Abbott Elementary, a mockumentary comedy series airing on ABC, examines the plight of an underfunded, underresourced elementary school in Philadelphia. In this article, we argue that Abbott Elementary is a compelling look inside an, albeit fictional, urban school located in the city of Philadelphia. The mockumentary form of the series positions the viewer as ethnographer so that we, in essence, engage in data collection as we listen to documentary-style interviews with participants. Using intersectional analysis, we ponder two questions: How does Abbott Elementary expand or constrain our thinking through systems of domination around the politics of schooling? How might Abbott Elementary further inform our understandings of damage-centered and desire-based research?
“It’s a Calling. You Answered.”: Abbott Elementary and Viewing Audience as Ethnographer of Education
Casey Philip Wong, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Social Foundations of Education in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at Georgia State University. Dr. Wong aims to advance justice by interrogating systems of coloniality, carcerality, and oppression in education through critical feminist, anti-colonial, and abolitionist frameworks. He investigates and develops culturally sustaining and strength-based pedagogies to teach and learn otherwise.
Jennifer Esposito, PhD is a Department Chair and Distinguished University Professor of Educational Policy Studies at Georgia State University. Her research takes an intersectional approach to qualitative research, centering race and gender. As an interdisciplinary scholar, she sees critical theories as tools to interrogate social life and solve problems related to the material consequences of oppression and privilege. She is an avid consumer of popular culture.
Casey Philip Wong, Jennifer Esposito; “It’s a Calling. You Answered.”: Abbott Elementary and Viewing Audience as Ethnographer of Education. Departures in Critical Qualitative Research 1 September 2023; 12 (3): 48–71. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/dcqr.2023.12.3.48
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