Scroll Down For More Information On The Forum's Theme, Leadership, Plenary Speakers, Our Co-sponsor (The Center For Experimental Ethnography), And Penn's Pre-Youth Summit On Civic Engagement And Social Change


2021 Conference Theme: Ethnography & Racial Justice

The University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and the Center for Urban Ethnography will celebrate the 42nd convening of the Ethnography in Education Research Forum, one of the most longstanding and renowned scholarly venues for this intellectual tradition, on February 26th and 27th, 2021.

The theme for the 2021 Ethnography in Education Research Forum, Ethnography and Racial Justice, will focus on the complexities associated with race and inequity that have historically defined social systems in the U.S and globally. Ethnographic research has created interdisciplinary pathways to think expansively about how culture is understood, entwined with related concepts, and revised to weigh critical questions of race, racism, and multiple forms of inequality. Ethnographic scholarship has examined the everyday lives, hardships, and forms of resistance within historically marginalized communities and has provided nuanced analyses that delineate the intersections of these issues with problems of educational access and social (in)equity.  The 2020 protests and uprisings, most notably Black Lives Matter, remind us-as a field and as members of society-that the problems of systemic racism are longstanding, persistent, and woven into the fabric of education. They also urge us to move forward boldly, directing and refining our scholarship to advance the uncoupling of structural barriers for students, their families, and communities and to bring about new educational dispositions.

We welcome submissions that urge the field to examine the role of ethnography to unpack the problems of racial justice and inform research, practice, and policy and the ethical dilemmas associated with them. Sessions for the Forum will highlight forward-thinking agendas that elevate the possibilities to imagine and reimagine educational research, scholarship, practice, and policy.

In 2021, we will hold an online, invited program, in response to the face-to-face constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Forum will include 12-15 invited, group presentations, e.g., panels, symposia, Views-by-Two, speaker with respondents, and other formats with two or more participants. Presentation proposals will be peer reviewed, and those with the highest scores will be invited. Presentations should consider the wide range of ethnographic-focused inquiry and options that highlight the historical issues of race that have continued into the present and the role of ethnography in capturing both their complexity and the possibilities for education research to address them.  

We are fortunate to have several outstanding plenary speakers, including Eve Ewing, recipient of the 2020 Book Award. We will have a full and engaging schedule over the two days and opportunities for participants to interact in small discussion sessions, online exhibits, and other interactive formats. 

In the tradition of the Pre-Forum Seminar on Culture and Race with Emerging Scholars, created in 1990, an online Invited Youth Research Forum with high school youth will take place on Thursday, February 25th, 2021. Youth will present work focused on social problems facing diverse communities, issues of race, and civic engagement. 

The format for the 2021 Forum program, while different than past years, will open up a range of opportunities to share knowledge and work toward contributing to new discourses and possibilities in the current precarious moment in U.S. and global communities. We welcome your submissions and look forward to your participation.


Vivian L. Gadsden and Gerald Campano

Faculty Co-Convenors

Conference Leadership Team


Vivian L. Gadsden 
William T. Carter Professor of Child Development and Education

H. Gerald Campano
Professor of Education


Alex Posecznick
Adjunct Associate Professor of Education Program Manager of Education, Culture, and Society and International Educational Development


Christopher R. Rogers
Ph.D Student, Reading/Writing/Literacy '23

Gabrielle L. Morales

MSEd, Reading/Writing/Literacy '20


Mary Yee, Ed.D


Forum Speakers

Photo by Mercedes Zapata 

Dr. Prudence L. Carter

Dean, Graduate School of Education

University of California, Berkeley 

Dr. Vaughn W. M. Watson

Assistant Professor of Education
Michigan State University, College of Education

Dr. Eve Ewing

Assistant Professor 
University of Chicago
School of Social Service Administration

Dr. Prudence L. Carter is the E.H. and Mary E. Pardee Professor and Dean of the Graduate School of Education at Berkeley. Dean Carter's expertise ranges from issues of youth identity and race, class, and gender, urban poverty, social and cultural inequality, the sociology of education and mixed research methods. Specifically, she examines academic and mobility differences shaped by the effects of race, ethnicity, class, and gender. Dean Carter earned a Master of Philosophy and Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University. Before being named Dean at Berkeley, she was the Jacks Family Professor of Education and Professor of Sociology (by courtesy) at Stanford University. Her books include the award-winning, Keepin' It Real: School Success beyond Black and White (Oxford University Press, 2005). Among her professional affiliations, she is an elected a member of the National Academy of Education; the Sociological Research Association; and a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

Vaughn W. M. Watson is an Assistant Professor of English Education in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University. His research focuses on the interplay of literacy practices of youth of color and emerging forms of youth's civic engagement, across social, cultural, and geographic contexts of classrooms and communities. Vaughn is a 2020 NAED/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow; and 2012-2014 National Council of Teachers of English, Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color fellow. His recent publications include "Humanizing the Black immigrant body: Envisioning Diaspora literacies of youth and young adults from West African countries" with Dr. Michelle G. Knight-Manuel in Teachers College Record, and "'This is America': Examining artifactual literacies as austere love across contexts of schools and everyday use" with Dr. Joanne E. Marciano in The Urban Review. Vaughn previously taught English at a public performing-and-visual arts secondary school in New York City, and is former pop music writer for The Providence Journal. 

