Author Bio

Monisha Bajaj is Professor of International and Multicultural Education at the University of San Francisco. She is also a Visiting Professor at Nelson Mandela University - Chair, Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation in South Africa. Dr. Bajaj is the editor and author of six books, including, most recently, Human Rights Education: Theory, Research, Praxis (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), as well as numerous articles. She has also developed curriculum—particularly related to peace education, human rights, anti-bullying efforts and sustainability—for non-profit organizations and inter-governmental organizations, such as UNICEF and UNESCO. In 2015, she received the Ella Baker/Septima Clark Human Rights Award (2015) from Division B of the American Educational Research Association (AERA).


The concept of “agency” lies at the core of many liberatory forms of education that draw from Paulo Freire’s theories of education raising learners’ critical consciousness and equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and networks to act for positive social change (Freire, 1970). The term agency is utilized widely across disciplines to refer to a variety of behaviors and actions. This article explores the concept of transformative agency, which lies at the center of educational projects, namely: peace education, human rights education, critical ethnic studies, and social justice education. These educational interventions have often been fought for and won through walkouts, massive student mobilizations (Solorzano & Delgado Bernal, 2001), and/or social movements exerting pressure on educational policymakers in distinct contexts (Bajaj, 2012). This article situates transformative agency within its larger theoretical and conceptual dimensions in order to offer scholars and practitioners important insights for their engaged work. The sections that follow offer an overview of discussions of agency in relevant scholarship and then posit a conceptual model for transformative agency in the fields of peace, human rights, and social justice education.