A Black Woman's Search for the Transdisciplinary Applied Social Justice Model: Encounters with Critical Race Feminism, Black Feminism, and Africana Studies

By Pratt-Clarke, Menah | Journal of Pan African Studies, March 2012 | Go to article overview

A Black Woman's Search for the Transdisciplinary Applied Social Justice Model: Encounters with Critical Race Feminism, Black Feminism, and Africana Studies


Pratt-Clarke, Menah, Journal of Pan African Studies


Introduction

As a Black woman scholar-activist, I have been looking for justice for a long time. My search has included the academic world of departments and disciplines; the legal world of courtrooms and law classrooms; and my everyday world as a wife, mother, and daughter. My search led me to believe in the critical need for a transdisciplinary approach--an approach that could connect multiple disciplines and areas of study. As part of my journey, I developed the Transdisciplinary Applied Social Justice model (Pratt-Clarke, 2010). The purpose of the model is to be able to approach complex social problems with a strategy that will increase the likelihood of successful social justice activism. This article explores the development of the model, using personal narrative, to demonstrate its connections to Black Feminism and Critical Race Feminism, and its contributions to Africana Studies. The model contributes to Africana Studies is highlighted through its transdisciplinary focus; its recognition of the importance of intertwined identities, including race and gender; and its commitment to social justice activism and social movements.

The Power of Narrative and Voice

Storytelling, narrative, voice, autoethnography, and phenomenology are critical theoretical and methodological concepts in Critical Race Feminism (CRF) and Black Feminist traditions: "the use of nontraditional writing genres has been a primary strategy for critical race theorists in general and black feminist critical race theorists in particular" (Alexander-Floyd, 2010, 812). They create a theoretical and methodological space for traditionally silenced and marginalized groups to critique social institutions that perpetuate inequality. In particular, storytelling and personal narrative allow women of color to discuss their experiences within a racist and patriarchal society. Personal stories create the opportunity to "re-theorize Eurocentric and patriarchal frameworks" with a focus on the liberation of people of color from the historical legacy of colonization and the hegemony of White society (Rodriguez, 2006, 1071). Housee (2010, 423) also acknowledges the power of voice in feminist theory and practice, recognizing from Friere its role in "conscientisation'--consciousness-raising as an imperative for women's liberation from patriarchal domination and oppression." Thus, non-traditional genres facilitate the connected objectives of naming one's reality, engaging in self-determination, and obtaining empowerment. Collins (2009, 40) challenges Black women intellectuals to "aggressively push the theme of self-definition because speaking for oneself and crafting one's own agenda is essential to empowerment." Voice, then, has the potential to heal, to create new life, and to bring justice.

Critical race scholars recognize the critical importance of personal narrative in the search for justice (Duncan, 2005). Critical race theory (CRT) and Critical Race Feminism (CRF) focus on counternarratives and counter stories; the voices of the "other" and the silenced; and the voice that can counter hegemony, oppression, racism, and sexism. CRF and CRT as theoretical and methodological tools honor the voices of those who have been marginalized and challenge traditional methods of research (Housee, 2010). Racial narratives are "an elemental facet of the scholarly work to explain and challenge racism. ...Ultimately, to write against racism requires the collaboration of theories and practices that can support the radical scholarship of challenging powerful systems of race" (Vaught, 2008, 586).

Autoethnography or racial autobiography in feminist and womanist thought has the power to facilitate an interrogation of racism, power, and privilege. Autoethnography is "research in which the use of self is central to the process of research" (Taylor, Mackin, and Oldenburg, 2007, 345). Narratives of the self, such as "poems, fictional novels, autoethnographies, autobiographies, and memoirs" can represent a transformation in ethnographic writing (Rodriguez, 2006, 1069) and serve as a site of resistance.

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