Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Ethnic Studies

First Advisor

Joanna Belknap

Second Advisor

Bianca Williams

Third Advisor

Abby Hickcox


I remember the first time I proposed this idea to my professor and she said with utmost curiosity and confusion, “but, Jesse, isn’t vulnerability a weakness?” For so long I thought so; I thought my inability to be open and sensitive and accessible was indeed a weakness. I would usually cower in the presence of my own emotions and feelings when asked to be open and giving; I was afraid of how my exposure would be consumed, manipulated—or worse—rejected. However, in the words of Brené Brown, “vulnerability is not weakness. And that myth is profoundly dangerous. Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change” (2012). To access this birthplace, I found an avenue: dance. What I could not tell in words, I could show through dance, and it was there that I could explore my vulnerability in a positive way. However, I started to de-construct my effortless transition into being vulnerable. Was this path easily as accessible for others? Donning my Black Feminist lens, I set forth into further picking apart my journey and arrived at a concept that I originally felt uncomfortable with: that vulnerability could be a privilege. Block 1750, a dance studio located in Boulder, Colorado, was the site of this exploration into the access I have as a White, middle-class woman. Through my own personal quest for self-growth, I started to critically examine myself within the context of the space, and in turn, focused on those who also used this space in a similar manner. So when I was formulating numerous, bigger questions to my own privilege, I started to notice another theme that was not mutually exclusive from vulnerability: family. Through writing a deeply personal, deeply empathetic, deeply vulnerable piece about the access and privilege attached to vulnerability and family in the context of a Boulder studio, Block 1750, I hope to connect themes of vulnerability and family at the intersections of race and ethnicity in a way that synthesizes a large body of work across several disciplines and areas of study. This autoethnographic work will serve to not only use my self-exploration as a means to show these concepts, but as a means to relate and contrast my own experiences with privilege and access as it contrasts with others’.