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TitleLatina Girls Navigating The Intersections Of Their Social, Emotional, And Sexual Lives
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                            University of Pennsylvania
ScholarlyCommons
	1-1-2016
Pensadoras in the New Latino Diaspora: Latina Girls Navigating the Intersections of Their Social, Emotional, and Sexual Lives
	Katherine Clonan-Roy
		Recommended Citation
	Pensadoras in the New Latino Diaspora: Latina Girls Navigating the Intersections of Their Social, Emotional, and Sexual Lives
		Abstract
		Degree Type
		Degree Name
		Graduate Group
		First Advisor
		Keywords
		Subject Categories
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University of Pennsylvania
ScholarlyCommons

Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations

1-1-2016

Pensadoras in the New Latino Diaspora: Latina
Girls Navigating the Intersections of Their Social,
Emotional, and Sexual Lives
Katherine Clonan-Roy
University of Pennsylvania, [email protected]

Follow this and additional works at: http://repository.upenn.edu/edissertations

Part of the Education Commons, and the Women's Studies Commons

This paper is posted at ScholarlyCommons. http://repository.upenn.edu/edissertations/1660
For more information, please contact [email protected]

Recommended Citation
Clonan-Roy, Katherine, "Pensadoras in the New Latino Diaspora: Latina Girls Navigating the Intersections of Their Social, Emotional,
and Sexual Lives" (2016). Publicly Accessible Penn Dissertations. 1660.
http://repository.upenn.edu/edissertations/1660

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Abstract
The social, emotional, and sexual experiences of adolescent girls in the United States are often framed as
superfluous, negative, and distracting from academic activity, rather than as significant learning experiences in
girls’ developmental and academic trajectories. Specifically, the social, emotional, and sexual experiences of
Latina adolescents living in poverty are commonly characterized as causing them to make poor choices, to
drop out of school, or to become teenage mothers or the girlfriends of gang members (Denner & Guzman,
2006). However, most Latina girls’ experiences do not match these characterizations and little research has
been conducted on the relationships between the social, emotional, and sexual experiences of Latina
adolescents and their educational trajectories. Using ethnographic techniques, this research aims to the roles
that Latina girls’ social, emotional, and sexual experiences play in their identity development and experiences
as students in one New Latino Diaspora town called Marshall. This research will enrich feminist, educational,
and developmental psychological scholarship and will provide a deeper understanding of how scholars and
practitioners can provide nurturing developmental spaces for Latina girls to support one another’s academic
and personal trajectories.

Degree Type
Dissertation

Degree Name
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group
Education

First Advisor
Stanton E. Wortham

Keywords
Adolescent development, Emotions and learning, Latina girls, Resistance and Resilience, Sexuality

Subject Categories
Education | Women's Studies

This dissertation is available at ScholarlyCommons: http://repository.upenn.edu/edissertations/1660

http://repository.upenn.edu/edissertations/1660?utm_source=repository.upenn.edu%2Fedissertations%2F1660&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages

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has been telling people about her boyfriend. Matilda clarified that he is actually

18. Renata said that Fernanda got kicked out of Arts Org, a local non-profit that

serves Latino youth, for “flicking off” the leader of the organization.



I stopped the girls and I asked if they felt bad for her. They all exclaimed “no!”

and said that she was a “slut”. Renata said that she is friends with Fernanda, but

that she does not really feel badly for her because she [Fernanda] chooses to act

that way. When I asked if she thought that Fernanda had low self-esteem, she

said “no” and that Fernanda is happy because she is with Javier, her older

boyfriend. Renata said that “Javier made Fernanda cut”. I asked why he would

want Fernanda to cut herself and she said that “it wasn’t like that”, but she did it

for his attention, so that she could say, “if you leave me, I will hurt myself”. At

this point it was time for the girls to run down and catch their bus, and as they

scurried off, I was left wondering about the anger and excitement they projected

as they talked about Fernanda, and more broadly, how emotional reactions fuel

peer group drama.



Since January 2012, I have lead girls’ group sessions in the fall and spring (totaling two

sessions per year) at MMS. During the first meeting of each session, I always ask the girls’ to

brainstorm the different topics they would like to discuss during the semester-long session by

jotting down topics on a sheet of large easel paper. This practice maintains the student-centered

nature of the group and it provides me with insight into the topics that the girls think are most

important in their day to day lives or that they want to process collaboratively. Every time I have

gone through this activity, the girls write down “drama”. Each group meeting is devoted to a topic

that the girls want to discuss and when we meet to discuss “drama”, the girls’ often describe this

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emic concept as including problems with boys, fights with girls, gossiping and rumors, and racial

conflict. Over the past four years of work with these girls, I have observed that the girls talk the

most (and at length) about racial conflict and racial divisions in their peer group, and rumors

about sexual events that Latina girls have participated in. In talking about these topics they

evaluate others, create peer group norms, and maintain or dissolve boundaries between peers.

Although racial conflict and sexual events might seem like very unrelated topics under the

umbrella of “drama”, I will show in this section that racial dynamics and conflict in MMS might

actually exacerbate the spread of gossip and rumors about Latina girls who are (supposedly)

involved in sexual events. In this section, I will tease out the peer group and racial dynamics

which undergird these two forms of drama and I will examine how Latina girls receive and

perpetrate social injuries related to race, gender, and sexuality. Finally, I will analyze the types of

social work that these specific injuries (related to drama) do, the emotional residue that they

produce, and what girls learn about their social world through participating in and emotionally

processing drama. Specifically, I will emphasize that the girls often participate in drama through

gossip and spreading rumors or racialized and sexualized narratives, in an attempt to regulate

their social environment, other social actors, and themselves (although it is not always conscious).



Racial histories and dynamics in MMS

The Marshall School District (MSD) has three middle schools: Stewart, Eisenhower, and

Marshall Middle School. According to one participant, Vania, Stewart had mostly Black and

Latino students, Eisenhower had mostly Black students, and MMS was mostly white when she

was in middle school (2008-2012). MMS has a complex racial history. Before 2007, MMS was

the smallest physical middle school and it catered to the mostly, white students who lived close to

the school, in East Marshall. As the district grew, however, they needed more space for middle

schoolers. The MMS building was renovated and expanded in 2007, and more a more diverse

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