Racial Melancholia and Education: A Critical Ethnographic Study of Racism, Trauma, and Resistance in the Aftermath of Tragedy in Minneapolis
Justin Grinage

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Minnesota

Primary Discipline

Curriculum and Instruction
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by four police officers on a public street in Minneapolis. This tragedy has since sent shockwaves throughout the United States, thrusting the realities of anti-Black racism into the national consciousness. Most recently, in April 2021, Daunte Wright was killed by a police officer in a Minneapolis suburb. With the police killings of Philando Castile and Jamar Clark occurring in Minneapolis only a few years prior, those in close proximity to these murders have been intensely affected due to the accumulation of racial violence in their communities. This critical ethnographic study explores the impacts of this racial trauma on education. The project investigates how youth in a multiracial secondary school classroom, located in the Minneapolis area, understand, experience, and resist racial trauma as well as the limits and possibilities for teachers to engender anti-racism and racial healing. Using the concept of racial melancholia as a critical framework for theorizing trauma, I will study the processes of healing and resistance that emerge in the midst of ongoing community suffering and loss. Research has relied too heavily on illustrating the harmful aspects of trauma while the methods youth use to contest this trauma remains underdeveloped. The project seeks to illuminate the role teaching and learning might play in fostering resiliency and agency to counteract racism.
About Justin Grinage
Justin Grinage is an Assistant Professor of Literacy Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Minnesota. With a particular focus on Black education, critical whiteness studies, and critical literacy, his research examines processes of racialization in school and classroom spaces alongside explorations of how curriculum and pedagogy can engender anti-racism. His recent publications have appeared in Harvard Educational Review, English Education, Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, and Curriculum Inquiry. He is a National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color fellow (2018-2020) and is the recipient of the 2020 NCTE English Language Arts Teacher Educators Janet Emig Award. He received his B.A. in English, his M.Ed. in English Education and his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction all from the University of Minnesota. A former English teacher, Justin has taught in multiracial high school classrooms in the Twin Cities area for more than a decade.

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