Show Less
Restricted access

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.

«Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs has put the pieces of her professional life together by telling us how the puzzle itself shape-shifted time after time as she re-worked those pieces, always puzzling over why they never seemed to fit together, even after having laboriously designed them to do so. Her life-writing takes us into the anxiety-felt and heart-breaking threshold pits and peaks of career transitions through high-school teaching, doctoral research, and tenure-track academia. Tilley-Lubbs’ life-long habit of journaling spirals into journeying, as her Spanish language and literature background pushes her to open spaces for others (students, parents and professors) to imagine and inhabit the tensions and contradictions of a border-crossing that one minute is problematic and the next self-fulfilling. Her candid yet playful recognition of perennially «running away» seems to be rewardingly resolved when she succumbs to re-enacting a childhood passion for storytelling very much grounded in the hills and mountains of West Virginia.»—Susan Street, CIESAS Occidente, University of Guadalajara, Mexico

«Re-Assembly Required: Critical Autoethnography and Spiritual Discovery» is a beautiful and refreshingly honest look at the author’s journey through higher education from her experiences in graduate school through to life as a tenured professor. Students and academics at any career level will find much to relate to. This book is an exemplar of autoethnographic, creative, and arts-based writing. I applaud Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs for inviting others along her journey.»—Patricia Leavy, Author of «Method Meets Art: Arts-Based Research Practice»; Creator and Editor of the Social Fictions book series

«Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs’ book explores, in mesmerising detail, the lived experience of coming to academia in later life and all the identity twists and turns that this entails. As the graduate school experience is no longer necessarily undertaken straight after an undergraduate degree, this book provides vital insight for all academics supervising mature-age Ph.D. students. Plus, it’s a blindingly good read: beguiling and beautiful, with a fluent, fluid style and so many insights that had me nodding and note-taking (and neglecting everything else so I could keep reading!) Highly recommended!»—Phiona Stanley, UNSW, Australia

«Personal, introspective, and subversive, Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs creates a narrative of someone seeking to integrate all aspects of their life, family, friends, calling, and academy, into a richly meaningful whole. It shows how academic formalism can alienate the living soul from the academic self. Tilley-Lubbs’ writerly style joins being a fine scholar with being a fulfilled, artistically expressive human being.»—Jim Garrison, Virginia Tech

«In this book, Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs opens the doors to the backstage of the academy, in a show of courage that is a distinctive mark in her writing. With great intelligence and sensitivity, the author offers a deep look at a highly complex phenomenon, whose secrets are often silenced. «Re-Assembly Required: Critical Autoethnography and Spiritual Discovery is an outstanding contribution to the critical understanding of the dynamics of the academy. A must-read in every corner of the world.»—Alejandra Martinez, University of Cordoba, Argentina

«Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs presents in «Re-Assembly Required: Critical Autoethnography and Spiritual Discovery» a story of personal transformation using critical autoethnography. With this book it is clear how power relations in the academy, in a university without heart, could be overcome. With passion and shine in her eyes and hard rigorous academic work, Tilley-Lubbs presents a clear example of personal growth, a story for doctoral students and all faculty members who are trying to change these heartless institutions. This book is addressed to all passionate people who want, from a practical and critical point of view and in Freire’s words, to transform the difficulties in possibilities.»—Aitor Gómez González, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona, Spain

«The road to success in academic life is always an arduous one, but to make that move later in life can be Herculean! As if pursuing a Ph.D. weren’t grueling enough, it is followed by six laborious and exhausting years chasing the «Holy Grail» of tenure. Add to that the compelling saga of a researcher attempting to write her research in the ‘out of bounds’ methodology of critical autoethnography, and you have a formula for a great story: Protagonist, antagonists, obstacles, conflict, mentors, helpers, and resolution. In this wonderful book, Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs takes us on her journey from high school Spanish teacher to tenured Associate Professor of ESL and Multicultural Education. And what an engaging, if sometimes painful, journey it is, beautifully rendered here in vivid and evocative autoethnographic prose and poetry. Anyone who has lived—or intends to live—the academic life should read this book!»—Christopher N. Poulos, Professor and Head, Department of Communication Studies, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

«Re-Assembly Required: Critical Autoethnography and Spiritual Discovery» is a gem of a book for those interested in understanding the interface between the personal and political. Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs makes a unique and spirited contribution to our understanding of the complexity and richness of ‘doing’ critical autoethnography. It is a courageous book pursued with rigor and passion throughout. Possibly the single most important dimension of the book is the appeal to affect, that is, the emotional dimensions of knowledge production including trauma, anxiety, doubt, healing, and love. Above all, the book names the injustices of institutional and social arrangements including class, race, and gender and how they constitute power, knowledge, and subjectivity in an increasingly commodified university sector. Tilley-Lubbs shows us how to engage, confront and reconstruct our worlds through a rare combination of intellect, narrative, and moral purpose.»—Barry Down, Murdoch University, Australia

«Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs’ critical autoethnography, «Re-Assembly Required: Critical Autoethnography and Spiritual Discovery», takes us on a journey that is generous and entertaining, heartfelt and wrenching, insightful and profound, and, finally, highly illuminating. It touched me, and her story is the story of so many academics finding themselves in a neoliberal tertiary economy in the early twenty-first century. It is a haunting read, and keeps bubbling up in my mind—which, to me, is a very wonderful thing!»—Robert E. Rinehart, University of Waikato, New Zealand

«This is a painful, powerful, empowering story. Using evocative autoethnography, Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs, a returning, mature student, shows how she survived a doctoral program and then the grueling tenure process at a research one university. This work speaks to all of those doctoral students and their faculty who struggle to find a subversive way to make the academy work for them as critical pedagogues and critical researchers. This is a story we can all learn from.»—Norman K. Denzin, University of Illinois

«In an incredible personal, often painful, frustrating, yet equally hopeful and uplifting journey, Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs invites us into her world as a mature woman struggling to reinvent herself as she begins her doctoral studies at age 52. Using critical autoethnography as methodology situated in a narrative framework, Tilley-Lubbs comes to what she terms as a «critical consciousness about her own power and privilege,» amidst the very real «oppression» she encountered, on a daily basis—attempting to reconcile these seemingly dichotomous realities as she moved through the academy. Like the monumental work by Catherine Bateson in «Composing a Life» (1990) we are reawakened to successful women’s struggles, «rich in professional achievement and personal relationships,» as we, through Tilley-Lubbs’ writing, realize that we can indeed, «reaffirm our own wholeness and celebration of Self.» «Re-Assembly Required: Critical Autoethnography and Spiritual Discovery» is an especially timely piece in a society that increasingly devalues women and age, and is an important addition to theory and practice in education, sociology, anthropology, autoethnography, and narrative inquiry.»—Brett Elizabeth Blake, Professor of TESOL and Literacy, St. John’s University, New York City

«Gresilda A. Tilley-Lubbs has written an autoethnography of her transformation as she earned a Ph.D. as a mature woman, established a successful career with tenure, and finally returned to spiritual and physical health. Through sharing her vulnerable experience, Tilley-Lubbs tells a bold and hopeful story and provides a benchmark for how we might make the neoliberal university work better for all of us. What a superb demonstration of the value of autoethnography and meta-autoethnography as evocative, critical, practical, and spiritual genres.»—Carolyn Ellis, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Communication, University of South Florida