faculty of environmental studies

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Barndt, Deborah Jean

Barndt, Deborah Jean

Diplome moyen d’etudes francais - Universite de Strasbourg, France
BA (Comprehensive Social Studies and French) - Otterbein College
MA (Social Psychology)
PhD (Sociology) - Michigan State


"Life isn't measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away."

Areas of Academic Interest

  • Community-engaged and activist art
  • Agri-food sustainability and local/global food movements
  • Popular education for social and environmental justice
  • Diverse epistemologies and ways of knowing
  • Participatory methodologies
  • Transnational activism (especially in the Americas)

Where else could I bring together the academic, artist and activist that are all critical dimensions of who I am? In almost two decades at FES, I have become an interdisciplinary thinker by rubbing shoulders with wonderful colleagues coming from diverse fields and have shared a commitment to praxis-oriented education linked to community engagement and social change. While my training was in comparative sociology, I teach primarily in the areas of popular education and community arts, both transformative practices that promote a critical analysis of power and a creative and collective engagement in building daily the world we want to live in.

I coordinate the Community Arts Program (CAP), which includes an undergraduate certificate (the only one of its kind in Canada), and places students in community-engaged projects for their final year. I teach the introductory Community Arts for Social Change course and the CAP preparatory workshop. At the graduate level, I teach a Cultural Production Workshop, which draws on my background as a photographer, and promotes critical analysis of images and creative production in a wide range of visual media, often in collaboration with community groups. All this work aims to create spaces for people to tell their own stories, challenging dominant and oppressive stories, and encouraging creative expression in multiple forms – visual, dramatic, musical, spoken word, and new social media.

My current research follows beautifully from two decades of research on the global food system and community arts/popular education within social movements. In The FoodShed Project, I work with students, faculty from FES and other Ontario universities, and over 30 local food organizations to document, reflect on, and connect the myriad grass-roots initiatives to transform the food system into a more just and sustainable system. I bring arts-based and participatory methodologies to the project, involving students in collaborative productions of digital stories of local food organizations, for example, and facilitating community mural productions that represent the struggles and hopes of this burgeoning movement.

Major research projects

Academic Innovation Fund (AIF) Arts and Communities Network Project (2011-2012)

Arts Impact Study with Toronto Arts Foundation (TAF) as part of Creative City: Block by Block (2011-2012)

The FoodShed Project: Agrifood Sustainability in the Southern Ontario FoodShed (2009- ) – a participatory action research project with over 30 local food organizations around their organizational ecology, generational and cultural renewal

Painting Our Stories: Roncesvalles-Parkdale Community Mural Project – researching and recovering local histories through storytelling and art-making (2008- )

Creative Tensions of Community Arts in Popular Education: A Transnational Study of the Americas (2004-2008) – a transnational collaborative research project with NGOs and universities in Panama, Nicaragua, Mexico, the U.S. and Canada

The Tomasita Project: racing the Tomato from Mexican Field to Canadian Table: Women Workers in Globalized Food Production (1994-2000)

Other positions/affiliations

Select prizes and awards

  • Inaugural Chair in Social Justice. Coady International Institute, St. Francis Xavier University, 2012
  • First Dean’s Teaching Award, Faculty of Environmental Studies, 2010
  • CHOICE Library Association Award for Outstanding Academic Title for Tangled Routes: Women, Work and Globalization on the Tomato Trail, 2009
  • Nominee, OCUFA Teaching Award, 2008
  • Finalist in Popular Culture category Book of the Year Award for Wild Fire: Art as Activism, 2006
  • Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Research Award for “Creative Tensions of Community Arts and Popular Education in the Americas”, 2004
  • Winner of the IPPY Independent Book Publisher Award in the category of Women’s Issues as editor of Women Working the NAFTA Food Chain: Women, Food, and Globalization (Toronto: Second Story Press, 1999),
  • SCOTL Teaching Release Time Fellowship and Teaching/Learning Development Award, 1998
  • Nominee, SCOTL Teaching Award, 1998
  • Ontario Arts Council Exhibition Assistance Award, 1998
  • Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Research Award for “Tracing the Trail of the Tomato: Women, Work and Globalization, 1996
  • J. Roby Kidd Special Citation Award by the International Council for Adult Education, 1992
  • Ontario Arts Council Writers Award,
  • Mellon Scholar, Mellon Foundation,

Select publications

"Cultivating Creativity: Education and Art Feed the Food Justice System," In M. Koc, J. Sumner and T. Winson. Critical Perspectives on Food Studies Reader. Oxford University Press, 2012.

VIVA! Community Arts and Popular Education in the Americas. (editor) Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2011.

