Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Shaping Lives–the Everyday Hero as Transformative Agent: An Approach to Pedagogical Inclusiveness
by Gadsden, Cynthia, Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2020, 170; 27964816
Abstract (Summary)

The hero concept is tightly woven into the fabric of the United States and traditional Western cultural identity (Graebner, 2013; Kaulingfreks et al., 2009). This hero is more icon than human, more mythical than mortal. Ordinary individuals sometimes have little connection to, or interest in, these iconic characters. The heroes they choose may bear little resemblance to the oversized projections that are splashed across social media, television, film, news shows, and print media. This is particularly true within community-focused cultures, (e.g., African American and Indigenous cultures) where ordinary individuals often choose everyday people as their heroes. These Everyday heroes may be family members, coaches, teachers, or others with whom they have a personal connection. The question guiding this inquiry then was: How does a personal exploration by college students (youth aged 18 to 30) of a self chosen Everyday hero shape their lives? In particular, how does the archetype of the Everyday hero serve as a means to transfer cultural or generational knowledge?

Social constructionists believe that an individual’s perspective of the world is based on their relationships with others, and the experiences resulting from those relationships. This research study used naturalistic inquiry, with an arts-based component, to explore the role of the Everyday hero, and the transformative aspects of this relationship in people’s lives. Additionally, the study allowed participants to access deeply rooted and tacit knowledge not easily attained through traditional research instruments, (e.g., questionnaires and surveys).

The Everyday hero has not been well researched. Also, knowledge concerning people’s experiences and interactions with Everyday heroes has received limited attention. The data gathered from this study provides valuable insight regarding the ordinary hero, and expands the existing knowledge concerning the hero archetype. The Everyday hero, for example, cares for others, takes responsibility, faces adversity, offers selfless sacrifice, and is determined and encouraging. Additionally, the artwork created by study participants illustrates how art can be a catalyst for deep inquiry that explores individuals’ experiences with, connections to, and interactions with an Everyday hero. Thus, this study offers a new understanding of a significant relationship where cultural and generational knowledge is transferred.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Deslauriers, Daniel
Commitee: Gozawa, Joanne, Hamilton Abegunde, Maria E.
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Transformative Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI 81/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Sociology, African American Studies, Cultural anthropology
Keywords: Art-based research, Transfer of knowledge, Everyday hero, Hero archetype, Naturalistic inquiry, Ways of knowing
Publication Number: 27964816
ISBN: 9798645447427
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