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Ordinary Theologies

Religio-spirituality and the Leadership of Black Female Principals


Arnold Noelle Witherspoon

Through narrative analysis, Ordinary Theologies highlights the intersectionality of gender, race, and religio-spirituality. It examines the relationship of past and current religio-spiritual leadership understandings that contest the status quo in U.S. schools. The historicity and analysis of gender and race contributes to reconceptualizing educational and leadership by emphasizing the voices of Black female leaders, voices that provide alternative understandings of schooling, stressing the importance of gendered and raced voices in administration, and questioning formulaic models of leadership and the research that reifies them.
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Chapter 1 Contextual Constructs


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Chapter 1

Contextual Constructs

Inquiry, discovery, and theoretical interpretations exist simultaneously in the entire process of the research project.

(Mitchell & Cody, 1993, p. 170)

Ain’t I a Womanist?

In the summer of 2006, I was enrolled in a class that dealt with church and state issues and schooling. During this class, the professor had us locate ourselves in one religious narrative according to certain characteristics of those narratives. Almost all of us in the class could not pick just one and concluded that we were some funky hybrid of two or more. I mention this because it was a pivotal time in which I was forced to confront what my religious spirituality, gender, class, and race meant for me as an educator and as a human being in general. I realized that I had been treating certain aspects of myself in certain contexts as things to be protected from, when in actuality they served as lenses through which I viewed the whole of my life. My personal and professional life had seemed to make demands of these identities (or vice versa), yet up to this point, the academy had not seemed to do so. Others seemed to locate themselves somewhere (Marxist, feminist poststructuralist, pragmatist, etc.), and I couldn’t find theoretical space that made total sense to me. Sure, the Marxists and feminists and poststructuralists around me would agree that they too were “funky hybrids,” yet they...

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