Anthony J. Nocella II, Ph.D., award-winning author, community organizer, and educator is a Visiting Professor in the School of Education at Hamline University and Senior Fellow of the Dispute Resolution Institute at the Hamline Law School. Nocella is a scholar-activist grounded in the field of education and peace and conflict studies. He is internationally known for his innovative, transformative, and intersectional collaborations among fields of study, social movements, scholars, communities, and activists.
Dr. Nocella has published more than fifty scholarly articles or book chapters, co-founded more than ten active political organizations and serves on four boards. He has founded three book series and co-founded three journals – Green Theory and Praxis, Peace Studies Journal, and Journal of Critical Animal Studies, is on the editorial board of three other journals, and has published more than fifteen books.
Dr. Nocella has guest lectured, provided professional development trainings, and facilitated youth workshops to hundreds of school districts, universities, colleges, high schools, middle schools and many prisons and detention facilities around the Americas, such as Onondaga County School District, St. Cloud School District, Hillbrook Youth Detention Facility, Auburn Prison, Environmental Protection Agency, Brock University, UCLA, Hofstra University, New York University Law School, Rutgers University Law School, Boston College, University of Pennsylvania, Haverford College, Swarthmore College, University of Texas, Yale University, and Princeton University.
Areas of Expertise: social justice education, school to prison pipeline, urban education, cultural relevant pedagogy, critical pedagogy, disability studies/pedagogy, environmental education, ecopedagogy, youth culture, transformative justice, hip hop studies/pedagogy, gender and sexuality studies, critical animal studies, eco-ability, and peace and conflict studies.
My Personal Teaching and Research Philosophy
Education has been important to me because it was the avenue out of personal destruction, violence, and chaos. Prior to the first grade, I was diagnosed as being severely “mentally disabled,” and my years from first to fourth grade were spent in a “special class.” It was a nightmare for me, as I could not speak well or read at all, I shook all of the time, and I had difficulty focusing my energy in the classroom and in my life. At times I would be held down or just kicked out of class all together. From fifth to sixth grade, I spent still more time segregated but this time at a school entirely for “special children,” at Temple University Laboratory, which closed down because of violence and property destruction by students.
One of the only wonderful relationships, beyond my family and few dear friends, was with my cat, Sparkle, who was my best friend and someone that I was able to communicate with emotionally in a humane manner. My only other escape was camping, hiking, and climbing in the woods with my Boy Scout Troop, which helped me a great deal on communicating with others.
In seventh grade I attended yet another “special school” run by Quakers, the Delaware Valley Friends School, and it was there that my life truly began to turn around. Even though I became a Quaker after high school, this experience influenced me greatly. My family and I moved from Philadelphia, PA to Houston, TX, where I was again enrolled for high school at one more “special school,” Briarwood School. The counselors involved in my case diagnosed my abilities to learn as significantly disabled and my parents were informed that I might not be able to graduate even at a “special school.” However, in eleventh grade I finally began to learn to read and write from a profound teacher who had also served as a former prison educator. Sadly, because of the death of a close family member and a wife that had cancer, he took his own life. Despite all of the problems and challenges that I faced along the path of my educational journey, I refused to give up. I was committed to learn, grow, and make something positive of myself no matter how hard my circumstances. It is for this reason, and my eleventh grade teacher who introduced me to Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s work, that I am invested in prison education and the environment from an intellectual and practical level.
These powerful relationships with teachers, nature with the Boy Scouts, and nonhuman animals such as with Sparkle, laid the foundation that ultimately motivated me to become politically and socially conscious at the age of 17. First with animal protection and environmentalism (working for the Sierra Club for the Clean Water Act and volunteering at a wildlife shelter every week), and soon after with numerous other issues such as prison abolition, anti-racism, immigration, and LGBTQ rights.
While many thought I would have to be assisted and live with my family for the rest of my life, I graduated high school. I am among the very few, throughout the history of the school, who have gone on to receive not only a Bachelors but also a Masters degree. Through my ongoing commitment to education, I have turned my disability into a strong ability.
FOUNDATION: My interdisciplinary scholarship and pedagogy in and outside the classroom can be narrowed down to my respect of theory and practice, where my theory informs my practice in the community and where my practice in return informs my theory. My scholarship and pedagogy is based in two fields of study: education and peace and conflict studies.
EDUCATION: My scholarship, teaching, and practice begins in peace education (i.e., peacemaking) specifically located in the realm of critical pedagogy, which is carried out in community engagement, experimental learning, and inviting community leaders and members of the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to speak to my classes. In education my primary interest is access and inclusion. My critique is that education, be it in elementary, high school, higher education, or prison, is not accessible to all for a diversity of reasons such as race, class, gender, religion, political beliefs, and nationality. I strongly believe that education is, as Malcolm X once said, “The passport to the future.” But forms of education which work against the inclusion of certain Others and so, block their access to its transformative opportunities, is at present a major problem that limits the liberatory potentials of education as a force for social good. My own autobiography emerges out of this history of social and educational segregation and I continue to challenge (and be challenged by) cultural apartheid in many aspects of my daily life and institutional existence. I want and hope to be in a department that – promotes the value of respecting all (i.e., staff, students, community members, and faculty), advances the full potential of education for everyone, teaches critical thinking, supports collaboration, facilitates individual autonomy, and contributes progressively to historical projects of cultural emancipation and robust democracy.
TRANSFORMATION: I strive for conflict transformation to promote a unity, respect, and understanding of others by developing and protecting spaces and places of dialogue for healing and peace. Conflict transformation unlike conflict resolution, which looks simply at the ends, examines the means of establishing peace. Conflict transformation a form of conflict management goes beyond managing and suggests that the community must come together in order to transcend the negativity of conflict as a divisive and destructive event and strive to search out the opportunity and constructiveness. Transformation does not destroy or bring down an “enemy” or opponent, but rather uplifts and unites all. Transformation is the need for all to engage with the new and to leave the old. It is therefore the need to leave behind the experiences and identities of dominator and dominated in the case of politics, oppressor and oppressed in the case of society, and offender and the victim in the case of justice. My personal philosophy is to find the good within everyone, in hopes of eliminating the concept of the “enemy.”
INTERDISCIPLINARY COLLABORATIVE STUDIES: As an interdisciplinary scholar, I work to encourage experiential and theoretical learning and strive for my students to be well rounded critical scholars who understand the value of mulch-disciplinary research. I encourage students to work outside their discipline in order to better understand themselves and other’s perspectives. I very much enjoy working with others and encourage collaboration, which I have practiced such on books, committees, organizations, forums, and boards. Collaboration is the essence of understanding the ultimate value of the complexity of theoretical and practical contributions higher education, i.e., social and intellectual interaction.
As a result, my “interest,” as all interdisciplinary scholars, is not merely intellectual and academic, but public, communal, and personal. My interdisciplinary studies interest is twofold: first, it is to critique, challenge, and attack borders, barriers, boundaries, and other restrictive structures and systems that limit relationships. Second, my interest is to unite, bridge build, forge alliances, establish solidarity, mediate, and most importantly, be a peacemaker.