT-IT), this study foregrounds learning in context, more notably how learning is conceptualized, organized, and experienced by the various social actors within the juvenile detention center (Ogawa, Crain, Loomis, & Ball, 2008). In addition to investigating the varied forms of learning accessible to incarcerated youth, this study examines how different institutional actors, particularly the adults in the carceral setting, (i.e., administrators, teachers, security staff, and community educators) organize and conceptualize education under confinement. In what ways are these narratives different, or similar to, how young people narrate their learning and schooling experiences? By studying education in the carceral context—a liminal space between schools and prisons—and the experiences of those caught in both worlds, researchers, educators, and policymakers can develop a better understanding of 1) what it means to learn and go to school while incarcerated as a young person, 2) how juvenile practitioners conceptualize, design, and organize education for those inside, and 3) how youth make sense of those learning experiences in ways that have implications for their educational trajectories. Otherwise, our conceptualization and approach to the school prison nexus will remain incomplete, further harming countless youth and communities over time.