01522 88 6673
    University of Lincoln
    Brayford Pool
    LN6 7TS
    United Kingdom

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    Dr Sarah Amsler


    School of Education
    College of Social Science

    About Sarah Amsler

    I joined the School in 2012 in order to develop the sociology of education and critical education studies in our teaching programmes, academic research and social action partnerships. I hold an undergraduate degree in Education (University of Delaware 1994) and Master’s and PhD degrees in Sociology (George Mason University 1998, London School of Economics and Political Science 2005), and I strive to integrate insights from these disciplinary perspectives throughout my work with and about schools, universities, popular education, sites of public pedagogy, political activism and processes of radical democratisation in everyday life.

    My research centres on the politics of knowledge, education, political economy and cultural practice. I am interested in using critical theory and research to understand how these shape the formation of individual and collective subjectivities, the consolidation of and resistance to political-economic and cultural domination, acts of freedom and autonomy, and the material and symbolic organisation of everyday life. These themes are developed in theoretical and empirical studies of:

    - the structural and cultural transformation of education in capitalist and post-socialist societies, and modes of resistance and alternatives to neoliberal logics in universities and schools,

    - the pedagogical dimensions of neoliberal forms of power and powerlessness, and strategies of politico-economic empowerment in counter-capitalist and anti-authoritarian struggles,

    - the effects of conservative, neoliberal capitalist and managerialist policies on the organisation of compulsory and higher education systems,

    - the transformative potential/limitations of critical cultural work in popular education and social movements,

    - the potential/limitations of diverse traditions of critical pedagogy and action and participatory research for democratic practice in schools, universities and informal education,

    - the place of knowledge, learning and education in Frankfurt School, post-structuralist and anarchistic traditions of critical theory, and of these in new critical theories of education and progressive politics,

    - the educative qualities, ethical demands and epistemic experience of co-operative, utopian and radical-democratic politics,

    - new modalities of critique, resistance and autonomy amongst teachers, children and communities in formal schooling, and

    - the revitalisation and development of critical philosophy, theory and pedagogy in scholar activism, teacher education, postgraduate pedagogies and educators’ professional and political learning.

    Other studies have focused on the facilitation of LGBT medical, health and social care content in higher education teaching, public pedagogies of class and race in museums and sites of US public history, critical pedagogies and methods for understanding ‘invisibilised’ experiences and histories, the politics of truth and epistemic boundaries in education and social science, and the role of knowledge and education in post-socialist and neocolonial systems of power.

    My current research focuses on how socially engaged critical theory, radical-democratic traditions of learning and education, prefigurative politics and critical cultural work are used to generate unruly democratic possibilities, concrete utopian imaginaries and counter-hegemonic forms of self and social organisation in contemporary educational contexts. I am also interested in re-establishing education as a primary site of political formation and transformation in critical theory and as part of a wider assemblage of material and cultural power relations whose articulation is central to the critique of capitalism and authoritarian social logics today.

    Following the publication of The Politics of Knowledge in Central Asia (Routledge 2007), a project on ‘The Politics of Transformative Culture in Popular Arts and Education’ (British Academy 2009–12) and a co-edited book entitled Acts of Knowing: Critical Pedagogy In, Against and Beyond the University (Bloomsbury 2013), I recently published The Education of Radical Democracy (Routledge 2015). This book examines the powerful role that critical educational theories and practices have played in the radical democratisation of entrenched systems of power in the past, and illustrates how contemporary activist educators are constructing new ideas, practices, relationships and institutions that generate critiques of neoliberal capitalism and disclose real possibilities for human and ecological flourishing. I bring critical theories of possibility and hope – specifically Ernst Bloch’s work – into dialogue with the practical knowledge of teachers, artists and cultural activists to show how the contemporary politics of possibility depends not upon the reorganisation, activation or rationalisation of pre-existing resources but on the cultivation of prefigurative practical–critical activities and ‘politico-educative practices’ which generate not-yet emerged possibilities. Such work creates what Bloch called a ‘leading edge’ or ‘front’ of possibility and necessitates new rationalities, relationships, pedagogies and infrastructures of learning and hope. The book examines the meaning of this front in neoliberal societies and introduces examples from historical and contemporary projects in ‘educating’ radical democracy to illustrate how this type of critical theory and politics works in practice.

    During the 2015–16 academic year, I am developing this work further in a Mid-Career Fellowship on ‘Practices of Possibility in Neoliberal Social Systems’, which is funded by the Independent Social Research Foundation. The full proposal can be found on the ISRF website:

    Department Responsibilities

    My responsibilities within the School include EdD and PhD education and supervision, the co-ordination of doctoral research seminars and training workshops, programme leadership of Educational Action Research, co-leadership of the MA in Education, teaching and supervision on the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (Secondary), and co-ordination of the Research in Critical Education Studies group.

    I am keen to work with doctoral students and visiting scholars in the areas of critical theory and education; critical, radical and creative pedagogies and research methodologies; education and democracy; education and social justice; the sociology, politics, philosophy or history of education; the sociology and politics of knowledge; informal and popular education; activist and social movement learning; educative dimensions of democratic life, prefigurative pedagogies and politics; critical-interpretivist and participatory research methods; and work concerning education in Central Asia or international development.

    Subject Specialism

    critical pedagogies; critical theory; sociology and politics of education; sociology and politics of knowledge


    • PhD Sociology — London School of Economics and Political Science, 2005
    • MA Sociology — George Mason University (US), 1998
    • BSc Education — University of Delaware (US), 1994


    • Early Career Professional Development Award — British Sociological Association, 2010
    • Excellence in Teaching Award in Arts and Social Sciences — Kingston University, 2008
    • Lecturer of the Year — Kingston University, 2008

    Professional Affiliations

    External Activities and Consultancy

    External Examiner, St. Patrick’s College, Ethics and Schooling EdD (Policy Analysis/Social Movements)
    International Scholar, Central Asia Research and Training Initiative
    Consultant, Higher Education Support Program (Central Asia)

    Research Interests

    Research Group Memberships

    Research Projects

    • The Ethics and Politics of Possibility: Principles and Practices of Prefigurative Knowledge and Research — Awarded £10,000 by Independent Social Research Foundation in 2016
    • Understanding educational inequalities in rural Britain (funded PhD studentship) — Awarded £56,700 by University of Lincoln in 2015
    • Understanding educational equality and effectiveness in England’s rural and coastal communities — Awarded £4,283 by University of Lincoln in 2015
    • Practices of possibility in neoliberal social institutions — Awarded £40,290 by Independent Social Research Foundation in 2015
    • Facilitating LGBT medical, health and social care content in higher education (PI Dr. Zowie Davy) — Awarded £5,000 by University of Lincoln in 2012
    • The politics of transformative culture in popular arts and education — Awarded £4,936 by British Academy in 2010
    • Critical media literacy and empowerment (with Sarah Hayes) — Awarded £1,400 by Aston University in 2009
    • Introducing critical inquiry-based learning into sociology education — Awarded £5,000 by Kingston University in 2008

    Research in the Lincoln Repository

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