Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Lisa A. Flores

Second Advisor

Karen L. Ashcraft

Third Advisor

Bryan C. Taylor

Abstract

This thesis analyzes how Peace Corps recruitment practices and materials construct narratives of Peace Corps experience in terms of nation, race, and gender. In addition to nine Peace Corps recruitment pamphlets and one book of returned volunteer stories, I collected data through ethnographic methods. Analysis of this data focuses on how these narratives relate to, serve to (re)present, and potentially (re)construct the volunteer, her work, and relationship to the ‘Host Country National.’ Using a postcolonial lens, I explore the degree to which these Peace Corps narratives serve a neo- or anti-colonial function. In addition, I analyze my own implication in the neocolonial process and discursive reinforcement of hegemony by engaging with postcolonial self-reflexivity in my writing. In Chapter II, I aver that Peace Corps recruitment materials serve to reinscribe the normative American as white-bodied. In Chapter III, I argue that the way volunteers construct narratives of ‘effective service’ centers American perspectives and functions imperialistically. Additionally, I argue that this narrative is ruptured, and the neocolonial implications destroyed, when the intercultural relationship is centered rather than the American, or indeed the Host Country culture. Next, in Chapter IV, I argue that the American exceptionalism necessary to have the ability to ‘empower’ others is based not only on Americanness, but also whiteness and masculinity. Finally, in Chapter V, I argue that the Peace Corps experience itself, though based in privilege, creates the possibility for subverting dominant narratives.

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