Rebecca Tarlau

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Rebecca Tarlau

Rebecca Tarlau

Assistant Professor of Education and Labor and Employment Relations


  1. Ph.D. (Education), University of California, Berkeley
  2. M.A. (Education), University of California, Berkeley
  3. B.A. (Anthropology and Latin American Studies), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Rebecca Tarlau is an Assistant Professor of Education and Labor and Employment Relations at The Pennsylvania State University, affiliated with the Adult Education and Lifelong Learning Program and the Center for Global Workers Rights. Her ethnographic research agenda has three broad areas of focus: (1) Theories of the State and State-Society Relations; (2) Social movements, Labor Education, and critical pedagogies; (3) Latin American education and development.

Rebecca has spent extensive time living in Latin America and has worked as a popular educator in a variety of social movement and union contexts. Her forthcoming book at Oxford University Press is on the educational initiatives of the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement (MST), titled Occupying Schools, Occupying Land: How the Landless Workers Movement Transformed Brazilian Education. This research explores the movement’s attempt to transform public education across the country, focusing on the micro-politics of grassroots educational reform: the strategies activists use to convince state actors to adopt their initiatives and the political and economic conditions that affect state-society interactions concerning schools. Rebecca’s current research project examines teacher union organizing in Brazil, Mexico, and the United States.

Rebecca’s recent publications include “State Theory, Grassroots Agency, and Global Policy Transfer: The Life and Death of Colombia’s Escuela Nueva in Brazil” (Comparative Education Review); "How Do New Critical Pedagogies Develop? Educational Innovation, Social Change, and Landless Workers in Brazil" (Teachers College Record); "Not-So-Public Contention: Movement Strategies, Regimes, and the Transformation of Public Institutions in Brazil" (Mobilization); "Education of the Countryside at a Crossroads: Rural Social Movements and National Policy Reform in Brazil" (Journal of Peasant Studies); "From a Language to a Theory of Resistance: Critical Pedagogy, the Limits of ‘Framing,’ and Social Change" (Educational Theory);  “Coproducing Rural Public Schools in Brazil: Contestation, Clientelism and the Landless Workers’ Movement” (Politics & Society).

Areas of Interest:

Politics of Education, International and Comparative Education, Qualitative Methods, Ethnography, Social Movements, Participatory Governance, Labor Education, Critical Pedagogy, Paulo Freire

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