Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Education

Document Type



Space and place are an integral part in the geographies of education, therefore, knowledge about culturally complex and ethnically diverse transnational communities could inform curricular innovations that meet the needs of individual students. This year-long ethnographic study challenged the prevailing realities that U.S. schools continue to devalue the experiences and cultural backgrounds of immigrant youth, which caused students from ethnic, cultural, racial, linguistic, and religious minority groups to feel structurally excluded and marginalized. Through examining the spatial production and nomadic subjectivities enacted over time in a transnational, diasporic space of a Buddhist temple in a U.S. southern state, the study provided a detailed and multidimensional account of community life as well as the dynamic process of shaping and being shaped by what happened there. Within the theoretical framework of spatial theories and nomadic thoughts, as well as the methodology of place-sensitive and interactional ethnographic practices, the study sought insights into the community through the lives of ten informants, with data collected from fieldnotes, audio recordings, interviews, participants’ self-reported surveys, and artifacts.

Findings showed the various values fostered in the temple as an out-of-school learning space. First, the temple presented a wealth of cultural knowledge resources available in the community. Second, the temple strengthened its community’s collective memory, sense of belonging, and democratic values through daily place-making practices. Third, the multiple subjectivities and relationships created on the temple’s grounds transposed differences in terms of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, class, and political systems and recognized experiences of different mobilities moving through the temple’s space. Lastly, the spatialized learnings from the Buddhist space of the temple challenged the isolation of schooling and educational discourses and practices from the living and breathing world of the community.

The study concluded with implications for democratic education and curriculum theory, specifically through re-imagining the possibilities for nomadic pedagogy, place-conscious pedagogy and a pedagogy of the Sangha. Within these discussions, it continued to reiterate the values of community in constructing people’s subjectivities and conditioning meaningful learning experiences.



Committee Chair

Skinner, Kim