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Education and Social Justice Research Drive Work of Visiting Cornell Professor Amanda Keddie

Amanda Keddie

The research of 2023-2024 Cornell Visiting Professor Amanda Keddie is driven by a fundamental conviction: that schools can create positive social change.

The internationally renowned Australian social justice and education scholar has spent her career illuminating the methods, policies, and programs that schools use to help students succeed, regardless of their gender, race, sexuality, and socioeconomic background, as elaborated in her 2012 book Educating for Diversity and Social Justice.

“My research is focused on articulating how schools are supporting social justice for their students,” she says. “What are the policies that they've got in place to support students in that regard? Do they have policies that articulate who is in need of special support?”

Keddie is also interested in how researchers can conduct inquiries in a socially just and collaborative way by “working to foreground the research priorities of the participants, not the researcher,” she says. This idea is explored in her recent book Re-Searching Margins: Ethics, Social Justice and Education.

Her commitment to social justice and socially just research will be central in her teaching and public speaking at Swarthmore this year. It’s also what drove her connection to the College.

That story began in 2018, when Keddie came to the U.S. on a Fulbright Senior Scholarship to study how educators were working to address and change the narrative around gendered violence. Working at the School Participatory Action Research Collaborative, a race and gender equity institute at the University of Pennsylvania, she met Swarthmore Professor of Education Joseph Nelson, who is also a senior research fellow there. 

The two connected with Professor of Education Lisa Smulyan over their shared academic interests, leading Keddie to give a lecture on “Social Justice, Education, and Supporting Young Muslim Girls” at Swarthmore that year.

“My research and interests really aligned with the Education Studies focus here at Swarthmore,” Keddie says. “There's just such interesting research going on that aligns with my own around critical pedagogy, education, governance and the importance of critically analyzing policy for its social justice implications.”

Keddie received an offer to serve as Cornell Visiting Professor in 2019, but COVID-19 delayed her visit for several years. 

Apart from Keddie’s research interests, what drew her to Swarthmore was its liberal arts focus, she says. Teaching smaller classes, she will be able to deviate from the lecture-based format that is prevalent at her home institution of Deakin University, which enrolls about 53,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year.

“The liberal arts ethos and the broad liberal arts education is a really attractive and generative form of teaching and learning,” Keddie says. “Lots of dialogue, lots of critical discussion, not just direct teaching. It's about learning together.” 

She is teaching Gender and Education this fall and Classroom Research for Social Change in Spring 2024. She will bring a more global perspective to the former, having added readings from scholars in England, Australia, and South Africa to the syllabus. 

“I'm really looking forward to getting to know the students,” she says. “I'm sure they have a wealth of stories and experience that I can engage with and learn from.”

Outside of these courses, Keddie will lead a series of panel presentations with gender, masculinities, and education scholars from around the world to share and discuss their research methodologies. 

“Often, as researchers, we can work in silos in terms of the way we approach a particular problem,” she says. “The idea is to open up the conversation.”

She will also deliver a public lecture whose topic is yet to be decided.

“It's such a privilege to be here,” she says. “I have to pinch myself, really.”

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