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Re-Assembly Required

Critical Autoethnography and Spiritual Discovery


Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs

Entering the academy as an older woman, the author had not foreseen the challenges that awaited her when she left behind a successful career as a public school Spanish teacher/department head to pursue a Ph.D. She took for granted her position of power and privilege in an educational setting, not at all prepared for the rapid demotion of respect, self-confidence, and salary that she soon faced as an older Ph.D. student/Spanish adjunct faculty member at a research university that would serve as her academic, and later professional, career home for the rest of her working years. In this critical autoethnography, she troubles her journey through the Ph.D. and the tenure process, as well as in her position as a tenured professor. She describes a process that led her into/through the murky waters and mire of academic machinations into the light of spiritual discovery to affirm wholeness and celebration of Self. What sets this book apart is the author’s refreshing willingness to critically interrogate her Self throughout the process.

Re-Assembly Required: Critical Autoethnography and Spiritual Discovery can be used in graduate and undergraduate courses in arts-based research writing, advancements in qualitative inquiry, autoethnography writing, creative non-fiction writing, women’s studies, and critical pedagogy. This book provides a methodological explanation of critical autoethnography and serves as an exemplar for how autoethnography can be combined with critical pedagogy to perform writing that examines the university as institution through the lens of personal narrative. This compelling creative non-fiction narrative is appropriate for both academic and non-academic audiences.

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Chapter 5. Am I Still an Appalachian Coal Miner’s Daughter?


← 64 | 65 →



And Now What?

I spend the winter break following Judith’s advice—to a point. I go with my family to the Candle Tea in Old Salem, North Carolina. Dan and the kids and I put up the Christmas tree, and perform all the other requisite tasks that shape the season in our family. My heart isn’t in any of the activities, but I go through the motions, hoping to fool everyone, including myself.

I return to campus in January, having committed to attending some diversity activities planned by the Office for Multicultural Affairs. For some time, I have been the appointed department representative for all campus activities related to diversity. At first, I thought it would be interesting, and I looked forward to having input on the direction the university would take in establishing an environment of equity and equality for all. As I have attended the weekly or monthly meetings all over campus, I have begun to question what diversity means in the context of this university. For example, I receive information about serving on the Diversity Committee for the college. The information they sent says they engage in discussions of diversity-related issues in the college, the university, and the community. ← 65 | 66 →

I seek Judith’s advice, saying, “I’m interested in working on the committee since I’m so involved in the Spanish-speaking community. I’d like to...

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