Researcher Subjectivity

In this research study, I map out the trajectories of five individual urban youth organizers becoming activist, focusing closely on the critical literacy praxis through which they engage in the work of social justice organizing and human rights activism. My writing subsumes the interconnected skills of documenting life history, biography, and journalistic auto-ethnography. In my conclusions, I draw on Chantal Mouffe’s articulation theory of radical democratic citizenship in relation to the collected qualitative data.

When I first met with each participant to explain my ideas and gauge their interests, one noticeable theme that emerged was the notion of collectivity. Awesome Woman spoke of organizing students of color through a Black Student Union. Vaga De Franx discussed her citywide student coalition of activists. Green Strawberries was talking about Occupy Wall Street, People’s Republic of Mars about public health, and Gentle Meadows about community literacy projects. All of these youth engage in their own communities to push the boundaries of what is possible while forwarding a human rights platform for justice and peaceable coexistence. 

As a researcher, I aim to be transparent about my bias and my subjectivity: I believe it is valuable that these youth engage in activist and organizing pursuits, and I seek to understand how and why they do so. This is the first local instantiation of the wider Drop Knowledge Project.

An Initial Word on the Topic of Youth Organizing

While youth organizing is the context from within which this study is framed, I am first and foremost interested in understanding the varied literate practices involved in becoming an activist. I recognize the potential of structured youth organizing projects to facilitate critical literacy praxis, and thus it is on critical literacy that I direct my scholarly gaze. In turn, my research writing for this study first traces the history and contemporary understanding of critical literacy in order to consider its purpose, principles, and operation within schools. I then move to examine youth organizing as an exemplar out-of-school space for critical literacy praxis and critical education more generally.