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ERIC Number: ED567462
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Pages: 219
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: 978-1-3038-1477-8
Debating Race, Race-ing Debate: An Extended Ethnographic Case Study of Black Intellectual Insurgency in U.S. Intercollegiate Debate
Peterson, David Kent
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, University of California, Irvine
The following study is an extended ethnographic case study of a "black intellectual insurgency" within the predominantly white space of the U.S. intercollegiate policy debate activity. A growing number of black students are entering the debate activity and insisting that "whiteness" be confronted and interrogated and that questions of racial power and privilege become central objects of thought and research. The present study seeks to address the related questions of: 1) how black undergraduate students struggle to develop communicative methods to articulate the increasingly inarticulable manifestation of racial exclusion in the face of the discursive repertoire so effective at shutting down such discourse; and, 2) how white debate participants negotiate these efforts and mobilize to secure institutional coherence in the face of sustained critical challenge that raises the level of abstraction on questions of racial power. Drawing upon ethnographic data, in-depth interviews, and content analysis of online forum discussions, I show the ways in which the black insurgency radicalizes over time in negotiation with waves of white reaction. I outline the deep debates that are taking place among black students concerning the meaning of blackness, how to be black in a white space, and the role of black intellectuals in the contemporary moment. In discussing the white reaction to this effort I compare the two main groups of white participants in the debate activity: white liberals and white leftists. I show that, in the context of black insurgency, liberal whites attempt to embrace a multicultural paradigm in which whiteness is viewed as ontologically equivalent to other racial categories and which charges the insurgency with being unfair, uncivil, and potentially violent. Leftist whites draw upon critical theoretical resources that deny the salience and stability of racial categories altogether and charge the black insurgency with being authoritarian and essentialist. In both cases the structural criticism was personalized, individualized and ultimately evaded. As the black intellectual insurgency reaches critical levels of competitive success in the debate activity, I show the ways in which white liberals attempt to construct new rules and codes, and even a private debate organization, that might contain and sideline black insurgency. I also show how white leftists, the ostensible allies of black students, ultimately made movements to abandon the black intellectual insurgency and create a "coalition" free from black critical questioning. I argue that the debate activity needs the participation of black students to resolve a legitimacy crisis but that they have deep difficulties accepting critical assertions of blackness in the activity. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A