Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


John S. Burdick


appropriated oppression and privilege, consciousness, Ecuador, embodied identity, intersectionality, women's organizations


This dissertation seeks to answer two questions: "How are different aspects of consciousness learned and relearned by members of women's organizations in Ecuador?" and "How do women's critical political and self-aware consciousnesses impact their organizations and their ability to build relationships based on solidarity?" Critical political consciousness is defined as awareness of hegemonic social structures and their relationship to intersectional embodied identities, accompanied by a desire for equality and justice. Critical self-aware consciousness is understood as awareness of: one's own public and subjective identities; agency; how life experiences affect different aspects of the self; and the interconnectedness of individuals, communities, and the Pacha Mama (Kichwa for Mother Nature or Mother Universe).

I combined participant observation, interview, focus group, survey and photovoice methods to research local, regional, and national level organizations in Ecuador between 2010 and 2013. To examine how activists can better concientizar (raise the consciousness of) their members, I draw on sociocultural learning theory to analyze how identity, consciousness and epistemological ignorance are learned, unlearned and relearned. I interrogate how women learn to code their surroundings; attain language and other tools as they become part of communities of practice of girls, women, and organizations, oppressed or privileged communities; and as they learn different types of consciousness. I examine how learning is facilitated by individuals' openness to new perspectives and pedagogies that teach the whole person (including mind, body, emotions and spirit) in connection to her community.

I find that consciousness is contradictory. People think and act from the social location corresponding to their intersectional embodied identities, internalizing hegemonic social forces' teachings at the same time they resist them, often appropriating both oppression and privilege. I explore the contradictions created by this and how they impact individuals and their communities of practice. My research recommends that academics interested in social change attend to ideas such as self-aware consciousness and sumak kawsay wisdom. It suggests that organizations facilitate critical self-aware consciousness in addition to critical political consciousness to further the development of empathy and solidarity between organizational members with different as well as similar intersectional embodied identities.


Open Access