American University
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Hakawatis and Their Graphic Herstories: Co-Liberatory Futuring with SWANA Students in Nashville, Tennessee

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posted on 2024-05-15, 23:11 authored by Sarah Sheya

Across the United States (US), Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA)/Middle East and North African (MENA) youth are pressured to repress their cultural identities as a result of internalized oppressions and assimilation into perceived notions of Whiteness and Americanness. SWANA students are underrepresented in curriculum and school environments, confront discriminatory culture shaming and anti-Arab racism, and actively participate in the erasure of their cultures and identities, all of which has negative impacts on their educational experiences and relationships to schooling in the United States. This paper presents findings from a study conducted in Nashville, Tennessee, implementing a groundbreaking methodological approach combining drawn survivance stories as analysis, interventive and participatory co-creation within a diasporic counterspace, and antiracist, anticolonial methodologies inspired by endarkened narrative inquiry. The study is grounded in frameworks of critical visual pedagogy, transformative learning, abolitionist teaching, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and radical imagination. The researcher invited four 19-year-old American-Egyptian university students identifying as women to engage in a co-liberatory futuring and visual storytelling process that positioned them as the protagonists of their stories and explored the power of visual representations to emancipate narrow constructions of identity and culture. The resulting drawn graphic herstories surfaced themes ranging from racism, Anti-Arabism, survivor’s guilt, and imposter syndrome to resistance, resilience, and liberation. The study affirmed the need for more SWANA researchers and educators and for SWANA voices to be represented in curricula and content and revealed possibilities for researchers to integrate creative and anticolonial methods that honor participants’ whole beings. Hakawatis and Their Graphic Herstories resulted in drawn survivance stories that have the potential to be published as a curricular tool representative of SWANA youth voices, while the process of the study has the potential to be published as a pedagogical and research model for educators and researchers interested in co-liberatory futuring with marginalized youth.






Committee chair

Annice Fisher

Committee member(s)

Allison Kimble-Cusano; Lydia Yousief

Degree discipline

Education Policy and Leadership

Degree grantor

American University. School of Education

Degree level

  • Doctoral

Degree name

Ed.D. in Education Policy and Leadership, American University, May 2024

Local identifier


Media type



195 pages

Submission ID