School of Education

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Sarah Amsler

Associate Professor in Education, Faculty of Social Sciences



I am an Associate Professor in Education. Prior to joining the School of Education, I held posts at the University of Lincoln (Education), Aston University (Sociology) and Kingston University (Sociology), and competed my PhD in Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2005. Over twenty-five years, I have worked in a range of educational settings including autonomous education, co-operative education, early years care, museums, non-governmental organisations, popular education projects, elementary schools, teacher education programmes, universities (in Central Asia, Britain and the United States), and transnational educational initiatives promoting systemic social and ecological change.

Teaching Summary

Pedagogical orientations | I am passionate about understanding the power of critical, dialogical, disruptive, inclusive and ontological pedagogies, with a special interest in practices for… read more

Research Summary

My research explores a number of questions that tackle one big concern from different perspectives. This is: what kind of learning can help us to overcome the existing limits of modern/colonial ways… read more

Recent Publications

Pedagogical orientations | I am passionate about understanding the power of critical, dialogical, disruptive, inclusive and ontological pedagogies, with a special interest in practices for community-building, decolonisation intercultural (including inter-epistemic) translation, and uncomfortable levels of critique and transformation - both within the classroom and informal learning contexts.

Courses taught | I teach 'Big Ideas in Education: Equalities, Inclusion, Rights and Justice' (BA Education), 'Practice-based Inquiry' (MA Education), and research philosophy and methodology on the School of Education's Doctoral Education and Training Programme. I supervise MA and PhD research projects in the sociology and politics of education, sociology and politics of knowledge, critical education studies, practice-based inquiry and action research, critical and feminist theory and pedagogy, and international and comparative educational policy and systems. Previously, I have designed and taught a wide range of Sociology, Philosophy and Education courses at all levels of university study.

Educational service | I am the Year-1 Tutor for our BA Education students, Co-ordinator of the ESRC Midlands Graduate School Doctoral Training Education Pathway at the University of Nottingham, Convenor of the School of Education's Doctoral Education and Training Programme, and postgraduate convenor for the Centre for International Education Research. I am also a member of the School's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee.

Doctoral research supervision

I am currently supervising doctoral research in critical pedagogy, critical race pedagogy in formal education, decolonising practices in art education, international comparisons of educational partnership, and the formation of educator subjectivities. I welcome enquiries from prospective doctoral students in the following areas:

  • affective and embodied dimensions of learning with radical difference
  • approaches to education of/for 'the otherwise'
  • autonomous adult and higher education (past, present, future; comparative)
  • Blochian and new materialist perspectives on educational politics
  • critical and radical pedagogies in formal and informal education contexts
  • critical, post- and decolonial, and feminist critiques of educational policy
  • critical theories of power and possibility in education
  • post-capitalist and decolonial educational and social futures
  • onto-epistemic pedagogies and politics
  • politics of hope and hopelessness in transformative learning
  • strategies of resistance in neoliberal education institutions
  • sociologies of absence and emergence in education
  • utopian and possibility-enabling curricula, pedagogies and research methodologies

Current Research

My research explores a number of questions that tackle one big concern from different perspectives. This is: what kind of learning can help us to overcome the existing limits of modern/colonial ways of being, knowing, imagining, and relating to ourselves, other beings and the environment - in order to generate not-yet imaginable possibilities for deep social transformation? More specific questions include:

(1) How are boundaries/thresholds of personal and social im/possibility learned, unlearned and transformed in different educational contexts?

(2) How are different forms of hope and hopelessness mobilized to open or foreclose possibilities for, or 'fronts' of, paradigmatic transformation in educational relationships, policy and practice?

(3) What types of learning strengthen or weaken our capacity to be and become 'otherwise' to violent epistemic regimes, forms of social relationship, ways of being and social systems? How do educators develop the stamina to sustain transformative pedagogies in oppressive conditions and environments?

(4) What ways of knowing, pedagogical practices and organizational forms of learning nourish and repress relational, pluralistic and 'possibility-enabling' ways of being with others and the world?

(5) What does 'learning hope' look like in in the throes of ecological crisis and collapse, and what are educators' response-abilities to those who must learn to engage with the complex uncertainties and challenges of this damaged world? What can we learn by experimenting with the 'not-yet' possible in ideas, bodies, relationships and materials?

