Feature Stories

Featured Faculty: Dr. Angela Stuesse

Multi-sited Community Engagement and Activist Research

For Dr. Angela Stuesse, a key form of community engagement is activist research, in which "subjects" become crucial collaborators helping to conceptualize, carry out, and analyze the research that affects their lives. Dr. Stuesse, who joined USF's Department of Anthropology in the fall of 2010, is continuing her community engagement work on a multi-sited activist research project she initiated during a postdoctoral fellowship at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University. The project is entitled Rooting Intergroup Relations for Social Justice: A Curricular "Mapping" of the Field. It responds to an expressed need of social justice organizations to address the real and perceived conflicts between African American and immigrant communities that impede collective work for change. How might we best develop programs to strengthen members' and constituents' relationships across difference and help them build an analysis of the structures, institutions, and beliefs that enforce global and local inequalities, so that they may recognize parallel experiences and shared interests and move toward collective action?

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To answer this question, Dr. Stuesse and a collaborative research team at USF and the Kirwan Institute have begun a "mapping" of existing curricular materials and programs focused on cross-racial relationship-building between immigrants and native-born communities of color in the U.S. The project is national in scope and has located institutions working to create spaces for dialogue and action across differences of race, ethnicity, and nationality—including worker centers, unions, and other community organizations—in order to catalogue and critically analyze the programs they have developed. The work has been guided by an Advisory Committee of organizers and activists with experience developing and implementing popular and political education programs that address questions of globalization, immigration, structural racism, and inequality. A travel grant from the Office of Community Engagement helped support Dr. Stuesse in traveling to Maryland in March for a two-day in-person meeting with the Advisory Committee in order to refine the lessons learned to date and begin planning for the next phase of work. 

Members of MPOWER (Mississippi Poultry Workers for Equality and Respect) using an interactive race and immigration timeline, a tool widely used and adapted in the curricula under study. Such timelines can help people of diverse backgrounds build a common sense of their shared histories of power, oppression, opportunity, and resistance. (Photo by Angela Stuesse)

Members of MPOWER (Mississippi Poultry Workers for Equality and Respect) using an interactive race and immigration timeline, a tool widely used and adapted in the curricula under study. Such timelines can help people of diverse backgrounds build a common sense of their shared histories of power, oppression, opportunity, and resistance. (Photo by Angela Stuesse)

Since the project began in the summer of 2010, the research team has conducted over 65 interviews with creators and facilitators of the programs and materials under study, acquired about a dozen curricular programs for review, and selected a handful of organizations/initiatives for ethnographic site visits. The team has also reviewed nearly 200 scholarly and popular writings on the topics of race, immigration, intergroup relations, and coalition-building. Through their interviews they have identified several challenges and best practices that they hope will help organizers and educators to reconsider some of the ways cross-racial relationship-building work is approached.

Project participants practicing a basic dialogue in each other’s native language (Spanish and English). Bilingual dialogues, often accompanied by the sharing of food and music, are common avenues community organizations have explored for opening communication and establishing relationships of trust among members of different cultures. (Photo by Angela Stuesse)

Project participants practicing a basic dialogue in each other's native language (Spanish and English). Bilingual dialogues, often accompanied by the sharing of food and music, are common avenues community organizations have explored for opening communication and establishing relationships of trust among members of different cultures. (Photo by Angela Stuesse)

In phase 2, Dr. Stuesse and her team seek to develop an online Resource Center in order to make broadly available the concrete tools necessary for conducting this work. Collectively owned and operated, it will include a clearinghouse of existing curricula, other relevant educational and organizing materials, contacts of organizations engaged in intentional intergroup relationship building, a "best practices" guide for approaching this work, an analytical framework for developing and adapting curricular materials, and an annotated bibliography of scholarly and other materials relevant to the field. The research team and Advisory Committee hope that by enabling organizations to more effectively engage their membership in intentional, culturally relevant dialogue about immigration, race, and power, they will be better prepared to identify mutual interests, construct a shared vision, and deepen their collective potential for achieving economic and social justice.

For more information about this project, contact Dr. Stuesse at astuesse@usf.edu and visit the Kirwan Institute website.