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Deborah Barndt, educator, writer, activist and photographer, attended Otterbein College in Ohio, graduating in 1967 with a BA in Comprehensive Social Studies and French. She then studied at Michigan State University, completing her MA in Social Psychology in 1968. From 1970 to 1972, she taught as an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Sociology at Brookdale Community College in New Jersey. She travelled to Lima, Peru, in 1976 to serve as resident sociologist for a visual communications workshop at the Universidad La Catholica. Barndt was a part-time faculty member in the Applied Social Science department at Concordia University in Montreal before completing her PhD in sociology from Michigan University in 1978. Her PhD dissertation was entitled “People Connecting with Structures: A Photographic and Contextual Exploration of the Conscientization Process in a Peruvian Literacy Program”. From 1977 to 1981, Barndt was a staff member in the participatory research group of the International Council for Adult Education, becoming its director for 1980-1981. During this time, Barndt also worked as an instructor for the Toronto Board of Education and Humber College’s Labour Studies Centre and its English in the Workplace program. She was a visiting professor in the “Women in Unusual Careers” programme at Denison University in Ohio in 1981 before working as a teacher training consultant for the Nicaraguan government’s Vice-Ministry of Adult Education between 1981 and 1983. In 1983, Barndt worked as a consultant at the Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee. She returned to Toronto to take the position of adjunct professor in the Department of Adult Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education until 1985, when she became the coordinator of Canadian issues at the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice, a position she held until 1993. Between 1987 and 1990, Barndt was an instructor at the University of Toronto’s Regis College and Department of Sociology. In 1993, Barndt joined the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University as an assistant professor, becoming an associate professor in 1999 and professor in 2004. At York, she founded the Community Arts Practice (CAP) program in 2005. She was a senior scholar at the Centre for Refugee Studies in 2008, and between 2012-2013 she served as the inaugural chair for social justice at the Coady International Institute and St. Francis Xavier University, in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. She retired from York University in 2014.
Barndt is the author of Education and Social Change: A Photographic Study of Peru (1980), Getting There: Producing Photo-stories with Immigrant Women (1982) (co-author), A New Weave: Popular Education in Canada and Central America (1985) (co-author), To Change This House: Popular Education under the Sandinistas (1991), and Tangled Routes: Women, Work and Globalization on the Tomato Trail (2002). She is the editor of Women Working the NAFTA Food Chain (1999), Just Doing It: Popular Collective Action in the Americas (2002) (co-editor), Wild Fire: Art as Activism (2006), and VIVA! Community Arts and Popular Education in the Americas (2011).