Theses Doctoral

Man Made: The (Re)Construction of Black Male Identity in Single-Sex Schooling

Nagarajan, Pavithra

My dissertation examines how a single-sex school for boys of color in New York City (re)defines masculinity through organizational policies, practices, and messaging. I further study how black boys, sixth graders in particular, participate in and make sense of the school’s concept of masculinity. Lastly, I explore how boys’ define and understand masculinity and conceive of their identity and agency. I framed this dissertation within an expanded version of W.H. Sewell’s (1979) framework of structure and agency, amending the framework to include concepts of negotiation and identity. My study employs an interpretive, multi-modal qualitative design and integrates the following modes of inquiry: ethnography, in-depth interviews with teachers and students, and photo elicitation narratives with students.

My findings provide pedagogical and policy suggestions for enacting a model of single-sex schooling for black boys. I find that (the enactment of) school structures and boys’ understandings of school practices are conditioned by outside perceptions of black boys. I also find that although school, cultural, and disciplinary practices may be well intentioned, these practices may inadvertently reproduce the very structures that they attempt to circumvent by unintentionally reinforcing entrenched stereotypes about black boys. I further find that boys’ understandings of masculinity are not fully reflected in school practices, nor are they legible expressions of masculinity to school staff. The contributions of this dissertation enrich the conversation with prior theory about how organizational or school practices can affect change with students, what helps black boys learn best, and how black boys can possess masculinity that is as varied as it is complex. Lastly, my work extends and elaborates upon current theoretical understandings of the development of adolescent masculinity

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociology and Education
Thesis Advisors
Riehl, Carolyn J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 1, 2019