skip to primary navigation skip to content

Jo-Anne Dillabough


Professor, Sociology, Sociology of Education, Sociology of Young People and Global Cultures

Chair, Knowledge, Power, Politics (KPP)

Deputer Director of Research (Education)

ESRC LEAD PI, Universities and Crises:

DIRECTOR, ESRC HE&CRISES SUB-UNIT, Hannah Arendt and the Study of Political Crises

Consultancies and Advisory Roles (Samples): UNESCO, Beams Education Foundation, MENA American Political Science Association Mentorship Scheme, CARA

E-mail Address


01223 767630


McGill University, Ph.D. (distinction, 1st class, 1997, Deans Honour List), Interdisciplinary PhD: Sociology of Education, Politics, International Human Rights

University of British Columbia M.A. (distinction, 1st class, 1990), Faculty of Education and Social Sciences

University of Western Ontario B.A. (Honours, 1987), Psychology/Social Sciences and Humanities

Career History

SSHRC Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Education, University of Cambridge, Cambridge UK (1996 -1998)

Visiting Post-Doctoral Fellow, Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge (1996-1998)

Assistant Professor, Curriculum Studies and Gender Studies, OISE, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, 1998-2003

Assistant/Associate Professor, Educational Studies (Sociology of Education), 2003-2014

Reader, Sociology of Education, University of Cambridge, 2007-2021

David Lam Endowed Chair in Multicultural Education, UBC, 2010-2014

Professor, Sociology of Education, Education, University of Cambridge, 2021

Membership of Professional Bodies/Associations


  • British Sociological Association (BSA)
  • European Council for Political Research (ECPR)
  • British Educational Research Association (BERA)
  • American Educational Research Association (AERA)
  • Canadian Society for Studies in Education (CSSE)
  • Comparative and International Association of Education Studies (CIES)

Editorial Boards: Service to Journal Work and Editorships (samples)

Executive International Board Memberships and International Reviewer (samples):

Gender and Education (co-editor, 2012-2017)

Canadian Journal of Education, Discourse (editorial board, international), Compare, Race and Education, Cambridge Journal of Education (executive editorial board), Citizenship Studies, McGill Journal of Education, British Journal of Sociology, Urban Studies, Sociology, City, Sociological Review, Cultural Geography.


Personal Statement

I began my academic career as an ethnographer during my doctorate, which I undertook in Canada at McGill University. At the start of my doctoral student trajectory, I sought to better understand how young people came to know about Indigenous human rights' issues and how non-Indigenous youth and teachers understood them as expressions of culture, society, knowledge and power. I was also interested in the part played by social and cultural media, popular knowledge forms, histories of colonialism and political culture in mediating these expressions. At this very early stage of my career, the project was about horizontal alliance and community building and developing collaborative and creative methodological approaches for assessing young people's knowledge of the inequalities experienced by Indigenous peoples and created through the legacy of colonial education practice. The concept of interest therefore rested with social and cultural inequality - particularly the colonial project and its legacies in the present. Concepts such as region, space, place, nation, coloniality, history, memory, empire, and knowledge were also central to this project. Sociology has always been the discipline driving my work but it never lives on its own in the 'ethnographic imagination' nor can it solely address the challenges scholars face as they seek to critique diverse regimes of power and novel political transformations as they shape the modern education project and the concept of modernity itself.

I would now describe my core interests in three key areas. The first is in relation to the sociology and urban geographies of youth cultures and exclusions in global cities. A second more recent set of interests relates to questions about how transnational urban change impacts upon the most disadvantaged young people, particularly as it relates to the intersection of social housing, race, migration, resettlement, protracted displacement, exile, citizenship, and youth surveillance in regions and spaces across the world (e.g., South Africa, Canada, Syria, Turkey, UK, Hungary). Not unlike the field of sociology, these concepts cannot exist in isolation because they each share a conflicted and compromised relation to global markets and advanced capital expansion, coercive and war-torn states and occupied territories, alongside the violation of marginalised groups' human rights and access to opportunity and mobility. 

