“The collection of voices that have been brought in throughout this book offer a beautiful contribution to cultural analysis that is inclusive of diverse communities and creates a shared space to see how these diverse communities intersect through practice. It’s a gem that I look forward to teaching with.”
Claiming the space of these graduation caps is a popular and widespread way that individuals make their voices heard, or rather seen, in the visual landscape of commencement ceremonies. The forms and meanings of these material displays take shape in relation to broader, ongoing conversations about higher education in the United States, conversations grounded in discourses of belonging, citizenship, and the promises of the American Dream. Integrating observational fieldwork with extensive interviews and surveys, author Sheila Bock highlights the interpretations of individuals participating in this tradition. She also attends to the public framings of this tradition, including how images of mortarboards have grounded online enactments of community through hashtags such as #LatinxGradCaps and #LetTheFeathersFly, as well as what rhetorical framings are employed in news coverage and legal documents in cases where the value of the practice is both called into question and justified.
As university administrators and cultural commentators seek to make sense of the current state of higher education, these forms of material expression offer insight into how students themselves are grappling with higher ed's promises and shortcomings. Claiming Space is a meaningful contribution to folklore, cultural studies, media studies, and education.