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Critical race ethnography of higher education: Racial risk and counter-storytelling

Teresa Ramos

Keywords: CRITICAL RACE ETHNOGRAPHY; HIGHER EDUCATION; RACIAL RISK; REFORM

The Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) joins a long history of critique, challenge and transformation of higher education. EUI courses are an important site for the creation of non-traditional narratives in which students challenge 'business-as-usual' in higher education. For under-represented students, this includes inquiry and analysis of the racial status quo at the University. In this article, I provide a student's perspective on EUI through my own experiences with EUI research as both an undergraduate and later graduate student investigating race and racism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I). Using ethnographic methods and drawing on critical race theory, I provide two examples of EUI research that critiqued the University's management of race. The first example is a collaborative ethnography of the Brown versus Board of Education Commemoration at U of I – a project that I joined as an undergraduate (Abelmann et al. 2007); and the second is my own dissertation on 'racial risk management', a project that emerged from my encounter with EUI. I discuss both projects as examples of Critical Race Ethnography, namely works based on empirical research that challenge institutions' racial composition, structure and climate.

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