A third major area of research I am committed to is the Sociology of Higher Education, Conflict and Emergencies (see; the study of academic and student activists in exile; the sociology of intellectuals and post-colonial scholarship in 21st century universities; and higher education and conflict.  I draw particularly upon studies of nation-building, nationalism and legacies of colonialism and imperialism to investigate the many contemporary crises of critique and political freedoms in modern HE. 

I am also a longstanding scholar of the work of Hannah Arendt and am the Director of an ESRC sub-unit -  Hannah Arendt and the Study of Political Crises. I also dabble in critical archival studies, oral history and memory research, particularly but not exclusively in relation to colonial frontier regions and spaces and histories of activism. See link here:

My most recent funded grant as PI is on a large-scale ESRC project investigating the impact of the growth of populist and authoritarian political imaginaries on universities in four countries: Hungary, the UK, South Africa and Turkey. 

Link to project website:

Statement On Scholarship: Transdisciplinary Research

Transdisciplinary research has been of fundamental importance to me, both at the substantive level and in terms of theory and methodology. From my initial training as a sociologist and ethnographer I have gone on to draw extensively upon theoretical, conceptual and methodological insights deriving from, in particular, continental philosophy, post-colonial and decolonial theories, political theory, border studies and human and cultural geography. I now describe my intellectual position as that of an transdisciplinary cultural sociologist specialising in micro-cultural sociological and qualitative approaches. I have a strong interest in visual and digital methods and interactive approaches but am experienced across a range of qualitative research methods. I continue to work on projects related to youth precocity, security and surveillance in Walthamstow, UK and Cape town, South Africa (ESRC IMPACT Acceleration Grant, British Academy Funding, former David Lam Chair Funding). I am also researching youth activism, migration and cities originally funded by a British Academy project in the UK and South Africa. 

Public Sociology, Transnational Inequalities - Towards a Transnational Sociology of Education

Sociology is a professional and theoretical tool for assessing a range of different social issues and societal and geo-political conflicts but it also has a significant and generative outward facing public dimension; that of 'public sociology' in the form originally emphasised by Michael Burawoy but which extends to transnational political sociologies. My commitment to Burawoy's ideals of a public sociology is not only to hold our own discipline to account but to represent a public response to what we know about the obstacles for marginalised groups to inclusive democratic participation and civic engagement. Sociology is a tool for understanding how inequality works and its survival rests upon how we choose to engage in the task of understanding global inequalities, particularly as they transcend territories and nation spaces and represent legacies of colonialism and imperialism. It is also an important discipline in assessing education's role in either reproducing or eradicating global inequalities, particularly under the current regimes of austerity, heightened racisms, genocide, geographies of displacement and containment, the vast privatisation of public services, and the rise of the far right and populist political imaginaries. My work is always confronting these legacies and forces, particularly in relation to the role of knowledge production in the making of modern violence and geo-political conflict. I stand by Clifford Geertz's emphasis on 'thick description' as one of the primary means through which we might begin to read this conflicted landscape and seek to respond. But writers and thinkers such as James Baldwin, Primo Levi, Sylvia Wynter, Sara Ahmed, Linda Tuhawei-Smith, Adriana Cavarero, and Bonnie Honig also loom large in my work.

I am a trained ethnographer and qualitative researcher and I strive to develop creative research methods (visual, archival, media and film studies approaches, and qualitative approaches such as oral histories) in order to enhance the foundational elements of ethnographic fieldwork. I also have experience collaborating with visual artists for high impact public translation. 

