Walking with Strangers: Critical Ethnography and Educational Promise

In this episode, I speak with Dr. Barbara Dennis of Indiana University on her new ethnography, Walking with Strangers: Critical Ethnography and Educational Promise, published in 2020 by Peter Lang Press.

Walking with Strangers features the IU-Unityville Outreach Project and tells the story of a 4-year-long participatory, critical ethnography in a local United States school district. The book speaks into the contemporary conversations around immigration, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and the experiences of Dreamers. The project involved a multilingual team of graduate students, educators, community members, and students who together aimed to transform school practices in order to bring about more success with transnational students who were enrolling in the district at an increasing rate. Over the span of several years, what began with a simple request for help, morphed into a rich ethnographic understanding of the complex tensions produced by monocultural and assimilationist ideals when juxtaposed with strangers. A unique and innovative feature about the book lies in that it seamlessly weaves together substantive discussions, methodological practices, and ethical challenges revolving around a transformative, social justice project.