Alicia Swords

Alicia Swords

Associate Professor and Honors Program Director, Department of Sociology
Faculty, School of Humanities and Sciences
Faculty, Women's and Gender Studies
Faculty, Latin American Studies

Specialty:Public Sociology, Social Movements and Social Change
Phone:(607) 274-1209
Office:072 Peggy Ryan Williams Center
Ithaca, NY 14850

If you would like to schedule office hours for me, please click here:

Ph.D., Cornell University, Development Sociology
M.S., Cornell University, Development Sociology
B.A., Oberlin College, Politics and Environmental Studies

Social Change - How does social change occur? 
Public Sociology - How do sociologists study the world in order to change it? 
Gender, the Environment and Global Change – How do gender and the environment relate and change through colonialism, industrialization, development and globalization?
Social Movements - How do people build movements to demand rights, stop wars, stop global warming, and end poverty?    
Community Organizing – How do people organize and what can we learn from the history of organizing?
Global Sociology - How do regular people relate to global processes of colonialism, development and globalization?
Research Methods - How do sociologists study the social world around us, using quantitative and qualitative approaches? 
Inquiry & Action for Social Change - How can we use Action Research to contribute toward efforts for social change? 

Political education strategies of social movements in Latin America and the United States.
Social movements: workers' rights, economic rights, indigenous rights, environmental justice and human rights.
Alternative forms of development
Action Research
U.S.-Latin American relations
Community-Based Learning and Service-Learning
Food Justice- The Food Dignity Project  

Selected Publications:
Mize, Ronald L. and Alicia Swords. 2010. Consuming Mexican Labor: From the Bracero Program to NAFTA, 1942-2010. University of Toronto Press.

Arabandi, B., S. Sweet and A. Swords. 2014. “Testing the Flat World Thesis: Using a Public Dataset to Engage Students in the Global Inequality Debate.” Teaching Sociology. Published online 11 July 2014.

Swords A. and Richard Kiely. 2010. “Beyond Pedagogy: Service Learning as Movement Building in Higher Education.” The Journal of Community Practice. Vol. 18, No. 2-3.

Swords, A. and Ronald L. Mize. 2008. “Beyond Tourist Gazes and Performances: U.S. Consumption of Land and Labor in Puerto Rican and Mexican Destinations.” Latin American Perspectives. Vol. 35, No. 3.

Swords, A. 2007. “Neo-Zapatista Network Politics: Transforming Democracy and Development” in Latin American Perspectives, Issue XXX, Vol. 34, No. 2, p. 1-16.

Swords, A. 2014. “Network Politics in the Mesoamerican Campaign against the Plan Puebla-Panamá.” Chapter 6 in Rethinking Latin American Social Movements: Radical Action from Below, edited by Richard Stahler-Sholk, Harry E. Vanden, and Marc Becker. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Press.

Swords, Alicia. 2010. “Teaching against neoliberalism in Chiapas, Mexico: Gendered resistance via Neo-Zapatista network politics.” Chapter 8 in Philip McMichael, ed. Contesting Development: Critical Struggles for Social Change. Routledge Press.

Swords, A. 2008. “Neo-Zapatista Network Politics: Transforming Democracy and Development” Chapter in Latin American Social Movements in the 21st Century: Resistance, Power and Democracy. Richard Stahler-Sholk, Harry E. Vanden and Glen Kuecker, editors. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

More about me and my work:
I grew up in Syracuse, NY after living in several small towns as a small child.  My undergraduate degree is in Environmental Studies and Politics from Oberlin College.  My Ph.D. is in Development Sociology at Cornell University.  I became a sociologist because I found sociology offers important tools both for analyzing the world and for changing society. 

I'm grateful for opportunities to learn and work with a wide range of people.  These relationships help my teaching and research be socially relevant and accountable.  Based on these connections, I can frequently facilitate student engagement with efforts for social change locally, nationally and internationally. 

I worked for two years in the Dominican Republic with a grassroots organization called Oné Respè. The organization focused on human rights work and base community organizing with children, youth and women’s groups in Dominican and Haitian communities.  

While doing my Ph.D. at Cornell in Development Sociology, I learned about social movements with colleagues involved in other movements around the world.  My dissertation project was about the popular education strategies of the organizations that support the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico. With a Fulbright Fellowship, I had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from scholars and organic intellectuals in Chiapas.  

In Ithaca, NY, I'm a former member of the leadership team of the Tompkins County Workers Center.  Students can get involved through their Service Learning for Social Justice program.  

I am on the board of CUSLAR, the Committee on US-Latin American Relations.  Students can learn about the history and politics of the U.S. in Latin America by getting involved with CUSLAR through internships, travel and writing for their newsletter.  

I also collaborate with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier and connect students with learning opportunities through Service Learning with their Hunger Education and Advocacy programs. 

Nationally, I work with the Poverty Initiative, a network of organizations dedicated to building a movement to end poverty led by the poor across color lines. Through these connections, students can learn about the leadership of the poor, challenge myths about poverty, and take part in immersion programs. 

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