School of Education

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Sarah Amsler

Associate Professor in Education, Faculty of Social Sciences

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Expertise Summary

I am an eco-social researcher, writer and educator; a queer, white scholar of English and European settler-colonial descent born in what is now the United States and currently living in the UK. My work is dedicated to visibilizing - and making sensible - systems of power that fuel processes of human and more-than-human suffering and destruction, and interrupting these so that other ways of being can become possible. I focus on how patterns of interpersonal, historical-social, epistemic, ontological, and metabolic violence are reproduced in affective, embodied, conceptual, political and relational realms. Depth analyses of modernity-coloniality and decolonization, transfeminist studies of knowledge and science, queer theory, critical and queer ecologies, material-process philosophies, and affective-somatic-artistic practice inform my work in creating pedagogies for learning to stay with the complexities of being and becoming otherwise; expanding capacities for radically relational possibility, accountability and response-ability; countering coloniality in education and everyday political-intimate-collective life within post-imperial and settler-colonial contexts as well as translocal communities; and mobilizing embodied biopoethics as one of many pathways towards (re)learning and nurturing modes of co-existence that are rooted in the experience of inseparability. I am Associate Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham and a member of the Our Bodhi Project and Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures arts/research collectives.

Academic history

I competed my PhD in Sociology at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2005 and have held teaching and research posts at the University of Lincoln (Education), Open University (Social Sciences) Aston University (Sociology) and Kingston University (Sociology). I have worked in various politico-educational contexts, including autonomous education, co-operative education, early years care, museums, non-governmental organizations, popular education projects, elementary schools, teacher education programs, higher education (in Central Asia, Britain and the United States), and transnational politico-educational initiatives promoting systemic social and ecological change.

Teaching Summary

Courses taught | I teach 'Big Ideas in Education: Equalities, Inclusion, Rights and Justice' (BA Education), 'Practice-based Inquiry' (MA Education), 'Socially Engaged Research in Social Science'… read more

Research Summary

My academic and political research tackles one big concern from different perspectives.

What kinds of affective, cognitive, embodied and relational learning can help us interrupt the violences of modern/colonial ways of knowing, being, imagining, hoping, and relating to ourselves, each other and all being(s)?

How can we catalyze the deep transformations of self and society that are necessary for both intersectional global justice and all species' survival on earth?

Some of my specific questions include:

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

(2) How do different modes of desire and anticipation open or foreclose possibilities for paradigmatic transformations in relationships, policy and practice?

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

(4) What ways of knowing nourish relational, pluralistic, ethical and 'possibility-enabling' ways of being with other human beings and the rest of the natural world, particularly across radical difference?

(5) What does 'dreaming otherwise' look like in in the throes of ecological crisis and collapse in a damaged world in need of healing and radical love? What is learned by experimenting with the traces and not-yet-possibilities of unimagined alternatives to dominant forms of knowledge, bodies, relationships and the matter of the world?

Rationale | The roots of many local and global injustices lie in systemic problems of colonial and corporate domination, ecological violence, socio-cultural oppression and epistemic injustice. However, there is little awareness of how these globalized patterns of systemic violence shape localized possibilities for change, or how they can be recognized and interrupted at different scales of life. I am interested in how modal epistemologies (our perceptive and sensible portals to different relationships with reality and possibility) operate in this work and, geopolitically, how they enable and constrain struggles to abolish coloniality in knowledge, intimate relations, collective living and our relationship with the earth.

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 collective 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 Centre for Decolonising Knowledge in Teaching, Research and Practice (DECkNO) at the University of Bath aims to explore the problem of Eurocentrism in the social sciences and to consider its socioeconomic, educational and policy research implications.

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.

Recent Publications

  • SARAH AMSLER and DIANE SIMPSON, 2020. The carceral existence of social work academics: a Foucauldian analysis of social work education in English universities Foucault Studies. (In Press.)
  • SARAH AMSLER, JEANNIE KERR and VANESSA ANDREOTTI, 2020. Interculturality in teacher education in times of unprecedented global challenges Education and Society. 38(1), 13-37
  • SARAH AMSLER, 2020. Learn like witches: gesturing towards Further Education otherwise. In: MAIRE DALEY, KEVIN ORR and JOEL PETRIE, eds., Caliban’s Dance: Further Education After the Tempest Trentham Books, Institute of Education Press.
  • SARAH AMSLER, SHARON STEIN, VANESSA ANDREOTTI, RENE SUSA, DALLAS HUNT, CASH AHENAKEW, ELWOOD JIMMY, TEREZA CAJKOVA, WILL VALLEY, CAMILLA CARDOSO, DINO SIWEK, BENICIO PITAGUARY, DANI D'EMILIA, BILL CALHOUN and HARUKO OKANO, 2020. Gesturing toward decolonial futures: reflections on our learnings Nordic Journal of International and Comparative Education. 4(1), 43-65

I am currently supervising doctoral research in critical pedagogy, critical race pedagogy in formal education, decolonising practices in art and museum education, the politics of North-South collaboration in universities, and the formation of educator subjectivities. I welcome enquiries from prospective doctoral students in the following areas:

  • affective, embodied, queer and relational pedagogies and learning spaces
  • decolonial arts, education and research practice
  • critical and queer ecologies
  • alternative intergenerational and higher education
  • approaches to education of and for 'the otherwise'
  • new materialist perspectives on ltransformative learning
  • decolonial, transfeminist and queer critiques of modernity
  • onto-epistemic pedagogies and politics
  • critical studies of hope and desire
  • processes of de-institiutionalization
  • sociologies of absence and emergence

Courses taught | I teach 'Big Ideas in Education: Equalities, Inclusion, Rights and Justice' (BA Education), 'Practice-based Inquiry' (MA Education), 'Socially Engaged Research in Social Science' (MA) and direct the School of Education's Doctoral Education and Training Programme. I supervise BA, MA and PhD research projects on decolonizing education, the sociology and politics of knowledge, critical education studies, practice-based inquiry and action research, critical and feminist theory and pedagogy, museum studies, and international and comparative educational policy. Previously, I 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 of Education's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee and Faculty of Social Sciences' Decolonizing the Curriculum Working Group.

Past Research

2019 Women Strike for Life: Gender, Education and Labour in Transnational Perspective, George Mason Univrsity, Virginia [CI, with PI Dr. N. Weiss-Hanrahan].

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

Future Research

Projects in progress include:

Learning to Heal the Nature-Culture Divide: Exploring Educational Approaches (2021-22)

The Queer Nature of Being and Becoming Alive: Multimodal and More-than-Human Pedagogies for Embodying Relational Ontology (ongoing)

School of Education

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

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