Sofia A. Villenas

Associate Professor


Anthropology provides a key lens for the study of the politics and practice of education in everyday life. I am interested in how people teach and learn across home, school and community contexts, and how difference is constituted and made consequential in these endeavors. Importantly, I consider education as the practice of imagination, freedom and social change.

Formerly a bilingual elementary school teacher and adult English language instructor in the Latino communities of Los Angeles, I moved to North Carolina to pursue a PhD at UNC-Chapel Hill and study education in diverse Latino im/migrant destinations. I inquired into how Latina mothers navigated parenting and their children's schooling as they worked to create a sense of community and belonging in the changing racial/ethnic landscape of North Carolina.

I continue these interests with research about education, citizenship and social movement in the United States. In a current project, I explore the pedagogical force and everyday imaginative quality of social movement - specifically the teaching and learning of racial justice and cultural citizenship in community forums, festivals, workshops, celebrations, protests and other sites of public pedagogy. I also consider Latinx cultural programming as critical sites of adult and cross-generational learning. I am moved to think with Latina/Chicana and women of Color feminist thought as a way to perceive transformative and resistant modes of teaching, learning and social action.

Having previously worked in schools and colleges of education preparing prospective teachers, my scholarship has also addressed socio-cultural, critical race and feminist perspectives in Latina/o K-12 education and higher education, including teacher education. I am former president of the American Educational Studies Association (AESA), a scholarly organization dedicated to the study of the social and cultural foundations of education, and past president of the Council on Anthropology and Education of the American Anthropological Association. I served as director of Cornell's Latina/o Studies Program from 2009 to 2016.

Some courses I teach include:

ANTH 1900  Global Engagements: Living and Working in a Diverse World

ANTH 3405  Multicultural Issues in Education (crosslisted with AMST, EDUC & LSP)

ANTH 4402/7402  Anthropology of Education

ANTH 4409/7409  Qualitative Methods in the Social Sciences

ANTH 4458/7458  Girls, Women, & Education in Global Perspective: Feminist Ethnography & Praxis (cross-listed with EDUC)

ANTH 4790  Latinx Education across the Americas (cross-listed with EDUC)



Research Focus

  • education and politics
  • public pedagogy
  • critical race studies
  • Latin@/x diaspora communities
  • Latina/Chicana and women of Color feminisms
  • ethnography and narrative
  • qualitative methodologies


Books (Edited)

2010 (co-edited with E. Murillo Jr., R. Trinidad Galvan, C. Martinez, J. Muñoz, and M. Machado-Casas) (2010).  Handbook of Latinos and education: Theory, research and practice. NY: Routledge and Taylor Francis Group.

2006 (co-edited with D. Delgado Bernal, C.A. Elenes and F. Godinez). Chicana/Latina education in everyday life:  Feminista perspectives on pedagogy and epistemology.  Albany:  State University of New York Press.  

1999 (co-edited with L. Parker, and D. Deyhle)  Race is ... race isn’t:  Critical race theory and qualitative studies in education.  Boulder, CO:  Westview Press.

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

2020. (with Carolina Osorio Gil). Latinx cultural programming as public pedagogy: Mobilizing cultura (culture) in a small town community in Upstate New York. In J. Hurtig and C. Chernoff (Eds.), Contested Spaces of Teaching and Learning: Practitioner Ethnographies of Adult Education in the United States. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.

2019. The anthropology of education and contributions to critical race studies. Equity and Excellence in Education, 52(1), 68-74.

2019. Pedagogies of being with: Witnessing, testimonio and critical love in everyday social movement. QSE: International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 39(2), 151-166.

2014. Thinking Latina/o education with and from Chicana/Latina feminist cultural studies: Emerging pathways, decolonial possibilities. In A. Darder & R.D. Torres (Eds.), Latinos and education: A critical reader. New York, NY: Routledge. Originally published in Zeus Leonardo (Ed.), Handbook of Cultural Politics in Education. Sense Publishers (2010).

2013. The legacy of Derrick Bell and Latino/a education: A critical race testimonio. Urrieta Jr., Luis and Sofia Villenas. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 16(4), 514-535.

2013. Race talk and school equity in local print media: The discursive flexibility of whiteness and the promise of race conscious talk. Villenas, Sofia and Sophia L. Angeles. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 34(4), 510-530.

2012. Pedagogies from nepantla: Testimonio, Chicana/Latina feminisms and teacher education classrooms. Prieto, Linda and Sofia Villenas. Equity & Excellence in Education, 45(3), 411-429.

2011. Critical ethnographies of education in the Latino/a diaspora. Villenas, Sofia and Douglas E. Foley. In R. Valencia (Ed.), Chicano school failure and success:  Past, present and future, 3rd edition.  New York and London:  Routledge and Falmer.

2007. Diaspora and the anthropology of Latino education: Challenges, affinities, and intersections. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 38(4), pp. 419-425. Reprinted in Roland Sintos Coloma (Ed.) Postcolonial challenges in education. New York, NY: Peter Lang Publishers, 2009.

2006. Latina feminist postcolonialities:  Perspectives on Un/tracking educational actors’ interventions.  International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 19(5), pp. 659-672.

2006. Pedagogical moments in the borderlands:  Latina mothers and daughters teaching and learning.  In D. Delgado Bernal, C.A. Elenes, F. Godinez and S. Villenas (eds.), Chicana/Latina education in everyday life:  Feminista perspectives on pedagogy and epistemology (pp. 147-159).  Albany:  State University of New York Press.

2005. Between the telling and the told:  Latina mothers negotiating education in new borderlands.  In J. Phillion, M. F. He, and M. Connelly (Eds.), Narrative and experience in multicultural education (pp. 71-91).  Thousand Oaks, CA:  Sage.

2002. Reinventing educación in new Latino communities: Pedagogies of change and continuity in North Carolina.  In S. Wortham, E., Murillo Jr., and E. Hamann (Eds.), Education in the new Latino Diaspora:  Policy and the politics of identity (pp. 17-35).  Westport, CT:  Ablex Publishing.

2002. This ethnography called my back:  Writings of the exotic gaze, “othering” Latina, and recuperating Xicanisma.  In E. St. Pierre and W. Pillow (Eds.), Working the ruins:  Poststructural feminist theory and methods in education (pp. 74-95).  New York:  Routledge.

2001. To valerse por si misma (be self-reliant) between race, capitalism, and patriarchy:  Latina mother/daughter pedagogies in North Carolina.  Villenas, Sofia and Melissa Moreno. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 14(5), pp. 671-687.

2001. Latina mothers and small-town racisms:  Creating narratives of dignity and moral education in North Carolina.  Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 32(1), pp. 3-28.

2000. Other encounters:  Dances with whiteness in multicultural education. Richardson, Troy and Sofia Villenas. Educational Theory, 50 (2), pp. 255-273.

1999. Critical race theory and ethnographies challenging the stereotypes: Latino families, schooling, resilience and resistance.  Villenas, Sofia and Donna Deyhle. Curriculum Inquiry, 29 (4), pp. 413-445. 1996

1996. The colonizer/colonized Chicana ethnographer: Identity, marginalization, and co-optation in the field.  Harvard Educational Review, 66(4), pp. 711-731. Reprinted in 2010, 2000, and 1998 in various edited collections.