(En)gendering Whiteness: A Historical Analysis of White Womanhood, Colonial Anxieties, and “Tender Violence” in US Schools
My dissertation explores the over-disciplining of students of color by taking a thus far unconsidered stance and asking how white women have historically understood their roles in the disciplining of nonwhite student bodies. By asking, “How and why has the role of the heroic white female teacher developed over time and in varying geographic locales?” this study provides a gendered historical analysis of the reinforcing relationship between settler colonialism and anti-Blackness as it manifests itself in schools contemporarily.
This project employs two main methodologies: (1) critical case studies of three pivotal moments in 19th Century US educational history, and (2) Foucauldian discourse analysis, which I use in constructing a genealogy of heroic white womanhood (“benevolent whiteness”). Through this analysis, I explain how the collective acceptance of and participation in the discursive construction of heroic white womanhood has been the normative underpinning of US educational and disciplinary practice for nearly two hundred years. Thus, this dissertation offers a critical link between past and present as a way through which teachers and researchers can consider the over-disciplining of students of color, a task largely performed by white females in an institution haunted by the specter of an imagined benevolent whiteness.