Learning Solidarity

I am an organizer and academic interested in how and what people learn through their engagement in social movements. I look at what youth activists do, how they work together, how they problematize social issues, and how these activities shape their political engagement over time.

Current Project

My current project works with mainstream environmentalists to think about how we might build a more equitable movement, from the microinteractional processes of who is involved and whose voices are affirmed, to the framing, where we reconsider environmentalism through anti-racist and anti-colonial lenses.

What I Do

My research focuses on learning in the environmental movement. I am interested in how people come to understand social problems systemically and how they learn about issues of race and colonialism, gender and patriarchy, and class and capitalism through their activism. I take a sociocultural view of learning that focuses on the ways groups of people construct meaning together, rather than an individual or cognitive approach.

My research also focuses on the trajectories of youth-led social movements. I examine at how youth engage in social movements and how their participation changes across time, space, and place. Looking at shifts in repertoires of action, frames, and motivations, I question how politics are shaped by the NGOization of movements and problematize the de-politicizing tendencies of campaigns that target youth participation on campus.

Who I Am

I am a scholar of learning, identity development, and youth-led social change. I was a Vanier Scholar at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, where I completed my PhD. I completed my Masters at OISE and my undergraduate degree at Northwestern University. I am a member of the GLITTER Lab.

I have worked as an organizer and popular educator for over a decade. I worked as a student organizer around global justice and sustainability issues, then as a community organizer in Chicago, and as a labour organizer in Toronto.

See my CV for more details.


Follow the links to selected publications or see my full CV.

Chan, J.R. & Curnow, J. (2017). Taking Up Space: Men, Masculinity, and the Student Climate Movement. In MacGregor, S. and Seymour, N. (Eds). "Men and Nature: Hegemonic Masculinities and Environmental Change," RCC Perspectives: Transformations in Environment and Society, 2017(4), 77-85.

Curnow, J. & Gross, A. (2016). Injustice is Not an Investment: Student Activism, Climate Justice, and the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign. In Rosen, S. & Connor, J. (Eds). Contemporary Youth Activism: Advancing Social Justice in the United States (pp. 367-386). Santa Barbara, California: Praeger.

Hussey, I. & Curnow, J. (2016). Fair Trade: From Solidarity to the Standardization of Neocolonial Relations. darkmatter. 13. Special Issue: NeoColonial Politics of Sustainability

Wilson, B. & Curnow, J. (2013). Solidarity TM: Student Activism, Affective Labor, and the Fair Trade Campaign in the United States. Antipode. 45:3, 565-583.

Curnow, J. (2013). Fight the Power: Situated Learning and Conscientisation in a Gendered Community of Practice. Gender and Education. 25:7, 834-850.

Curnow, J. (2014). Climbing the Leadership Ladder: Legitimate Peripheral Participation in Social Movements. Interface. 6:1, 130-155.


I believe that the way we teach, not just the content we teach, matters. How we teach shapes the ways that students engage, not only in the classroom, but also in their communities. I strive to build and sustain democratic, equitable classrooms that encourage co-development of critical knowledge that students are able to mobilize in their own lives.

I currently teach Community Development in Local and Global Contexts and serve as a teaching assistant for Introduction to Equity Studies.


As an organizer I have worked to raise consciousness and build power. See some highlights.


2018 Brent K. Marshall Graduate Student Best Paper Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems, awarded for my paper with Anjali Helferty

Curriculum Inquiry Writing Fellowship

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship
2014-2017 $150,000

Ontario Graduate Scholarship
2013, 2011 $30,000

OISE Academic Excellence Award
2013-2017, 2011 $12,000

Jeanne F. Goulding Fellowship for Research on the Environment
2015 $5,000

New College Senior Doctoral Fellow
2015-2016 $1,000

2014 Best Student Paper Honourable Mention, Society for the Study of Social Problems Global Division, awarded for my paper with Ian Hussey

Say Hello.

You can find me in the GLITTER Lab, OISE Room 11-235. The best way to reach me is by email.
Email: joe[dot]curnow@utoronto[dot]ca

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
University of Toronto
252 Bloor St West
Toronto, ON M5S 1V6