Date of Award

Winter 1-6-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Esposito

Second Advisor

Dr. Deron Boyles

Third Advisor

Dr. Jodi Kaufmann

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Susan Talburt


The institution of schooling is one of the most formative spaces in which young people learn about gender norms and expectations. Rather than being a biological given, gender identity is achieved through gender practices and gender achievements (Butler, 1990/1999; Nayak & Kehily, 2008). This study was a year-long ethnography during which I observed an all girls’ after-school club. The club included 15 girls who were in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. The majority of the club’s participants were African American girls. This ethnography utilized participant observation and interviews. Club documents were also analyzed during data analysis. My primary research question was: How was girlness conceptualized, perpetuated, and performed in an after-school club for middle school girls? Using critical theory and feminist poststructuralism, I investigated the work that goes into creating and maintaining current binary gender formations, and how this is related to race, class, and sexuality.