Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-13-2016

Abstract

The purpose of the phenomenological, qualitative study was to explore how select Black women experience the four ultimate concerns of existence, including freedom, isolation, meaninglessness, and death. Existential psychology, from which the four existential givens emerge, is deeply grounded in existential philosophy, which rarely connects key principles and tenets of existentialism to the experiences of Black women. The existential givens have been posited as a universal framework and yet because Black women are faced with multiple forms of marginalization the current study operates from the assumption that universal experiences are filtered through patently Black experiences. To explore how the existential givens might pertain to Black women’s experiences, the author used a type of qualitative design approach called portraiture to interview, analyze, and report the experiences of seven Black women. Generally speaking, results from the study illustrated that each of the existential givens are pertinent to the lives of Black women, and yet the manner in which they are experienced and expressed are nuanced based on racial assignment and related prejudice. For example, the existential given of freedom for Black women was mitigated by experiences of racial and gender marginalization. For the existential given of isolation, the Black women interviewed reported that their race and gender preordained distance from other ethnic groups, but also social class divide resulted in feelings of isolation within the larger Black community. On the other hand, certain respondents suggested that friendships with other Black women can reduce feelings of isolation. The third existential given of meaninglessness elicited participants’ conflicting feelings of subjugation within white hegemonic mores as contrasting to their need to express strength and resiliency as Black women. Finally, the existential given of death was discussed in a very distinct manner from more universalist conceptions of existential philosophy, especially given Black women’s awareness of possible death due to physical violence motivated by racism. Drawing from these results, suggestions for human service practice and teacher education are offered, especially the requirement to establish authentic and socially aware relationships with Black female clients.

The purpose of the phenomenological, qualitative study was to explore how select Black women experience the four ultimate concerns of existence, including freedom, isolation, meaninglessness, and death. Existential psychology, from which the four existential givens emerge, is deeply grounded in existential philosophy, which rarely connects key principles and tenets of existentialism to the experiences of Black women. The existential givens have been posited as a universal framework and yet because Black women are faced with multiple forms of marginalization the current study operates from the assumption that universal experiences are filtered through patently Black experiences. To explore how the existential givens might pertain to Black women’s experiences, the author used a type of qualitative design approach called portraiture to interview, analyze, and report the experiences of seven Black women. Generally speaking, results from the study illustrated that each of the existential givens are pertinent to the lives of Black women, and yet the manner in which they are experienced and expressed are nuanced based on racial assignment and related prejudice. For example, the existential given of freedom for Black women was mitigated by experiences of racial and gender marginalization. For the existential given of isolation, the Black women interviewed reported that their race and gender preordained distance from other ethnic groups, but also social class divide resulted in feelings of isolation within the larger Black community. On the other hand, certain respondents suggested that friendships with other Black women can reduce feelings of isolation. The third existential given of meaninglessness elicited participants’ conflicting feelings of subjugation within white hegemonic mores as contrasting to their need to express strength and resiliency as Black women. Finally, the existential given of death was discussed in a very distinct manner from more universalist conceptions of existential philosophy, especially given Black women’s awareness of possible death due to physical violence motivated by racism. Drawing from these results, suggestions for human service practice and teacher education are offered, especially the requirement to establish authentic and socially aware relationships with Black female clients.

Keywords

Black women, existentialism, meaning in life, existential givens, racism

Document Type

Dissertation

Language

English

Degree Name

Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies

Level of Degree

Doctoral

Department Name

Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Ruth Galvan Trinidad

Second Committee Member

Ricky Lee Allen

Third Committee Member

Myra Washington

Fourth Committee Member

Linwood Vereen

Available for download on Sunday, July 31, 2022

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