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Abu El-Haj, Thea

Associate ProfessorElHaj Abu Thea

Contact Information


Tel: (732) 932-7496

Office: 10 Seminary Place Room 36C


B.A. Swarthmore College

M.A. Bryn Mawr College

Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education

Research Interests

Threaded through Professor Abu El-Haj's educational research is a concern with the boundaries of inclusion in schools and, by extension, democratic society. Professor Abu El-Haj is interested in how difference and inequity are produced in particular educational settings and how people--specifically school practitioners, students, parents, and community members--understand and contest inequality and work to create more equitable educational environments. The key commitment that cuts across her different research projects is to utilize analyses of local practices to critique and inform theory, policy, and practice that aim to improve educational, economic, social, and civic opportunities for young people.

Biographical Notes

Thea Renda Abu El-Haj's diverse experiences as an elementary school teacher, researcher and teacher educator have shaped her primary commitment to teaching and research that fosters the development of just and equitable educational practices for all children.

One of her research strands examines grounded perspectives on educational equity. Her book, Elusive Justice (Routledge, 2006), addresses how we, as individuals and as a society, think about and act upon the differences that matter in education. The book extends our understanding of how educational inequality is produced and contested in local school contexts by showing how these processes also involve various ideas about educational justice. These ideas frame our approaches to educational policy and practice. As such, the book deepens our understanding of how difference comes to matter in schools, fleshing out how broader political dialogues implicitly structure local educational practices.

Her current research explores new questions about citizenship raised by globalization, transnational migration, and the “war on terror.”  This research focuses on how young Arab Americans grapple with questions of belonging and citizenship. In the wake of September 11, 2001, Arab and Muslim youth from immigrant communities in the U.S. face particular challenges in forging a sense of belonging to this society. In a recent article, “I was born here but my home it’s not here”: Educating for democratic citizenship in an era of transnational migration and global conflict. (2007, Harvard Educational Review) she focuses on the ways that Palestinian American youth from one immigrant community position themselves and are positioned in relation to citizenship and national belonging and she raises questions about educating youth for democratic citizenship and belonging in an era characterized by globalization and transnational migration.

Selected Publications

  • Abu El-Haj, T. R. and Bonet, S. W. (2011). Education, citizenship, and the politics of belonging: Muslim youth from transnational communities and the “war on terror.” Invited article for “Youth cultures, language and literacy,” Review of Research in Education Volume 34, 29-59.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. R. (2010). “The beauty of America”: Nationalism, education and the “war on terror.” Harvard Educational Review 80 (2): 242-274.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. R. (2009). Becoming citizens in an era of globalization and transnational migration: Re-imagining citizenship as critical practice.Theory into Practice. Theme issue: The Policies of Immigrant Education: Multinational Perspectives.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. R. and Rubin, B. C. (2009). Realizing the equity-minded aspirations of detracking and inclusion: Toward a capacity-oriented framework for teacher education. Curriculum Inquiry 39 (3): 435-463.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. R. (2009). Imagining postnationalism: Arts, citizenship education and Arab American youth. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 40 (1): 1-19.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. R. (2008). Arab visibility and invisibility. In M. Pollock (Ed),Everyday anti-racism:Getting real about race in school (pp. 174-179). New York: The New Press. 2008 Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. (2007). “I was born here but my home it’s not here”: Educating for democratic citizenship in an era of transnational migration and global conflict. Harvard Educational Review 77 (3): 285-316.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. (2006). Elusive justice: Wrestling with difference and educational equity in everyday practice.  New York: Routledge.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. (2006). Race, Politics, and Arab American Youth: Shifting Frameworks for Conceptualizing Educational Equity, Educational Policy20 (1), 13-34.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. (2005). Global politics, dissent and Palestinian-American identities: Engaging conflict to re-invigorate democratic education. In L. Weis and M. Fine (Eds.), Beyond Silenced Voices: Class, race and gender in United States Schools (pp.119-215). Revised edition. Albany: SUNY press.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. (2003). Challenging the inevitability of difference: Young women and discourse about gender equity in the classroom. Curriculum Inquiry 33 (4), 401- 425.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. (2003). Practicing for equity from the standpoint of the particular: Exploring the work of one urban teacher network. Teachers College Record 105 (5), 817-845.
  • Abu El-Haj, T. (2002). Contesting the politics of culture, rewriting the boundaries of inclusion: Working for social justice with Muslim and Arab communities. Anthropology & Education Quarterly33(3), 308-316. 

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