Dissertation Defense Announcement

The College of Education announces the Final Dissertation Defense of

Katherine Brown

for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

June 22, 2018 at 12:00 PM in Ball Hall, Room 103

Advisor: Susan Nordstrom

A Performative Autoethnography on the Irruption of a Healing Assemblage

ABSTRACT: In this ecofeminist poststructural performative autoethnography, I explored my personal journey through prolonged grief, conceptualized as a grief assemblage, while critically examining the functionality of preexisting thought and practices on loss and self-care. The research questions that guided this dissertation are: (1) Who and what constitutes a grief assemblage? (2) How does a grief assemblage—a fluid entity of nonhumans and humans that somehow functions together—produce me as a woman, a graduate student, and a counselor? (3) How can a reconceptualization of grief as assemblage expand thinking and practices on loss, grief, and self-care? (4) How can an applicable, customizable tool arise from this work that can further the aim of helping others heal from grief and engage in self-care practices in therapeutic settings? I worked with ecofeminist poststructural theory and performative autoethnographic methodology to interrogate the confines of traditional research. As I assembled artifacts related to my experiences of grief, loss, and self-care, the assemblage vibrated with constant fluctuations at work among a myriad of forces, thereby necessitating that I think and work with data differently. Transgressive data irrupted as concrete artifacts, dreams, hauntings, memories, emotions, and performative knowledge through living the assemblage with my body. I employed writing as a method of inquiry and analysis to assemble a rhizomatic narrative in which I showed the many identity performances I enact as a person who is simultaneously grieving and healing as I assembled, dismantled, and re-assembled the data that culminated in the alternating pages of photographs and text. To further the aim of social justice, I created a healing-gram, which is a practical therapeutic tool mental health professionals can use with their clients. The healing-gram itself is an assemblage of artifacts with which grieving individuals work actively and creatively. The healing-gram includes a protocol that serves as a standardized guide for therapists, yet which also honors the unique experiences and identity locations of diverse populations. I created this tool to bridge the gap between counseling-specific theories and practices about loss, grief, and healing, and poststructural thought.