Academic Area/Links

  • Sociology and Sociology of Education
  • Critical HE Studies and the Politics of Knowledge Production
  • Youth and Cities Research
  • Youth Subcultures and the Global City
  • Visual Methodologies
  • Global Social Theory and Transnational Sociology of Education
  • Urban Studies and Social Space
  • International Human Rights and Disadvantaged Youth Cultures
  • Youth Migration, Education and Protracted Displacement
  • Widening Participation, Youth Transitions and Higher Education 

Current and Past Research Projects

Higher Education, States of Precarity and Conflict in the 'Global North' and 'Global South': UK, Hungary, South Africa, and the UK, ESRC (2020-2024)

The Syrian Crisis in Higher Education (Cara, Council for at Risk Academics, British Council, Open Society, 2017-2019), (CARA), Co-PI, with C. McLaughlin, O. Fimyar & Z. Al-Azmeh.

Youth, Citizenship and Social Exclusion in Global Contexts (SSHRC, Spencer Foundation)

Economic Disadvantage and Youth Cultures of the 21st Century in South Africa and London, UK (University of Cambridge, ESRC Impact Acceleration

Spaces of Refuge and Resettlement in the City: Youth, Education and Humanitarian Protection Services in the 'Global North' and 'Global South'", British Academy

Course Involvement

  • Towards a Transnational Sociology of Education (Course Coordinator, Tripos)
  • Knowledge, Power, Politics (KPP MPHIL)
  • Education Tripos, Globalization and Modernity

Journal Articles and Book Chapters (samples)

Al Azmeh, Z. & Dillabough, J. Authorial Power, Authoritarianism, and Exiled Intellectuals: Syria and Turkey. Int J Polit Cult Soc (2023).

Dillabough, j. (2022, 2023). Young MK Freedom Fighters in an Apartheid Past: Memory, urban frontier spaces and power. In Julie Mcleod, Kate O’ConnorNicole DavisAmy McKernan’s (eds), Temporality, Space and Place in Education Research, London: Routledge.

Dillabough, J.  (2022) Higher education, violent modernities and the ‘global present’: the paradox of politics and new populist imaginaries in HE, Globalisation, Societies and Education, 20:2, 178-192, DOI: 10.1080/14767724.2021.1954497

Bose, S. , Dillabough, J., & Maber, E. (forthcoming). Emergency Exit: The Search for Justice and Autonomy in Higher Education Beyond Hungary’s Burgeoning Ethnocracy, to be published in Identities. 

Dillabough, J. & Al-Azmeh, Z. (under review). Beyond Victim and Perpetrator Working in the Grey Zone of the Modern Academy: the paradoxical ‘problem spaces’ of the post-colonial scholar in exile. Submitted to Qualitative Inquiry.

Harðardóttir, E., Magnisdottir, B. & Dillabough, J. (2021). Icelandic Teachers’ Perspectives on migrant youth, integration and education: citizen or stranger: Special Issue of IJIE on Refugees and Inclusive Education, International Journal of Inclusive Education, 239-258.

Dillabough, J. (2020). Identity as other and the promise of the narrative imagination in educational theorizing: Arendt and Ricoeur. In W. Veck & H. Gunter (Eds.), Hannah Arendt on educational thinking and practice in dark times education for a world in crisis. London: Bloomsbury.

Dillabough, J. (2019). Young people heating up in the London kettle: reading between the fault lines of race and class wars of the British Urban Riot Scene (1958–2011). In P. Trifonas and S. Jagger (eds), Handbook of Cultural Studies and Education (eds.), New York: Routledge.

Dillabough, J. & Dillabough-Lefebvre, D. (2018). The long-distance ethnographer in the new academy of global fetishes: a reflection on the lost gifts of ethnographic exchange in the young lives of MK freedom fighters in South Africa. In K. Gallagher’s (ed.), The Methodological Dilemma Revisited. New York: Routledge.

McLaughlin, C., Dillabough, J., Fimyar, O., Al Azmeh, Z. Abdullateef, S., Abedtalas, M., Al Abdullah, S. Al Oklah, W., Abdulhafiz, W. Al-Hussein, Y., Al Ibrahim, Z., Al Mohamad Al Ibrahim, A., Barmu, T., Rashid Mamo, A., Shaban, F. (2020a, on-line access only). Testimonies of Syrian academic displacement post-2011: Time, place and the agentic self. International Journal of Education Research Open, 1-9.

