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Orientations of the heart: Exploring hope & diversity in undergraduate citizenship education

Mary Hannah Henderson, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation addresses the questions: How do activists sustain hope while increasingly aware of social complexity? How is agentive hope related to experiences of systemic power relations, including class, race, and gender? In a political climate increasingly circumscribed by neoliberal and neoconservative policies and rhetoric, the question of how scholars and teachers, both formal and informal, can support hopeful, agentive, social democratic citizens becomes critical. Employing a mixed genre format, based in an ethnographic position informed by Virginia Dominguez's "politics of love and rescue" and Hirokazu Miyazaki's "method of hope," I examine hope and its relationship to diversity and citizenship through analysis of in-depth field research conducted in undergraduate citizenship education courses. Through both traditional anthropological analysis and a full-length, ethnographically inspired novel, I explore activists' motivation, life stories, and political values, asking how their ability to sustain hope for the short term and the long term articulates with their lived experiences of systemic power relations and their visions of citizenship. Key factors in sustaining a long-term orientation toward hope include perspective-taking ("the wide angle lens"), loving relationships, and doing and reflecting on direct action, especially across social boundaries. I conclude that reflective, relational, action-focused pedagogies can effectively support diverse groups of hopeful, agentive citizens committed to progressive visions of social justice.

Subject Area

Cultural anthropology|Social studies education

Recommended Citation

Henderson, Mary Hannah, "Orientations of the heart: Exploring hope & diversity in undergraduate citizenship education" (2012). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3498348.