THE PHYSICAL CULTURE OF DIVERSITY WORK: A CASE STUDY OF EMBODIED INCLUSION AND EXCLUSION WITHIN THE CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN UNIVERSITY
Cork, Stephanie Joan
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Considering recent incidents of white nationalism and racial violence on college campuses, the efficacy of diversity and inclusion work within this context has garnered increased attention. What received less attention, however, the embodied experiences of university employees, specifically “diversity workers,” who are tasked by their institution to combat equity issues. Previous research has shown that experiences of exclusion and discrimination can negatively impact work, educational, and health outcomes.This study explores how these impacts are experienced by the diversity workers themselves, many of whom inhabit intersectionally marginalized identities. In examining the physicality of the diversity worker, this project merges scholarship from the field of public health and the sociology of work to investigate occupational health and wellness through the lens of critical theory. It builds on a long tradition of studying the working body in the field of kinesiology through the lens of occupational health, and in doing so also fills a gap in the area of Physical Cultural Studies given that bodies at work (outside the sporting context) have received little attention in this subfield.The aims of this study are to explore the social, political, and economic context of the diversity worker in contemporary American post-secondary education, and how this impacts health, wellness, and job performance. This study uses a critical qualitative approach drawing from theories of embodiment, radical contextualism, and intersectionality. Data collection entailed a survey (n = 48) and one-on-one semi-structured interviews with diversity workers (n = 8) at an anonymized site referred to here as “public four-year university.” Using thematic analysis and the radical contextual method of articulation, the data was coded and synthesized to construct the three empirical chapters. Through centering the embodied experiences of diversity workers within the context of the contemporary American university, this study contributes to existing scholarship in a variety of disciplines. Study findings point to how we might better support diversity work and workers through a more supportive and healthier workplace environment.