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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Jamila Lyiscott

Subject Categories

Art Education | Language and Literacy Education | Social Justice


This dissertation focuses on a qualitative study drawing on critical ethnography in conjunction with the self-reflective components of autoethnography, the critical race methodology of racial and counter-storytelling (Johnson, 2017; Solorzano & Yosso, 2002), and youth-centering components of Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) (Cammarota & Fine, 2010; Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008; Torre et al., 2012). The purpose of this study was to explore the complex relationship between trauma, the lived realities of racially minoritized youth, and the arts. As theory-building research, this study sought to expand trauma theory toward raciocultural perspectives of trauma while expanding performance arts theory into an embodied understanding of performance arts. Moreover, this theory of trauma is based in the lived realities of racially minoritized youth as they live with and through trauma. In this way, trauma functions as a haunting for racially minoritized youth (Derrida, 2012; Gordon, 2008). Observations were conducted at a monthly open mic, L!t (pseudonym) that the researcher volunteered at for two years and hosted prior to gaining permission to conduct research. One cisgender woman and two queer women youth artists participated in the study, which consisted of 10 unstructured interviews held over the course of a year in the New England region of the United States. The participants and researcher identified as Puerto Rican, although one participant identified as bi-cultural and another participant identified as multi-cultural and were mentored by a Puerto Rican artist who was the founder of the monthly open mic, powerful community leader, and a member of the Nuyorican Literary Vanguard. Instead of focusing on pain narratives, this study focused on the various forms of power and wisdom that come from being haunted by traumatic experiences. Findings from this study reveal that participants use embodied arts as a means of therapy that is rooted in culturally sustaining practices. Participants also view performing embodied arts as a pathway toward disrupting the culture of silence around trauma that exists in their communities.