Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Writing Program


Tony Scott


Antiracism;Community Literacy;DEI;Feminist Ethnography;Institutional Ethnography;Slam Poetry

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Rhetoric and Composition


To guide antiracist curriculum reform in higher education and better support college writers from racially marginalized and traditionally underserved backgrounds, this dissertation emerged from a five-year ethnographic study of a slam and spoken-word poetry program housed in a DEI office at a large research university. Merging feminist ethnographic methods and sociolinguistic scalar theory, this study develops a methodology for analyzing how institutional influence affects how people engage with writing programs in curricular, co-curricular, and community contexts alike—even in spaces outside of formal institutional structures. The study finds that student writers use slam and spoken-word poetry to bridge the embodied knowledge they carry from their lived experiences with the abstract knowledge they’ve gained through their studies to better navigate the world. By strategically sharing that embodied knowledge, their “radical truth,” the students challenge and influence the core beliefs grounding their communities, making them more inclusive. However, layers of institutional influence, which vary across spaces, affect when and how the students share their knowledge and the extent they are effective. This study has important implications regarding how to identify and reform racist or oppressive institutional structures; how writing program administrators might engage co-curricular writing spaces as part of an antiracist, ecological assessment model; and how to evaluate institutional influence when developing community-based writing programs.


Open Access