Preserving Race And Class: A Critical Ethnography Of Urban Art Museum Docents, Backstage And Frontstage Performances

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Advanced Studies, Leadership, and Policy


Doctor of Education

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This critical ethnography examined the culture of art museum docents interacting with K-12 students on museum tours. The research was framed using the three concepts of racial performance, theory of the leisure class, and speech acts. The literature at the foundation of the research was divided into two categories: safe and unsafe literature. This division of literature reserved space on the unsafe shelf for this ethnography to reside alongside literature explicitly exploring issues of race, class and power. The findings exposed how white privilege and leisure class membership manifested in docents' interactions with students. The time spent with museum docents highlighted the various dynamics of frontstage and backstage performances, and uncovered multiple, hidden meanings embedded in the speech acts of docents.