Anne Waliaula

2014-15 Research Report

A picture taken during my research in Kenya in 2010. The map of Africa was used to teach about the inland trading routes that included slave trade.

My current research is two-fold. The first part of my research is a book project, a case study that analyzes how high school teachers in Kenya and in the United States teach about controversial issues, including how teachers’ epistemologies and how their perceptions and interpretation of hot-button issues in the society and globally impact their teaching. I argue that the teaching of controversial issues— race and racism, ethnicity, health, drugs, female genital cutting, gay rights, gender and sexuality, abortion and HIV/AIDS—is a powerful tool in developing active democratic citizens of the future, in promoting understanding of people in local and global communities, and in contributing to social justice efforts. I utilize qualitative research methods and a decolonizing research framework that provides an avenue for understanding teachers’ epistemologies given the two different research contexts and historical backgrounds. My analysis of in-depth data from interviews, classroom observations, and document analysis reveal that some teachers avoid teaching controversial issues especially those that are highly sensitive. There is a need for teacher education programs that focus on training teachers in best practices for teaching controversial issues.  I thus discuss not only best research practices in conducting transnational research within historically, culturally and politically diverse research contexts but also best practices in teaching controversial issues.

My second project explores epistemologies of Black women in transnational spaces and how their ways of knowing influence their everyday practices, their experiences of being Black women, and discourses that speak to their shared experience. I analyze literary works of these women globally through textual analysis and interviews. I argue for the need to reclaim our mothers’ wisdom and knowledge that has been relegated to the margins by mainstream discourses. In the process of remembering my own personal experiences, I reflect on the centrality of mothers’ wisdom and of indigenous African knowledges, as well as how indigenous knowledge informs and transforms one’s worldview and offers hope and possibilities for theorizing Black feminisms in transnational spaces. I utilize personal narratives to reflect on and make sense of the struggles and tensions emerging from colonial and postcolonial experiences for African ascendent women.