Understanding the Performance: Learning Identity and Domestic Violence

Open Access
Nash, Heather M
Graduate Program:
Adult Education
Doctor of Education
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
November 09, 2004
Committee Members:
  • Fred Michael Schied, Committee Chair
  • Ian E Baptiste, Committee Member
  • Elizabeth Jean Tisdell, Committee Member
  • Marnina K Gonick, Committee Member
  • domestic violence
  • women
  • learning
  • identity
Abstract This interpretive ethnography sought to understand identity as a learning process in the context of domestic violence survivors. It took a feminist perspective and a social justice orientation within Adult Education. Identity was defined according to a contextualized interplay of dynamic senses of self and social, where learning drives changes and gives them direction. Learning was conceptualized using Vygotsky and power via the work of Habermas. A second essential element of the theoretical framework was transformation theory as written by Jack Mezirow. Transformation theory and learning identity were used in parallel lines of analysis. There were three participants in the study, including the researcher. Data collection was done primarily through dialogic interviews, informal interviews, observations, and documents. The data were analyzed in several stages using a writing method. The stages were creating a standalone narrative for each participant; analysis within narratives that included thoughts, observations, and literature; reading each narrative for points of identity shift; and reading the narrative whole for similarities, differences, and relationships to social discourses. I found that batterers marginalize victims within their identity processes. Victims used several means to gain power that included escalating confrontations; tapping into external identities and discourses; and empowerment through daily struggle after leaving their batterers. I found that each participant maintained a strong value or belief during the battering relationship, although that value represented a site of struggle.