Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Gian S. Pagnucci, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Patrick Bizzaro, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater, Ph.D.


This dissertation uses theoretical explorations and participant conversations to consider the constitutive possibilities of ethnographic writing that works between students, faculty, and communities and uses those possibilities to describe the philosophy and key elements of an ethnographic composition pedagogy. The project begins with an exploration of the emergence of contemporary ethnographic theory and practice in ethnography’s fields of origin, and follows with an investigation of ethnography’s roots and versions in composition. This work suggests two ethnographic imaginaries that describe and construct very different ways of formulating ideas, conceiving projects, and of being ethnographers: one is more closely tied to method and the acquisition of knowledge and the other is more rooted in activism and the production of understanding. The project’s individual and group conversations explore the experience, philosophy, and approach of three participating compositionists, all of whom regularly employ ethnography in their research and teaching. These conversations underline experiential and theoretical issues of particular importance to participants’ ethnographic and pedagogical practices, especially feminist theory, cultural studies, activism, and pragmatism. The ethnography that emerges is thus rooted in collaboration, cotheorization, and writing that works between universities and communities. It is created in community rather than deployed to study community. The pedagogy involves complicated understandings of reflexivity and positionality; theories of critique, cultural studies, and activism, which necessarily call attention to power; recognition of the inherently political nature of pedagogical and community work; and commitment to the idea that ethnographic writing should be actual work in the world. The collaborative writing at the core of this pedagogy is constitutive in nature; it works through shared agency, shared commitment, and shared humanity to make and remake the individuals and communities who engage in and with it. Those who align themselves with the theoretical and activist positions I and my participants take here, especially those who are committed to community/university partnerships and to writing that works outside of the academy, might find value in a more intentionally artful, constitutive, collaborative, and activist ethnographic composition pedagogy.