Al-Azmeh, Z., Dillabough, J., Fimyar, O., McLaughlin, C (2020b, online). Cultural trauma and the politics of access to higher education in Syria, Discourse: Cultural Politics of Education.

Dillabough, J., Fimyar, O., McLaughlin, C., Al-Azmeh, Z., Abdullateef, S., & Abedtalas, M. (2018). Conflict, insecurity, and the political economies of higher education: The case of Syria post-2011. International Journal of Comparative Education and Development, 20(3-4), 176-196.

Dillabough, J. & Yoon, E. (2018). Youth geographies of urban estrangement in the Canadian city: risk management, race relations, and the ‘sacrificial stranger. Children’s Geographies. 6, 1-15.

Dillabough, J. (2016) Review Essay of Education, work and identity: themes and perspectives,
Journal of Education Policy Vol. 31 , Iss. 5.

Dillabough, J. (2016). Review Essay of Youth rising? The politics of youth in the global economy, British Journal Of Sociology Of Education Vol. 37 , Iss. 3.

Back to top

Dillabough, J. (2016). Gender, Social Justice and Citizenship in Education: Engaging Space, the Narrative Imagination, and Relationality. Chapter published in The Palgrave International Handbook for Citizenship and Social Justice in Education. Springer.

Dillabough, J., McLeod, J. & Oliver, C. (2015). Distant cities, travelling tales and segmented young lives: making and remaking youth exclusion across time and place. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 19, 659-676.

Dillabough, J. & Gardner, P. (2015). ‘Of Time and the City’: Young People’s Ethnographic Accounts of Identity and Urban Experience. Chapter published in P. Smeyers, ‎D. Bridges, ‎& N. C. Burbules, & M. Griffiths, International Handbook of Interpretation in Educational Research.

Dillabough, J. (2014). Rethinking race, gender and access to higher education in Canada. Review essay of Too Asian: Racism, Privilege, and Post-Secondary Education ed. by J. Heer, M.C.K. Ma, D. Bhandar and R.J. Gilmour, published in Labour/Travail, University of Athabasca Press, 74, 358-361.

Dillabough, J., Ivinson, G., McLeod, J., & Tambouku, M. (2012). Looking back, looking forward: A short introduction from the new editorial team of Gender and Education. Gender and Education, 24(6), 575-576.

Kennelly, J., & Dillabough, J. (2011). Young people mobilizing the language of citizenship: Struggles for classification and new meaning in an uncertain world. Reprinted in A. Coffey & R. Tom (Eds.), Researching young people. London: Sage.

Dillabough, J. (2011). Feminist reproduction theory. In B. Bank (Ed.), Gender and higher education. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press/Greenwood Press.

Dillabough, J. McLeod, J. & Mills, M. (2010, expanded journal edition, ed). In search of allies and others: ‘Troubling’ gender and education (Introduction). Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 29(3), 301-310.

Dillabough, J. (2009). Assessing Pierre Bourdieu’s theoretical legacies for feminist sociology of education: Culture, self and society. In C. Levine-Rasky (Ed.), Canadian perspectives on the sociology of education in Canada. Toronto and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dillabough, J. (2009). History and the making of young people and the late modern researcher: Time, narrative and change. Review Essay in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 30(2), 213-229.

Dillabough, J. (2009). To be or not to be (a gendered subject): Was that the question? Gender and Education, 21(4), 455-466.

Dillabough, J., McLeod, J., & Mills, M. (2008). In search of allies and others: “Troubling” gender and education. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 29(3), 301-310.

Dillabough, J. (2008). Exploring historicity and temporality in social science methodology: A case for analytical and methodological justice. In K. Gallagher (Ed.), The methodological dilemma. New York and London: Routledge.

Kennelly, J. & Dillabough, J. (2008). Young people mobilizing the language of citizenship: Struggles for classification and new meaning in an uncertain world. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29(5), 493-508 (reprinted in Routledge Reader on Citizenship Education and reprinted in Routledge Collection on the Sociology of Education and Young People).