VIVA! El Arte Comunitario y La Educación Popular en las Americas. (co-editor) Bluefields, Nicaragua: URACCAN, 2011.

“Reframing Internationalization in a (Post)Colonial and Diasporic Context: Two Initiatives at York University,” in Internationalizing Canadian Universities: Policies, Practices, and Challenges. Toronto: James Lorimer and Company, 2010.

“Remapping the Americas: A transnational engagement with creative tensions of community arts” in R. Nagar and A. Starr, Transnational Feminist Praxis, SUNY Press, 2010.

(with Laura Reinsborough), “Decolonizing Art, Education and Research in the VIVA! Project” in L. Davis, Aliiances:Re/Envisioning Relationships between Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Peoples, University of Toronto Press, 2010.

“Touching Minds AND Hearts: Community Arts as Collaborative Research” in G. Knowles and A. Cole, Handbook of the Arts in Qualitative Research; Perspectives, Methodologies, Examples, and Issues. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 351-362, 2008.

Tangled Routes: Women, Work, and Globalization the Tomato Trail, Second Edition. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008.

Rutas Enmarañadas: Mujer, Trabajo, y Globalization en el Camino del Tomate, Editorial de Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana (UAM-Xochimilco), 2007.

Wild Fire: Art as Activism. (editor). Toronto, Ontario: Sumach Press, 2006.

“By whom and for whom? Intersections of participatory research and community arts.” In A. Cole, L. Neilsen, J.G. Knowles, T. Luciani (editors), Provoked by Art: Theorizing Arts-Informed Inquiry. Backalong Books and Centre for Arts-Informed Research, OISE, 2004.

“Whose ‘Choice’? ‘Flexible’women workers in the tomato food chain.” In J. Alexander et al (eds). Sing, Whisper, Shout, and Pray: Feminist Visions for a Just World. Edgework Books, 2003.

Tangled Routes: Women, Work, and Globalization the Tomato Trail. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers and Aurora, Ontario: Garamond Press, 2002.

(with Gene Desfor and Barbara Rahder). Just Doing It: Popular Collective Action in the Americas. Montreal: Black Rose, 2001.

“Naming, making and connecting: Reclaiming lost arts: The pedagogical possibilities of photo-story production.” In P. Campbell and B. Burnaby (eds.), Participatory Practices in Adult Education. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, Inc., 2000.

Women, Food, and Globalization: Women Working the NAFTA Food Chain, (editor) Toronto: Sumach Press, 1999.

Para Cambiar Esta Casa: Educación Popular bajo los Sandinistas. Spanish edition of To Change This House. INIEP, the Nicaraguan Institute for Popular Research and Education, 1995.

To Change This House: Popular Education Under the Sandinistas. Toronto: Between the Lines, 200 pp. Co-published by the Jesuit Centre and the Doris Marshall Institute for Education and Action, 1991.

Naming the Moment: Political Analysis for Action. Toronto: Jesuit Centre. 1989, 1991.

(with R. Arnold and B. Burke) A New Weave: Popular Education in Canada and Central America. Toronto: Canadian University Service Overseas and Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, 1985.

(with F. Cristall and d. marino) Getting There: Producing Photo-Stories with Immigrant Women. Toronto: Between the Lines, 1983.

Education and Social Change: A Photographic Study of Peru. Whitby: Kendall-Hunt, 1980.

Photographic exhibits

“If the Walls Could Speak….What Stories Would They Tell?”, a photo exhibit of community murals (with contributions from my students), Tinto Coffee House (2009), York University and University of Toronto (2010).

“Cross-Pollinations: Photography and Social Change in the Americas,” a retrospective, Tinto Coffee House (2008), University of Toronto and York University (2009).

“Attacking the Corporate Tomato: Turning Globalization on its Head,” on display (2001-2006) at St. Lawrence Centre Forum on Food, Women Against Corporate Globalization Forum, Metro Network for Social Justice, Global Teach-In sponsored by the Canadian Labour Congress, Windsor, McGill University, Global Agricultural Rules Meeting (University of Toronto), BioJustice conference (St. Lawrence Centre and OISE), Environmental Activism and Global Sustainable Development Forum (Concordia), Participatory Action Research Conference (York), Harvest Fair (Kahnawake, Quebec), Peoples’ Summit, Quebec City; Centre for Social Justice conference, Toronto; Conference on Social Inequalities (York).

“Wall of Democracy/Wall of Shame,” photo installation on display for Eco Art and Media Festival (York), G-8 Teach In (Holy Trinity Church).

“The Garbage Collection Project: A Visual History of a Community Arts Process” on display at ‘Polluting Acts’ Forum, Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts, Art Gallery of Ontario, 2001.

Photographs published in over 200 publications over three decades.

Current courses

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