Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cultural Foundations of Education


Barbara Applebaum

Second Advisor

Emily Robertson


Activism, Anti-Critical Race Theory, Civility, Emotions, Epistemic Injustice, Whiteness


Socially-privileged students’ discomfort in the social justice classroom as injustice is dramatically increasing in public discourse, especially as the Anti-Critical Race Theory (CRT) movement thrives. It is in the current climate of Anti-CRT that social justice educators must be vigilant of how classrooms could reproduce the very injustices they seek to problematize. Coupled alongside social justice educators’ fears of job security and violence—physical, emotional, and epistemic—calls for civility that function to mute discomfort about systemic injustices could easily creep into classrooms. I claim civility can function speciously—when appeals to civility falsely claim, even if well-intentioned, to create just, open dialogue. Specious civility acts to conceal reiterations of socially-unjust power relations and, in turn, reify epistemologies of whiteness under the guise of “safe” or “comforting” spaces. I assert that such functions of civility conceal/maintain white students’ resistance to engage with counter testimony, especially testimony that might reveal their complicity in systemic oppressions. Social justice educators, then, must be hyper-cognizant of possible epistemic injustices perpetrated toward socially-marginalized students/testifiers. Building on the work of Miranda Fricker and José Medina, I propose that our evaluations of testimony may be better served by practices of criticality that acknowledge the social, communal aspects of inquiry/critique/reflection. I, then, develop and illustrate a praxis of affective democratic friction, expanding on AnaLouise Keating’s “pedagogies of invitation,” Medina’s “epistemic friction and activism,” and Gloria Anzaldúa’s “spiritual activism,” to propose teaching practices that could incite students to recognize their discomfort, postpone assessment/judgments of testimony, and create opportunities for recognizing the affective happenings causing distress and, in turn, cultivate a relational criticality.


Open Access