Eve L. Ewing is a qualitative sociologist of education at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. Professor Ewing's scholarship, community work, and classroom teaching are aimed at expanding the ways that urban school stakeholders, researchers, and the broader public can be equipped to understand, respond to, and ultimately dismantle white supremacy, and to make school systems liberatory institutions rather than oppressive ones. She is the author of the poetry collection 1919 and the nonfiction work Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side. Her first book, the poetry collection Electric Arches, received awards from the American Library Association and the Poetry Society of America and was named one of the year's best books by NPR and the Chicago Tribune. She is the co-author (with Nate Marshall) of the play No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. She also currently writes the Champions series for Marvel Comics and previously wrote the acclaimed Ironheart series. 

Dr. Ewing will also be a special guest at Penn's Pre-Forum Youth Summit on Civic Engagement and Social Change. Click here for more info. 

Dr. Carla Shedd

Associate Professor of Sociology. & Urban Education

City University of New York Graduate Center

Dr. Manuel Espinoza

Associate Professor of Education

University of Colorado Denver

School of Education & Human Development

Dr. Carla Shedd is Associate Professor of Sociology & Urban Education at The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY) whose research and teaching focuses on: education; criminalization and criminal justice; race and ethnicity; law; social inequality; and urban policy. Shedd's first book, Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice (October 2015, Russell Sage), has won multiple academic awards, including the prestigious C. Wright Mills Award, which is given to the top social-science book in the field of social inequality.  Unequal City examines Chicago public school students' perceptions of injustice and contact with police within and across various schools and neighborhoods, and deeply probes the intersections of race, place, education, and the expansion of the American carceral state. Shedd's second book project, When Protection and Punishment Collide: America's Juvenile Court System and the Carceral Continuum, draws on her one-of-a-kind empirical data to interrogate the deftly intertwined contexts of NYC schools, neighborhoods, and juvenile justice courts, in this dynamic moment of NYC public policy shifts (e.g., school (re-)segregation, "Raise the Age," and "Close Rikers.").

Dr. Espinoza is a child of desegregation (Keyes v. Denver School District No. 1, 1973) and a Chicano ethnographer of education working in the scholarly tradition that emerged during the 20th century struggle against racism in the U.S. He sees the labor in this historical vineyard as one of linking social scientific research to everyday struggles for a just society. Historically, this line of social science has provided the law with intellectual and empirical resources to perceive social life anew. To illustrate, consider the contributions of social scientists in landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954), Loving v. Virginia (1967), and Grutter v. Bollinger (2003). With his Right to Learn Dignity Lab, founded in 2007 and now comprised of five generations of undergraduates, he is developing two interconnected strands of research: 1) an inquiry into the historical and legal origins of educational rights; 2) a social interactional method for studying the manifestations of dignity in educational activity.


on Civic Engagement and Social Change

The Penn Youth Summit on Civic Engagement and Social Change will focus on the perspectives and research of high school youths regarding their roles in and possibilities for achieving positive change for their communities. It will convene young people in Philadelphia and elsewhere to share their ideas about the problems we face locally and globally and the significance of youth knowledge in addressing racial, social, and economic disparities and inequity. The Youth Summit is open to high school youth and youth-serving organizations, their teachers and other educators, and family and community members. The 2021 Youth Summit is being led by The Youth Civic Engagement Research (YCER) Project's Social Inquiry for Social Justice Group in collaboration with The Community Literacies Project, both at the University of Pennsylvania, and the participation of The Youth Voices Project at Michigan State University.

Please click here for more information on the Youth Summit on Civic Engagement and Social Change. 
Register via Eventbrite.

Co-Sponsor: Center For Experimental Ethnography

The Center for Experimental Ethnography was founded in 2018 to promote multi-modal research practices as both method and theory, integral dimensions of scholarly research.  Directed by Deborah A. Thomas (John L. Jackson, Jr., Co-Director), we are a group of faculty across eight of Penn’s twelve schools who facilitate and support multi-modal research practices among undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and our partners within the City of Philadelphia and beyond.  We coordinate scholarship, research, and public partnerships related to multi-modal work practices; consolidate those activities in which we (and our students) are already engaged; and grow these generative connections by hosting Visiting Scholars, coordinating workshops and conferences, supporting multi-modal project based courses, facilitating visual, sonic, and performative undergraduate and graduate research projects, producing rigorous criteria for assessing those projects, engaging with arts and community-based institutions throughout Philadelphia, and forging connections with other like-minded institutions worldwide.  We believe that multi-modal research practices transform how we conduct research, how we generate and disseminate knowledge, how we train students, and how we remain accountable to the communities in which we interact and through which our research circulates.  We see creative practice as intellectual work that necessarily historicizes the inequalities that pervade our society, and that develops solutions for their present iterations through collaborative and participatory work.  A basic premise that underlies our efforts is the contention that an expanded and multi-modal definition of what counts as scholarship will help lead to a more diverse university community, a community in which artistic practice is a cornerstone not only for engaged and participatory democracy and social justice, but also for the reimagining and transformation of the university as a whole. 

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