Rationale | My research is motivated by a concern that while the roots of many local and global injustices lie in systemic problems of colonial and corporate domination, ecological violence, cultural oppression and epistemicide, there is little attention paid to how these globalized patterns of systemic injustice shape localised possibilities for educational change, or to how they can be recognized and collectively interrupted at multiple scales. I am especially interested in how the mobilization of different forms of hope and hopelessness contributes to the perpetuation or transformation of this problem and, geopolitically, how it manifests in colonial/imperial frames of possibility in British and international education, and in 'neoliberal' policies, practices and cultures.

Theoretical and methodological orientations | Homed in the fields of Sociology and Education, my interdisciplinary research in the politics of education draws on critical, feminist, queer and decolonial theory, critical and transformative pedagogy, and the sociology and politics of knowledge. I use methodologies of critical discourse analysis, ethnographic case study, and interpretive and relational phenomenology. With others, I am currently developing practices of affective, prefigurative, relational and speculative social research as part of inquiries into the ontological politics of making (and resisting) deep social change, and of being and becoming 'otherwise' within today's dominating social systems: racialised capitalism, heteropatriarchy and coloniality.

Current projects

2018-19 Women Strike for Life: New Feminist Movements in Transatlantic Perspective (with Nancy Weiss Hanrahan of George Mason University). This project investigates recent teachers' strikes as a form of women's organizing and gender politics. Often presented in the media as a labour issue, the strikers themselves draw on a vocabulary of social reproduction politics, of care for community and the future, that resonates with women's organizing in many other parts of the world. The qualitative study focuses on strikes in the US and UK since the financial collapse of 2008.

From Probability to Possibility: Learning for Journeys into the Next World is a book project with Ana Cecilia Dinerstein, forthcoming with PM Press. The book introduces a way of thinking about possibilities for social change in, against, despite and beyond capitalism-patriarchy and coloniality that is not prominent in mainstream public discourse and social sciences, but that is shared among people who are radically reinventing communities and urban life, local economies, relationships with territory and the earth, care, education, political decision-making, socially just healthcare and housing, food, cooperative and creative practices surrounding work, and more. Drawing on more than a decade of research into social movement practices in the global north and south and a range of social theories and philosophies, we discuss the political power of hope when it is understood as a critical tool for informing collective action towards change, rather than a passive expectation for a better world, or a mere fantasy about it. We examine the power of Ernst Bloch's notions such as the front and the not yet, to build a 'toolkit' of ideas to support the creation of 'concrete utopias' in moving beyond the current limits of social imagination.

Research Affiliations

I am a member of the Centre for International Education Research in the University of Nottingham School of Education.

I also belong to a number of international research-practice networks and collectives, including:

The Gesturing towards Decolonial Futures network uses 'three inter-dependent practices (of art, social cartography and pedagogy) to denaturalize colonial frames of reference and material architectures that make up the social context in which knowledge is produced within our current system. These practices aim to enable ways of doing, thinking, and being that are viable but unimaginable within the modern-colonial imaginary.'

The Women on the Verge network works to 'provide embodied and practical critiques of capital, coloniality and patriarchy at a time when the conditions for the reproduction of life on the planet are deteriorating at unimaginable speed and levels. Our critique is not contained by the words we have learned to speak under these conditions, but is attuned with life, affect, commonality, denaturalizing and nature, utopia, storytelling, possibility and prefiguring.'

I am an affiliate member of the Critical Internationalization Studies, Creativity and Emergent Educational Futures and Decolonizing Teacher Education networks.

Past Research

2018 Writing for An Other World: Strengthening Transnational Partnerships in Post-Capitalist, Post-development and Post-Patriarchal Social Research, British Academy [PI, with CIs A. C. Dinerstein and R. Gutiérrez].

2016 The Ethics and Politics of Possibility: Principles and Practices of Prefigurative Knowledge and Research, International Residential Research Workshop at Girton College, University of Cambridge (Independent Social Research Foundation) [PI].

2015-16 Practices of Possibility in Neoliberal Social Systems, Mid-Career Fellowship (Independent Social Research Foundation) [PI].

2014 Understanding Educational Inequalities in Rural Britain, Research Infrastructure Fund (University of Lincoln) [PI].

2014 Facilitating LGBT Medical, Health and Social Care Content in Higher Education Teaching, Research Infrastructure Fund (University of Lincoln) [CI, with Dr. Z. Davy].

2010-12 The Politics of 'Transformative' Culture in Popular Education and Arts (British Academy) [PI].

2009 Critical Media Literacy and Student Empowerment: The Possibilities and Limitations of Film in University Classrooms (Aston University Centre for Learning in Professional Practice) [PI].

School of Education

University of Nottingham
Jubilee Campus
Wollaton Road
Nottingham, NG8 1BB

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