Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mohan Dutta

Committee Member 1

Stacey Connaughton

Committee Member 2

Ambar Basu

Committee Member 3

Lala Acharya

Committee Member 4

Titi Okoror


This dissertation sought to document the communicative and organizing processes in the executing of a culture centered heart health project among black youth in Marion County, Indiana. Culture Centered Approach (CCA) (Airhihenbuwa, 1995, Dutta, 2008) foregrounds equity and social justice as sine qua non for addressing disparities. It promotes engagement of cultural members as equal partners in social change processes, a move that reverses the unequal power that characterize dominant projects (Dutta, 2008).Seeped in the theoretical framework of CCA, I conducted 11-month ethnographic study to uncover the communicative and processes of engaging teenagers as equal partners in the planning and implementing of a heart campaign targeting their peers. I conducted face-to-face interviews, wrote reflexive journal entries, and participated in message tailoring workshops. Through these multiple data sets, I uncovered the following (a) the infusion of cultural voices reverses the unequal power that characterize dominant projects (b) engaging communities as equal partners is a complex process and often characterized by tensions that border on power inequities (c) a culture centered project evolves through organic process that is often characterized by dialogue and collective decision making (d) participation in culture centered process is complex and also characterized by tensions about power, individual versus collective subjectivities (e) Reflexivity is a crucial methodological tool in culture centered process. The findings corroborate culture centered stance on rupturing structural barriers as an entry point to addressing disparities and creating a just world. From programming perspective, this study echo the need for ‘recalibrating’ health projects from below.