Toxic Geographies: Race, Gender and Sexuality Based (Micro)aggressions in Higher Education
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
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This thesis attends to recent calls and decades of demands to de-whiten and de-colonise the discipline of Geography and higher education more broadly. This manuscript contributes unique empirical research and analysis on race, gender, sexuality and everyday life to geographies of intersectionality, visceral geographies of (micro)aggressions, and toxic geographies. Intersectionality is a Black Feminist framework that centres the entanglement of race and gender, (micro)aggressions are often unconscious and subtle insults experienced at the scale of the body by marginalized people, and toxic geographies are spaces with high concentrations of (micro)aggressions. The main objectives are to explore the co-constitutive nature of (micro)aggressions and space, engage intersectionality in practice through Participatory Action Research (PAR), and to centre the lives and promote the agency of students of colour, women, queer, transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) students in US higher education. The empirical research of this thesis is a PAR project and team composed of eleven people, myself included, on race, gender, and sexuality based (micro)aggressions at an elite US residential institution of higher education. The PAR team collectively curated a public art event where the university community was invited to share stories of (micro)aggressions experienced, witnessed, and produced. The PAR team’s efforts resulted in a powerful encounter that led to changes in policy and practice to mitigate toxicity in one particular place. The analysis of the empirical research involves an exploration of the fluidity, fixity, and spatiality of toxic geographies along the axes of race, gender and sexuality and within the context of the academic-military-prison industrial complex (AMPIC), a framework of structural violence. In addition, this thesis applies the higher-level analytic of intersectionality to the empirical research, connecting the micro level of (micro)aggressions, the meso level of the PAR team, and the macro level of the AMPIC to provide an empirical example of the complexity of toxic geographies, and an avenue for future research, by highlighting the material impact of the neoliberal university on the mental health of students of colour, women, queer, and TGNC students.
Exeter-Brown PhD Studentship in Material Culture and Globalisation
Office of Institutional Diversity at Brown University
Brown Center for Students of Color at Brown University
LGBTQ Center at Brown University
PhD in Geography