Thea Abu El-Haj

Thea Abu El-Haj

Research Interest

Thea Renda Abu El-Haj, Professor in Education, is an anthropologist of education. Prior to joining Barnard College, she was an associate professor at the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. There, she co-founded and co-directed the GSE’s Urban Teaching Fellows Program, and directed the Ph.D. program in Theory, Organization, and Policy.

She currently serves as the President of the Council on Anthropology and Education of the American Anthropological Association. Abu El-Haj’s research explores questions about belonging, rights, citizenship, and education raised by globalization, transnational migration, and conflict. She is currently working on two research projects. She is conducting a collaborative ethnographic study of public kindergartens in Beirut, Lebanon, that focuses on questions of conflict and refugee policy. With the support of a Spencer Foundation grant, she is the principal investigator of a U.S. national interview study exploring the civic identities and civic practices of youth from Muslim immigrant communities.

Her second book, an ethnographic account of young Palestinian Americans grappling with questions of belonging and citizenship in the wake of September 11, 2001, won the 2016 American Educational Studies Association Critics Choice Award (Unsettled Belonging: Educating Palestinian American Youth after 9/11, University of Chicago Press, 2015). Other publications about this research have appeared in Anthropology and Education Quarterly; Harvard Educational Review; Educational Policy; and Theory into Practice. Her first book, Elusive Justice: Wrestling with Difference and Educational Equity in Everyday Practice (Routledge, 2006), offers a critical account of the range of justice claims at play inside real schools, exploring several different, important dimensions of educational equity that are often ignored in contemporary educational policy debates.