Noticing and naming: Making visible the invisible space and voices of women of colors leading dance within higher education



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ABSTRACT LYN C. WILTSHIRE NOTICING AND NAMING: MAKING VISIBLE THE INVISIBLE SPACE AND VOICES OF WOMEN OF COLORS LEADING DANCE WITHIN HIGHER EDUCATION JULY 2021 This research project examines the experiences of four women of colors in dance leadership in the United States currently, and the problematic patterns of system-wide issues in higher education that affect their lives. To develop that understanding, this study drew upon portraiture methodology to amplify the voices of these women of colors by establishing historical and institutional contexts, by collecting their narrations and experiences, building relationships, searching for emergent themes, and finally composing a narrative as a stimulating whole. The portraits present the experiences as lived to draw attention to stereotypical and discriminatory understandings of women of colors. This study employs the theoretical framework of Black Feminist Thought and Critical Race Theory to guide and enable the many ways to analyze the experiences of marginalized groups, and the importance of the theoretical stance to focus on the different ways of accounting for these experiences. The argument of this study is the culture of leading in dance can be dehumanizing, disempowering, and marginalizing, can cause isolation, silence one’s voice from discourse, and symbolically stigmatize groups.

The purpose of this project is to expand leadership literature, and dance literature to include women of colors and to bring visibility to their contributions to leadership studies. This study illuminated indicators of the profound obstacles women of colors face in leadership roles in higher education in dance in relation to embodied experiences, marginalization, and isolation as foundational to the structural inequalities and racialized policies that perpetuate issues of race, gender, and class. In this dissertation, I pay particular attention to the relationship of the narrators’ body, mind, and consciousness, their perspectives of living in a racialized body, and women of colors as embodied knowledge producers. Few researchers have addressed embodiment and leadership, and the literature has failed to address how thought and the sense of being cannot be removed from bodily habits in relation to social environments. The study suggests the following implications: that studies of leadership should embrace, the body as a site in the construction of identity in cultural and social practices, the corporeal materiality in the performance of gender, and the embodiment of race in the lived experiences of women of colors in dance leadership.



Leadership, Women of colors, Higher education, Predominately white institutions