Year of Publication

2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Beth Goldstein

Abstract

This dissertation examines factors that explain interactions between undergraduate African and African American students enrolled at one Historically Black University (HBCU). It explores beliefs, cultural and contextual factors that shed light on interactions across the two categories of students. The research 1) identifies factors that explain inter‐group interaction; 2) analyzes identified factors; and 3) examines their impact on overall attitudes, behaviors, interactions, and relations across the two groups. Identity theory and social identity theory are applied to explain interaction patterns. Both theoretical frameworks acknowledge the importance of the individual’s goals and purposes and apply conceptions of the self in exploring identity formation. While identity theory focuses on social structural arrangements and the link between persons, social identity theory focuses on characteristics of situations in which the identity may be activated. These theories show how interpersonal and intergroup interactions merge into identities, generate and change social limitations, and build social relationships.

Data were collected using surveys and through in‐depth individual and focusgroup interviews. Thirty‐one (31) participants were interviewed individually, and three focus‐group interviews were conducted with 14, 16 and 17 participants respectively. Two more large‐group sessions of 33 and 51 participants also contributed information for the study. Participants were observed in their university setting. Web documents and course syllabi were analyzed for applicable information.

The study finds that cultural differences, perceptions and misconceptions about the out‐group, and lack of balanced knowledge about the out‐group, contribute to minimal inter‐group interaction. In addition, increased intercultural knowledge and exposure lead to enhanced inter‐group identification and interaction, and ultimately functioned to minimize misconceptions and advance inter‐group understanding. Understanding cultural and other differences between Africans and African Americans as an integral part of inter‐group relationships enables people to be more accepting and accommodating of difference and of one another. Also, engaging members of both groups in discussions about inter‐group interactions raised awareness and developed in them a critical stance toward their own responsiveness to others they may consider different.

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