The Philosophical Approach of Sankofa: Perspectives on Historically Marginalized Doctoral Students in the United States and South Africa

Pamela Felder
International Journal of Doctoral Studies  •  Volume 14  •  2019  •  pp. 783-801
Aim/Purpose: This work contributes to the expansion of dialogue on doctoral education research in the United States, South Africa, and within the context of higher education internationalization. There is an emphasis on identifying and reinterpreting the doctoral process where racial and cultural aspects have been marginalized by way of institutional and systemic exclusion. An underlying premise is to support representation of marginalized doctoral student experiences to raise questions about participation and contributions within the dialogue on doctoral education research and practice.

Background: Decades of reporting provide evidence of statistical portraits on degree at-tainment. Yet, some large-scale reporting does not include representation of historically marginalized doctoral students until the 1970s in the United States, and the 2000s for South Africa. With the growth of internationalization in higher education, examination of the impact of marginalization serves to support representation of diversity-focused discussions in the development of regional international education organizations, multilateral networks, and cross-collaborative teaching and research projects.

Methodology: The philosophical approach for this conceptual paper embraces the Sankofa tradition as a process of going back to previous trends in literature on doctoral degree completion to identify opportunities for interrogation and reinterpretation of the doctoral experience. A dimensional framework of diversity and critical race theory, CRT, guides interpretation of racial and cultural perspectives focused on exclusion, structural diversity, and the psychological/behavioral experiences related to doctoral degree completion in the United States and South Africa. A purposeful sampling strategy is used to identify of literature sources where these dimensions are identified.

Contribution: A major contribution of this work is the use of a dimensional diversity framework in doctoral education in both the US and South Africa.

Findings: Interpretation of previous studies reveal critical insight for understanding the racial and cultural aspects of the doctoral process through comparison of perspectives on the historically marginalized doctoral experience in the United States and South Africa. They include consideration of the social developments leading to the current predicament of marginalization for students, awareness of the different reporting strategies of data, implementation of cultural philosophies to broaden the focus on how to understand student experiences, and an understanding of the differences in student-faculty relationships.

Recommendations for Practitioners: Recommendations for practitioners highlight the application of cultural approaches in the development and implementation of practical strategies for supporting historically marginalized doctoral students.

Recommendations for Researchers: Recommendations for researchers consider the application of cultural ap-proaches in the development of scholarship supporting historically marginal-ized doctoral students within a global context.

Impact on Society: Intended outcomes for this work include increasing awareness about historically marginalized doctoral students. Recommendations are focused on improving their academic and career experiences in the United States and South Africa with global implications regarding their contributions.

Future Research: Future research should consider the application of cultural philosophical ap-proaches when examining the historically marginalized doctoral experience within global, national, and local contexts.
doctoral studies, internationalization, racial and cultural diversity
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