“At-Risk” Students and Urban Schools
When studying urban schools, my angle is less on how students fail in schools but how schools fail students and teachers. In that way, like scholars working at the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk (CRESPAR) at Johns Hopkins University, I prefer the designation of “students placed at risk” to that of “at-risk” students. Using ethnographic methods, participatory action research approaches, and, most recently, critical discourse analysis techniques, I document and analyze risk-inducing situations from the perspectives of students and teachers who experience these situations. From my dissertation and my first book to my co-authored article published in the Spring of 2014 and my current book project, Gone with the Neo-Liberal Wind: Minority Teens, School Reform, and Urban Misrepresentations in Sweden and the U.S., the precarious circumstances of urban youths, urban schools, and low-income urban communities remain unifying threads running through the vast majority of my research projects and publications.
Comedy & Racism
My newest area of inquiry combines my specializations in Race and Ethnicity with my interest in innovative pedagogy. A small grant proposal was submitted in February of 2018 and resubmitted in November of 2018 to the Spencer Foundation to seek funding for a pilot research project on the social justice and pedagogical usages of comedy and satire. During the spring of 2018, with IRB approval I began a pilot project on the use of comedic materials in college instructional settings. I am examining whether comedic materials can be used as springboards for productive conversations—discussions and dialogues that raise critical consciousness about topics related to racial and ethnic inequities—about sensitive topics. In addition to these pilot projects. I am working with colleagues in Sweden and England on a proposal for a multi-national project designed to examine how comedy and satire have been used both as instruments of dehumanization and as tools for resisting dehumanization. The plan is to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation and European Union funding opportunities.
Marginalized Students and Western Nations
As indicated by my book manuscript, my interests have grown to encompass internationally comparative scholarship on the challenges faced by Western nations to create and sustain successful schooling and community environments for non-mainstream students who are ethnic/racial minorities and/or immigrant students and who come from low economic backgrounds. Though I publish journal articles, my pace reflects the slow but sure marathon of a book writer engaged in cross-national, qualitative work with vulnerable populations instead of the faster pace of a journal article writer working with quantitative data sets. A recent study, including the U.S., Sweden, The Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, and France, compared native students with students from low-status immigrant backgrounds and found “that these systems are failing to bring immigrant-origin students to parity” with their native-born peers (Alba, Sloan, & Sperling, 2011). This and similar studies present problems existing across national educational contexts. These problems include labor market inequities, immigrant parents’ lack of mainstream cultural capital, tracking within schools, residential segregation, and variations in school quality for affluent versus low-income students (Alba et al., 2011; Heath & Cheung, 2007; Heath & Rothon, 2008). My research is a part of a broader attempt by scholars to reveal the social processes, especially those processes related to schooling, which affect urban communities located in the marginal spaces of Western nations.
Over the last two years, I have been working with students (undergraduates, graduates, and one high school student) on Indigenous resistance and Standing Rock, religious minorities in Lincoln from the Middle East, the IRB challenges encountered by researchers who work with vulnerable groups, newspaper misrepresentations of so-called “ghetto” students in Sweden and the U.S., mini-pilot research on comedy and racism, and elite school officials’ blind spots regarding educational inequality. I am currently seeking undergraduate students to continue my mini-pilot research on comedy and racism. If I receive funding from the Spencer Foundation, I will be seeking graduate students to assist with a 3-campus pilot project on comedy and racism.
My most recent courses include The Minority Experience (Ethnic Studies 100), Social Inequality: Race, Class, and Gender (Sociology 398 Special Topics), and Immigration and Multiculturalism (Sociology 398 Special Topics). Immigration and Multiculturalism is a Global Virtual Classroom course that includes once-a-week discussions with students from the University of Jordan in Amman.
“Ideal Dialogues with Immigrants of Color in Sweden and the U.S.: A Participatory-Ethnographic Approach.” Forthcoming. Journal of Ethnography and Qualitative Research (L. J. Dance and L. Johnson, co-authors).
“Black Lives Matter!: Dreaming for America to Practice What Jefferson Preached,” Racism Review, an Academic Blog by Professors Joe R. Feagin and Jessie Daniels, February 15, 2017. (L.J. Dance).
“Propaganda on Palestine: All Knowing White Man and Angry Black Woman conjure ‘good’ Jews and ‘evil’ Arabs,” Mondoweiss (a progressive on-line journal by Jewish American journalists on Israel/Palestine), August 11, 2014. (L.J. Dance and C. Holm, co-authors).
“Performativity Pressures at Urban High Schools in Sweden and the U.S.,” Ethnography and Education, Volume 9, Issue 3, April 2014 (J. Lunneblad and L. J. Dance, equally contributing co-authors; LJ Dance main copy editor)
“Preparing Children of Immigrants: Promising Schools in New York and Sweden,” in The Children of Immigrants in Schools: A Comparative Look at Integration in the U.S. and Western Europe, edited by Richard Alba and Jennifer Holdaway. (2013) New York University Press (Carola Suárez-Orozco, Margary Martin, Mikael Alexandersson, L. J. Dance, & J. Lunneblad)
Recent Grant Activity
2018. Internal Grant: Inclusive Excellence Development Grants, University of Nebraska’s Office of Diversity, Access and Inclusion. ($3000).
2015. Internal Grant: College of Arts and Sciences International Travel for Scholarly Presentations, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. ($1500).
2013. Vetenskapsrådet /The Swedish Research Council, Co-PI, The Middle East in the Contemporary World (MECW) Strategic Research Area Grant, Lund University, Lead PI-Leif Stenberg, award amount = approximately 2,000,000 USD per year for five years)
Nurturing diversity, inclusion, and equity practices is an ever evolving work-in-progress. However, most recently at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, I have nurtured diversity, inclusion, and equity practices via (1) workshops, (2) a new initiative called Bridges Across Diversity, (3) a new course developed using the Game of Thrones, and, (4) an Inclusive Excellence Grant Awarded for a project titled “The Husker DNA Journey.”
I will not elaborate my activist work here but I will provide a few examples of why others have called me a Public Intellectual. Over the last several years I have worked with persons in prisons, low-income youths of color from NGOs and recreation centers, persons and organizations from several different marginalized groups (for example Black Americans, American Indians, Palestinians), persons in Sweden and the U.S. from refugee backgrounds, and so on. Many persons from these groups have had little to no interest in attending academic lectures, reading academic books and journal articles, or attending academic conferences. I have, therefore, been working on more accessible formats for spreading sociological knowledge. The poetic expression of Spoken Word is central to these more accessible formats of knowledge dissemination.
During the Summer of 2013, after the civil unrest that occurred in Stockholm Sweden in May of 2013, I was invited to several discussions by non-academic organizations in Sweden. Instead of a typical lecture, I gave a spoken word lecture comparing Black American civil protests to those in Sweden. Inspired by Motown artists of the 1960s, the title of that spoken word lecture is “RESPECT In The Name of Love.SE.”