Lesley Bartlett

Short Biography & Significant Contribution

Lesley Bartlett is an Associate Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, where she is affiliated with the Programs in International and Comparative Education and the Programs in Anthropology. There, she serves as Co-Director of the Center for Multiple Languages and Literacies and advisor for the Association of Latin American Students, while also participating in the Latino/a and Latin American Faculty Working Group and the Center for African Education. Most recently, Professor Bartlett has served as Visiting Faculty at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and has co-organized faculty and student trainings at Mwenge University College of Education in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania. Prior to joining the faculty at Teachers College, Professor Bartlett was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Writing at Duke University. An anthropologist by training, Bartlett has worked primarily in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States, though she has also conducted work in sub-Saharan Africa.

Professor Bartlett's academic research draws upon the fields of Comparative and International Education, anthropology, and literacy studies to make three key contributions to the field of Comparative and International Education. First, her book The Word and the World: The Cultural Politics of Literacy in Brazil, provides a critical rethinking of educational theorist Paulo Freire's seminal ideas. Though Freire's philosophy and pedagogy have long served as the cornerstone for critical, progressive educational work in the fields of education and development, few studies have pushed beyond his inspiring ideas to examine the challenges popular education initiatives face when re-inventing his theory in practice. The Word and the World provides a rare ethnographic analysis of Freirean-style "critical" or "popular" adult literacy programs in Brazil. In this way, the book contributes to the proud tradition of critical theory in the field of Comparative and International Education, in part by challenging some of its key precepts.

Second, making important contributions to discussions regarding comparative methods, Professor Bartlett has promoted the wider adoption in the field of rigorous qualitative research, and specifically ethnography. Her various articles demonstrate how ethnographic studies can trouble widespread development discourses regarding the relationship between literacy and development. Most recently, Professor Bartlett co-edited, with Professor Frances Vavrus, a collection titled Critical Approaches to Comparative Education. Utilizing multi-sited, qualitative research, the chapters explore vertical interactions across diverse levels of policy and practice while prompting horizontal comparisons across sites. Each chapter thus demonstrates the value of qualitative approaches to comparative and international education. Finally, Professor Bartlett's more recent work considers questions of migration and education for immigrant youth. She is currently authoring, with bilingual education specialist Ofelia Garcia, a case study of a New York City high school for Dominican newcomer youth. The book considers the remarkable successes of the school in fostering academic achievement and the bilingual development of academic registers among these marginalized youth even as it examines the constraints placed upon the school by contemporary educational policies and broader political economic forces. In addition, thanks to a Fulbright grant, Professor Bartlett has initiated a study of second generation Dominican youth of Haitian descent in Santo Domingo, examining the ways in which racialization interrupts their enjoyment of human rights, including the right to education.

Professor Bartlett's research interests fully inform her courses at Teachers College such as Comparative Education, Literacy and Development, Qualitative Research Methods, Ethnographic Approaches to Race, Class, and Schooling, and Critical Theory in Education for Social Change. In addition, while conducting research, Professor Bartlett seeks to involve collaboration with international faculty colleagues and her own students.

Personal Website 
Department of International and Transcultural Studies 
Program: Comparative and International Education/International Educational Development 
Program: Anthropology 

Educational Background

Ph.D. (2001) in anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill B.A. (1991) in English education with highest honors in English, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Professional Background

2008-2009 Visiting Associate Professor, Universidad Iberoamericana
2008-present Associate Professor
2007-present Co-Director, Center for Multiple Languages and Literacies
2002-2008 Assistant Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University
2001-2002 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Teaching, Learning, and Writing, Duke University

Affiliations (associations, organizations, institutions)

American Anthropological Association
Comparative and International Education Society
Council on Anthropology and Education

Selected Publications


Bartlett, Lesley. (2009) The Word and the World: The Cultural Politics of Literacy in Brazil. Creskill, NJ: Hampton Press.
Holland, D., C. Lutz and D. Nonini, L. Bartlett, M. Frederick, T. Guldbrandsen, and E. Murillo. (2007). Local Democracy Under Siege: Activism, Public Interests, and Private Politics. New York University Press.
Vavrus, Frances and Lesley Bartlett. (eds). (forthcoming). Critical Approaches to Comparative Education: Vertical Case Studies from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. Palgrave Macmillan.


Bartlett, L. (2008). Literacy's Verb: Exploring What Literacy Is and What Literacy Does. International Journal of Educational Development 28, 6, 737-753.
Bartlett, L. (2007) Bilingual Literacies, Social Identification, and Educational Trajectories. Linguistics in Education 18, 3-4, 215-231.
Bartlett, L. (2007). Human Capital or Human Connections? The Cultural Meanings of Education in Brazil. Teachers College Record 109, 7, 1613-1636.
Bartlett, L. (2007). Literacy, Speech, and Shame: The Cultural Politics of Literacy and Language in Brazil. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 20, 6, 1-17.
Bartlett, L. (2007). The Comparative Ethnography of Educational Projects: Youth and Adult Literacy Programmes in Brazil. Compare 37, 2, 151-166.
Bartlett, L. (2007). To Seem and to Feel: Situated Identities and Literacy Practices. Teachers College Record 109, 1, 51-69.
Bartlett, L. (2005). Dialogue, Knowledge, and Teacher-Student Relations: Freirean Pedagogy in Theory and Practice. Comparative Education Review 49(3): 344-364.
Bartlett, Lesley and Brayboy, Bryan. (2005). Race and Schooling: Theories and Ethnographies. Urban Review 37, 5, 361-374.
Bartlett, L., Frederick, M, Gulbrandsen, T., and Murillo, E. (2002). The Marketization of Education: Public Schools for Private Ends. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 33, 1, 5-29. 
Garcia, O. and Bartlett, L. (2007). A Speech Community Model of Bilingual Education: Educating Latino Newcomers in the USA. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism 10, 1, 1-25.
Vavrus, F. and Bartlett, L. (2006). Comparatively Knowing: Making a Case for the Vertical Case Study. Current Issues in Comparative Education. (on-line at http://www.tc.columbia.edu/cice/Archives/8.2/82vavrus_bartlett.pdf)


Created: 6/5/2009

Updated: 7/31/2009

Contributed By: Frances Vavrus, University of Minnesota