University of Illinois at Chicago

Towards Liberating Methods: Ethnodance as an Embodied Narrative of Black Students’ Science Identity

Download (3.54 MB)
posted on 2021-08-01, 00:00 authored by Mindy J Chappell
The study explored how an arts-based practice, namely ethnodance, informs the study of science identity. I theorized about ethnodance and, with five Black high school students, I studied how ethnodance, as a methodological tool, offers Black youth with dance identities a medium to narrate evolving science identities, communicating meanings, interactions, and emotions, and to further construct their identities as reified artifacts of their engagement in science spaces–classrooms where scientific practices and science discourse take place. The theoretical argument frames ethnodance as an embodied narrative of experience, identity construction as an ongoing process with interactional and affective commitments, and Black dance as a venue of Black bodies’ expressivity of the brilliance, competence, and creativity of Black people. Black students, for whom a meaningful part of social life includes movement and dance, choreographed dance performances that became embodied representations of their narrated experiences in science and their science identity construction. As an identity construction tool, the young people used ethnodance to construct who they were and were becoming vis-à-vis science, extending and expanding their narratives, and transduced emotions within their science experiences and those associated with their agentic choices, resistance, and advocacy. Their ethnodances conveyed how changes to the science course sequence, physics discourse, and expectations from trusted adults limited or hindered their participation in science, and how their agency, in relation to the structures they encountered, constructed, de-constructed, or re-constructed their competence in science. The students’ semiotic choices communicated the experienced (dis)connection between self and science–ballet, lyrical, and contemporary dances represented experiences challenging their position within science, and Black dance, majorette, and hip hop, experiences affirming their place or creating a bridge. Majorette offered students a sense of cultural solidarity, symbolic of their collective and individual overcoming of obstacles faced, frustration and alienation in science, and joy of rising above the struggle. The study suggests that young people need to be reflecting on the identity authoring in the process of experiencing science and science education by developing modal ensembles that express and interrogate this authoring.



Varelas, Maria


Varelas, Maria


Curriculum and Instruction

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

PhD, Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Member

Mitchener, Carole P Morales-Doyle, Daniel Thomas, Michael K Mawhinney, Lynnette

Submitted date

August 2021

Thesis type



  • en

Usage metrics


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager