OSR Journal of Student Research

Article Title

Roller Derby Pedagogy: Utilizing Alternative Narratives in the Composition Classroom


Judith Butler investigates performativity in her research on gender. She believes that identity is “is performative in the sense that it constitutes as an effect the very subject it appears to express” (314). Identity isn’t fixed but rather performed through interactions. This project seeks to investigate the performative nature of roller derby personas, highlighting the identities of the characters in the movie Whip It in order to help students learn to perform an academic identity in writing. This is a useful pedagogical tool because stressing the idea of performativity allows students to see that their identity as a writer can be carefully crafted into an academic persona which can lead to greater agency in writing. I will be examining the movie Whip It to discover how roller derby personas are constructed and performed. The movie introduces a freshmeat skater, Bliss Cavendar, to roller derby and explores how her new persona is negotiated and informed by the derby community. By creating a new persona, she is able to “constitute” it through her performance. Bliss ultimately fails at performing as a beauty queen but is successful at performing her roller derby persona “Babe Ruthless.” Students in First Year Composition are undergoing the same process as Bliss is when she enters the derby community: they are crafting an academic identity when they enter the university. Ultimately, a performative academic identity can lead to greater agency both in and out of the classroom because it helps students take a stance in their writing.

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