Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Patrice M. Buzzanell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Cheryl Rodriguez, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Keith Berry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mahuya Pal, Ph.D.


Resilience, Youth, Citizenship, Environment


The contemporary image of sustainable living presents a culturally narrow view of its participants and the manner of engaging in sustainable living paradigms. Through crystallization (Ellingson, 2009) I present a mixed methods approach that emphasizes participant observation, visual, mediated, and discursive analyses, as well as demonstrates the efficacy of Culture Centered Black Feminist Auto/Ethnography. This project seeks to highlight and place within historical context, the ways in which African American girls, who are largely left out of the prevailing image of sustainability, perform and articulate sustainability for themselves, in their homes, and throughout their home communities.

In their everyday lives, African American girls theorize space and citizenship, and connect theory to praxis through their production and consumption patterns. Such praxis posits new ways of seeing and teaching sustainability. It cultivates agility in the way of doing sustainability and encourages its application in new situations and settings. Yet, a language of poverty often marginalizes, stigmatizes, and shrouds their acts of citizenship from view. Providing insight into African American girls’ behaviors, practices, and attitudes toward sustainable living, demonstrates how they can be understood as environmental stewards, and global citizens. Further, the knowledge they produce can be represented in artistic ways and situated so that others might emulate them.

Black Feminist Thought (Hill Collins, 2000) and the Culture-Centered Approach (Dutta & Pal, 2013) come together with my own personal moments, through Culture-Centered Black Feminist Auto/Ethnography, to frame this exploration of the relationships between popular cultural images of sustainable living that center whiteness and wealth, and the everyday practices of Black girls whose production and consumption patterns can be rooted in Southern Black women’s culture (hooks, 1992). In bringing together diverse theoretical, methodological, and pragmatic threads through crystallization (Ellingson, 2009), this dissertation contributes to scholarship at the intersections of materialities, discourses, and autoethnographic insights performed on, with, and through bodies, places, objects, talk, and interaction. Furthermore, this dissertation cultivates an inclusive understanding of sustainable living that contributes to communication generally, environmental communication specifically, and discussions about media and Black girl culture.