It's Different People Who Are Down Here:  Portraits of Three Young Women of Color Who Work in a Science Museum

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Virginia Tech


Eldora, Neethi and Seraphina are three young women who work as science interpreters at a large metropolitan museum. Each woman began her tenure at the age of 15, as part of an employment program for low-income and minority youth, and have since grown to become leaders within the program. Using autoethnography (Ellis, 2004) and portraiture (Lawrence-Lightfoot and Hoffman Davis, 1997), I explore the rich cultures and histories that each woman brings to her work, present stories that counter the dominant deficit narratives around diversity in informal science education, and reflect on connections to my own practice. Through a critical pedagogy framework (McLaren, 2009; Kincheloe, 2008), I analyze power and privilege within the institution, and the roles that race, language, and culture play in the dynamics of the workplace. This includes examination of workplace microaggressions, physical barriers to cross-cultural interaction, and technocratic ideologies that limit advancement and sense of belonging. From facing subtle acts of racism to taking on life-changing opportunities for growth, I examine the complex relationships that the women have with the institution, and explore ways that they are becoming agents of change.



critical pedagogy, informal science, museum studies, critical autoethnography, portraiture