McLeod, J., & Dillabough, J. (2007). Social-spatial exclusion, gender and schooling: Perspectives from Canada and Australia. Redress: Journal of Association of Women Educators, 16(1), 3-11.

Dillabough, J. (2007). Extended Review Essay: Anoop Nayak’s Race, Space and Globalization: Youth Cultures in a Changing World. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 28(1), 125-134.

Acker, S., & Dillabough, J. (2007). Women “learning to labour” in the “male emporium”: Gendered experiences of work in teacher education. Gender and Education, 19(3), 297-316.

McLeod, J., & Dillabough, J. (2007). Social-spatial exclusion, gender and schooling: Perspectives from Canada and Australia. Redress: Journal of the Association of Women Educators, 16(1), 3-11.

Dillabough, J. (2005). Gender, symbolic domination and female work: The case of teacher education. Discourse: The Cultural Politics of Education, 22, 127-148.

Dillabough, J., Kennelly, J., & Wang, G. (2005). “Ginas”, “thugs”, and “gangstas”: Young people’s struggles to “become somebody” in working-class urban Canada. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 21(3), 83-108 (best article award, Canadian Association of Curriculum Studies).

Dillabough, J. (2004). Class, culture and the “predicaments of masculine domination”: Pierre Bourdieu’s encounter with contemporary feminist sociology. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 25(4), 489-506.

Arnot, M. & Dillabough, J. (2003). Reformular os debates educacionais sobre a cidadania, agencia e identitadedas mulheres. Ex-Aequo: Revista da Associação Portuguesa de Estud sobre as Mulheres, 7, 17-48.

Dillabough, J. (2003). Gender, education, and society: The limits and possibilities of feminist reproduction theory. Sociology of Education, 76(4), 376-379.

Dillabough, J., & Acker, S. (2003). Gender at work in teacher education: History, society and global reform. Journal of Research in Teacher Education, 3, 109-133.

Dillabough, J., & Acker, S. (2002). Globalization, women's work and teacher education: A cross-national analysis. International Studies in the Sociology of Education, 12(3), 227-260.

Dillabough, J. (2002). The hidden injuries of critical pedagogy. Curriculum Inquiry, 32(2), 203-214.

Dillabough, J., & Arnot, M. (2002). Recasting educational debates about female citizenship, agency and identity. The School Field Journal, 8(3/4), 61-89.

Dillabough, J. (1999). Gender politics and conceptions of the modern teacher: Women, identity and professionalism. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 20(3), 373-392.

Arnot, M., & Dillabough, J. (1999). Feminist politics and democratic values in education. Curriculum Inquiry, 29(2), 159-189.

Dillabough, J., & McAlpine, L. (1996). Rethinking research processes and praxis in social studies education: The cultural politics of methodology in text evaluation research. Theory and Research in Social Education, 24(2), 167-201.

Keynotes and Invited Presentations (selected)

Dillabough, J. (2016). Rethinking Displacement and Estrangement in Higher Education: Borders, Divisions and the Power of the Narrative Imagination. Keynote presented to the Widening Participation in HE Conference 2016: Access for all, University of Salford, Salford, UK.

Dillabough, J. (2016). Redressing Inequity in Higher Education Access. Keynote to Faculty of Education, University of Haifa and DARE Erasmus Project, Haifa, Israel.

Dillabough, J (2016). Cultural estrangement, ‘expulsions’ and the re-making of youth cultures in the securitized state: a South African and UK comparison. Keynote presented to the Lakes Conference, Growing up and global austerity: Comparing youth opportunities, aspirations and civic values around the world, London, UK, Institute of Education.

Dillabough, J. (2016). Comparative youth cultures in the securitized state: a South African and UK comparison. Invited Speaker, University of Brighton, Brighton, UK.

Dillabough, J. (2015). For Whom Does Freedom Exist: Gender, Education and Citizenship. Plenary Keynote presented to A Hundred Years of Women's Rights in Iceland, Centre for Gender Studies, University of Reykjavík, Reykjavík, Iceland.

