Greetings. My name is Leigh Patel, and I am a cultural worker, interdisciplinary researcher and writer. I specialize in sociology of education, critical theories of race and colonialism, and coloniality. I approach my work from the stance that societal structures are facilitate by narratives.
I am the daughter of immigrants. Like most children of immigrants, I played overlapping roles of child and adult and was drawn to—and simultaneously felt like an outsider to—many cultures. These early border experiences have been key to how my professional life has taken shape: as a journalist, as a teacher, and as a researcher and writer. Across all of the paid roles, I do cultural work - thinking about and actively shaping the narratives and cultural practices that result in material differences. I have striven to teach and write to bring light to the ways that society structures opportunities for some while blocking them for others, particularly in terms of race, gender and class.
As a teacher, I worked in middle schools, high schools, and community colleges, mostly teaching literacy and English as a Second Language. As a teacher, I have always centered interaction with spoken and written text as a key vehicle for learning about and communicating our sense of self and agency in a system based on inequality. I did this with 7th graders in doing collective readings and responses to texts like Monster and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, making short films with youth, and I continue to do this with adults reading texts like The Fire Next Time, Invisible Man, and Sister Outsider. My current teaching with educators works to change knowledge production practices in schools as sites of oppression to sites of opportunity and generativity.
As a researcher and writer, my work focuses on documenting and agitating the ways that society structures inequity. With training in journalism and sociology, I rely heavily on the use of narrative to breath life and textured details into concepts including coloniality, power, identity, and culture. In the current landscape of racial, cultural and class politics and inequity, the power of narrative also holds great potential for illuminating how everyday interactions and texts are the stage for battles of inclusion and status. My work as a writer brings those patterns to a level where we can engage in dialogue and action about how to interrupt these patterns and create different ones.