Exploring "Soul of a Nation"

Disorienting Dilemmas of "Good White Women"

  • Micki Voelkel University of Arkansas-Fort Smith
  • Shelli Henehan
Keywords: Transformative Learning, Informal Learning, Museum, White Privilege, Adult Education


Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power is an exhibition of American black artists from the 1960s through 1980s. Originally developed by the Tate Modern in London, the exhibit traveled to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, USA in early 2018.  When we visited the exhibition we intended to study how women were represented. Instead we found the experience disturbing and disorienting. We were taken aback by the way the artists incorporated and owned images that we associated with racism, slavery, and segregation. As white, middle-class women from the American south, we felt ill-equipped to formulate an opinion or even to identify the emotions we experienced. We experienced mutual cognitive dissonance, causing us to re-evaluate our ideas and biases related to race. This essay describes our transformative learning in facing and confronting our white privilege and rethinking our attitudes and perceptions of race.


Keywords: transformative learning, informal learning, museum, white privilege, adult education

How to Cite
Voelkel, M., & Henehan, S. (2019). Exploring "Soul of a Nation". Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 31(2). Retrieved from https://cjsae.library.dal.ca/index.php/cjsae/article/view/5483