Dillabough, J. (2015). Rethinking Visual Methodology with Youth Cross Nationally. Invited Presentation to the Faculty of Education, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland.

Dillabough, J. (2015). Rethinking the educational research writing process. Invited presentation given to the Faculty of Education, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland.

Dillabough, J. , McLeod, J., Tambouku, M., & Ivinson, G. (2015). Publish or perish: The art and craft of scholarly writing and reviewing in Gender and Education. Invited workshop presentation to the Bi-Annual Gender and Education Conference, Roehampton University, London, UK.

Dillabough, J. (2014). Rethinking Youth and Social Exclusion from the Vantage Point of Hannah Arendt’s conception of historical responsibility. Invited paper presentation to the ERSC Panel Series on Education and Youth Disadvantage (Lupton, R. & Bibby, T., Coordinated by University of Manchester and the IOE).

Dillabough, J. (2012). Gender Stereotypes under the microscope. Invited presentation for the Festival of Ideas, University of Cambridge, UK. Debate with Simon Baron Cohen and Deborah Cameron.

Talk Title: Rethinking the Historical Place of Science and Eugenics in Understanding the Gender Order of Everyday Life.

Dillabough, J. (2012). Case Study: Implementing Public Sector Equality Duties in Higher Education - Promoting Social Mobility among Minority Ethnic Youth People. Keynote to the Inside Government Association, Royal Society of Medicine, London, UK.

Dillabough, J. (2011). The Spatial Constraints for Youth Citizenship in Global Cities. Keynote to at the Spaces for Youth Citizenship Conference, Department of Geography, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.

Dillabough, J. (2011). Invited Keynote for Bi-Annual Gender and Education Meeting, based on the success of Troubling Gender in Education: Past, Present and Future (impact: book title was used for the theme of the 2011 conference), University of Exeter, Exeter, UK.

Dillabough, J. (2011). Invited Keynote, Transnational Fears and Local Anxieties about Young People Living at the Borders of the Nation. Presented at Multiculturalism: Perspectives from Australia, Canada & China, University of Sydney, Faculty of Education and Social Work, Sydney, Australia.

Dillabough, J. (2010). Invited Keynote, Lost Youth in the Global City. International Youth Studies Association, Spring School, Comparative Educational Pathways, York University, York, UK.

Dillabough, J. (2010). Invited Keynote, Lost Youth in the Global City. Summer Youth Studies Conference, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.

Dillabough, J. (2010). Lost Youth in the Global City: Doing Youth Research in Comparative Contexts. Keynote given to the Student Research Conference, University of Northhampton, Northhampton, UK.

Book and Book Length Reports

Dillabough, J., Fimyar, O., McLauglin, C., Al-Azmeh, Z., & Jebril, M. (2019a). Higher education in Syria post-2011: A literature review and enquiry. Published Report for Cara and the British Council. FOE, UofC, Cambridge, UK. 120 pages.

Dillabough, J., Fimyar, O., McLauglin, C., Al-Azmeh, Z., & Jebril, M. (2019b). Higher education in Syria pre-2011: A literature review and enquiry. Published Report for Cara and the British Council. Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK. 80 pages.

Dillabough, J. and Kennelly, J. (2010). Lost youth in the global city: Class, culture and the global imaginary. New York: Routledge.

Dillabough, J., McLeod, J., & Mills, M. (Eds.) (2010). Troubling gender in education. London: Routledge (paperback edition).

Dillabough, J., McLeod, J., & Mills, M. (Eds.) (2009). Troubling gender in education. London: Routledge. (hardback edition)

Lauder, H., Brown, P., Dillabough, J., & Halsey, A. (Eds.) (2006). Globalization, education, and social change. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press (Japanese translation, University of Tokyo Press, 2012).

Arnot, M., & Dillabough, J. (2000). (Eds.) Challenging democracy: International perspectives on gender, education and citizenship. London: RoutledgeFalmer.


image of staff member