Ujju Aggarwal, Edwin Mayorga, Donna Nevel

Ujju Aggarwal Graduate Center, City University of New York

Edwin Mayorga Graduate Center, City University of New York

Donna Nevel Participatory Action Research Center for Education Organizing in partnership with the Educational Leadership Program, NYU Steinhardt


Slow Violence and Neoliberal Education Reform: Reflections on a School Closure


In 2009, the New York City Department of Education determined that Brandeis High School would be closed. Far from an anomaly, Brandeis is among one of over a hundred schools that has been closed since the recentralization of the City’s school system under Mayoral Control. Education activists and critical scholars of education have described such “sweeps” of school closings and the broader constellation of projects and technologies associated with them as indicative of neoliberal education reform and particularly of the ways that “accumulation by dispossession” (Harvey, 2005) plays out on the U.S. “home front.”  Despite an increased galvanization of resistance in recent years, the authors interrogate what else we might learn about neoliberal education restructuring (and how we might contest it) by attending to the last years of Brandeis to specifically explore: 1) how the conditions of dispossession impact the possibilities for resistance from the perspective of school workers, and 2) how the process of dispossession was accompanied by an investment from those with privilege in the public good of education that was contingent upon race and class based exclusions.


UJJU AGGARWAL is a community organizer and a doctoral student in the Cultural Anthropology program at CUNY Graduate Center. Her research grows out of her organizing work at the Center for Immigrant Families, and explores what contestations over public schools can illuminate about race, class, and gender, social reproduction, and urban space.  She has taught at the Educational Opportunities Center and at Hunter College, and has also participated in national and local efforts that focus on immigrants’ rights, the intersections of arts and social justice, public education, and violence against women of color.


EDWIN MAYORGA is an educational justice organizer and doctoral student in Urban Education at CUNY Graduate Center. His dissertation examines the racialization of Latinos through education reform policy and practices in the midst of contemporary racial capitalism. Prior to becoming a doctoral student he was an elementary school teacher in the NYC public system and has been organizing with the New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE) for the last 8 years. He is a participant in the National Latin@ Education Research & Policy Project (NLERAP), and is part-time faculty at Hunter College and New York University.


DONNA NEVEL, a community psychologist and educator, coordinates the Participatory Action Research Center for Education Organizing (PARCEO) that operates in partnership with the Educational Leadership Program at NYU Steinhardt, where she teaches PAR. As part of her work for justice in public education, she served as co-coordinator of the Project to Challenge Segregation in OUR Public Schools (Center for Immigrant Families). She also engages in organizing against Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism and for justice in Palestine/Israel.


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