Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Higher Education

First Advisor's Name

Benjamin Baez

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Ethan Kolek

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

James Burns

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Ana Luszczynska

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Armond Towns

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Race, Gender, Philosophical Inquiry, Black Men, College

Date of Defense



While much has been written about the participation of Black Men in higher education, such scholarship has often been predicated on empirically derived insights that have privileged phenomenological experiences as a primary point of departure for analysis. While this literature has done much to illuminate how higher education scholars and practitioners understand what Black men pursuing higher education experience, I use this study as an opportunity to think differently about this demographic and those experiences.

With the aim of not only providing nuanced understanding of Black men in college, but also a general methodological shift in how they are studied as raced and gendered beings, I utilized philosophical inquiry as my mode of analysis. More specifically, I analyzed how cultural texts derived from popular culture, such as Dear White People, linked with scholarly higher education literature to arrive at conclusions about the college milieu. It is important to acknowledge that the gateway that allowed me both to produce and explore my research topic further was the rhetorical/literary device of the trope. Elaborating further, the trope is generally understood as the commonplace

heuristics that serve as readily recognizable scripts for identifying concepts, texts, and even raced and gendered bodies. Concerning the demographic of study, the trope not only served as a vehicle of analysis, but it more importantly framed how I understood representations, both artistic and scholarly, of Black masculine being and subjectivity.

In reading theory alongside my tropic analysis, I engaged the methodological praxis of diffractive analysis. Through performing these diffractive readings, new insights around tropic realities of being emerged. Consequently, I offer alternative understandings of such tropic performances as “Black Excellence,” “The Magical Negro,” and “The Black Community” to pose additional questions about how Black Men in college purportedly align with these ready-made frames, but how they also often complicate or potentially contest these archetypes altogether.

Thus, I understand texts like Dear White People as not only depicting college-life from the perspective of multiple characters identifying as Black men—and reciprocally identifiable as such—but as also being generally rife with examples of tropes pertaining to Black Men attending college. This is of significance because of how the ubiquity of these archetypes aid in understanding material realities. This philosophical inquiry thus went beyond the widely accepted readings of text and produced analyses that looked at alternative readings of Black masculine embodiment and subjectivity. Ultimately this study suggests the importance of drawing conclusions and parallels between popular artistic endeavors and the overlapping real-world happenings that work to order socio-political identities and realities.






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