The Demon of Hope: An Arts-based Infused Meditation on Race, Disability, and the Researcher’s Complicity with Injustice

Keywords: arts-based research, special education, disability studies, race, research ethics, whiteness


My ethical stance demands that my research mutually benefit all research participants and that it should serve to reverse systemic policies of anti-blackness that permeate the educational system in the United States. Through publications and similar academic activities, however, my research advances my own career, but it is doubtful that it significantly advances the trajectories of the students with whom I work. Indeed, it could be argued that this imbalance in benefits advances the very system of white dominance that I claim to contest. In this arts-based, auto-ethnographic study, I document how, through the creation of pastel drawings and digital collage making, I seek to make sense of my compromised role as a white researcher in communities of color. I focus on my recent research with an 18-year-old African-American woman who was diagnosed with ADHD in the 5th grade.

Author Biography

Gene L Fellner, City University of New York, College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center

I received my PhD in Urban Education in 2012 after having spent the previous 40 years as an artist and political activist. I was a staff member of the Attica Brothers Legal Defense in the ‘70s and went to Nicaragua as a brigadista in 1985 where I painted murals with Sandinista artists. For the past 12 years, I have worked in Newark, NJ, in its most underserved schools, with students and teachers. I am an Assistant Professor of Education at the City University of New York.


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