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Ragnhild Utheim

Director, School of Liberal Studies

Associate Professor of Global Studies and Anthropology

Ragnhild Utheim holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from the Graduate School and University Center, City University of New York. Her research interests include the anthropology of mass incarceration, youth justice and prison studies, education anthropology, globalization and social inequality, race and ethnicity, and gender and sexuality. Her ethnographic research has focused on the use of restorative practices as an intervention alternative to zero-tolerance policies, particularly among court-involved youth in high school settings.

Utheim completed a writing fellowship in CUNY’s Writing Across the Curriculum program, where she was trained in pedagogy and curriculum development, assisted faculty with course development, and conducted student workshops on writing in the disciplines. She has taught sociology and anthropology in the Bedford Hills College Program (at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility) since 2008, including a course that combines college students from inside and outside prison. She is currently working on a research project that explores the impact of such “combined classes” (sometimes referred to as “inside-out classes”) on students, faculty, higher education institutions and prisons, as well as their potential influence on civic engagement and public opinion.

More About Me

Before completing her doctorate and joining academia Utheim worked in public health locally and internationally, with a focus on women’s reproductive health and rights. She served as research associate for an international collaborative research project based in seven countries (Brazil, Egypt, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, and the U.S.) that documented local women’s experiences and sense of self-determination regarding childbearing, work, marriage, fertility control, and sexual relations. She also worked in prenatal and maternal health locally with the Prenatal Care Steering Committee, a watchdog advocacy group that emerged in response to the high infant mortality rate in New York City.  

Representative Courses

  • Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Food for Thought: Places, Practices, Politics
  • Anthropology for the Public: Social Justice and Advocacy
  • Theories of Justice and Social Institutions
  • Structured Inquiry Across the Disciplines
  • The Science of Happiness
  • Urban Anthropology
  • Senior Capstone


Making Sense of Carceral Censorship (forthcoming). Journal of Intellectual Freedom and Privacy.

Second Chance and the Human Right to Learn (2023). Critical Education, 14(1): 35-55. 

Diversity and its Discontents: Deepening the Discourse (2020). Race and Pedagogy Journal: Teaching and Learning for Justice, 4(4): 1- 47.

Toward Abolition Pedagogy: Teaching Social Justice in Prison Combined Classes (2019). Dialogues in Social Justice: An Adult Education Journal, 4(1): 1-16.

“The Case for Higher Education in Prison: Working Notes on Pedagogy, Purpose and Preserving Democracy,” Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict and World Order, Vol. 43, Issue 3, p. 91-106. (2017)

“Restorative Justice, Reintegration, and Race: Reclaiming Collective Identity in the Postracial Era,” Anthropology & Education Quarterly, Vol. 45, Issue 4, p. 355–372. (2014)

Restoring Community in the Era of Mass Incarceration. Anthropology News, 52 (7) October 2011.

Presentations / Conferences

Building Community in Prison Combined Classes. Panel. Sustaining Connections: Community Building in Prisons Through Higher Education. Marymount Manhattan College Virtual Conference, April 10, 2021.

Educating for Change: Women’s Stories (II of IV). Invited panel participant with Salimah El-Amin, Film Producer. Hostos Community College (CUNY) 2021 Series: Educating for Change. Four-part event on PBS’ College Behind Bars, directed by Lynn Novick. Hostos Community College (CUNY), March 26, 2021.

Activism, Community Engagement, and Public Sociology: Community-Based Research. Panel. Public Scholarship and Penal Governance: Documenting the Voices of Women in Prison. Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) Annual Meeting.Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown. Philadelphia, PA, February 27-March 1, 2020.

Narratives of Inequalities and Difference in Combined Classrooms. Panel Presentation. Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) Annual Conference.Boston Park Plaza Hotel, Boston, March 14-17, 2019.

Toward Abolition Pedagogy: Teaching Social Justice in Prison Combined Classrooms. Panel Presentation. Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) Annual Conference. Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel, Philadelphia, PA, August 10-12, 2018.

Abolition Pedagogy: Toward Radical Resistance in Schooling Spaces. Roundtable Session. American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting: The Dreams, Possibilities and Necessity of Public Education. Millennium Broadway, New York City, April 13-17, 2018.

Beyond the Classroom: Learning through Civic Engagement. Panel Presentation. Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) Annual Meeting. Hyatt Regency Baltimore, MD, February 22-25, 2018.

On Impact: Assessment, Evaluation, Research. Combined Classes in Women’s Facilities. Panel Presentation. Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program 20th Anniversary Conference: The Power of Connection and Community. Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia PA, October 19-21, 2017.

The Possibility of Prison Abolition Pedagogy. Panel Presentation. Toward Abolition Pedagogy: Teaching Social Justice in Combined Classes. Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) Annual Meeting: The End of the World as We Know It? Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel, February 23-26, 2017.

New York Consortium of Higher Education in Prison (NYCHEP) Panel Presentation. Co-Organizer. The Sixth Annual National Conference on Higher Education in Prison. Belmont University, Nashville, TN, November 3-6, 2016.

Innovative Pedagogy. Panel Presentation. Combined Classrooms: Exploring the Shared Learning Experiences of College Students Inside and Outside Prison in New York State. Eastern Sociological Society (ESS) Annual Meeting: My Day Job - Politics and Pedagogy in Academia. The Boston Park Plaza Hotel, March 17-21, 2016.

Teaching on the Inside: Toward Pedagogy of Possibilities. Co-Organizer for Panel: Working Notes from Teaching in Prison: Purpose, Pedagogy and Possibilities. The Fifth National Conference for Higher Education in Prison: Strategies for Action. University of Pittsburg, November 6-8, 2015.

Inequality, Equality and Difference. Organizer for Panel: Inequality, Teaching and Learning – for Social Justice. Society for Anthropology of North America (SANA) Annual Conference. John Jay College of Criminal Justice, April 17-18, 2015.

Privatization, Surveillance and Rising Inequality: Education Disinvestment and the Dispossession of Youth. Invited lecture for panel: The Politics of Schooling: Privatization, Surveillance and Inequality in Public Education. Invited Lecture. Montclair State University, March 26, 2014.

Race, Reintegration and (Un)Accountability: The School-to-Prison Pipeline and Restorative Justice. Invited Symposium. American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Vancouver, April 2012

Race, Reintegration and Accountability: Ethnographic Narratives of Court-Involved Youth. Invited panel. Toward an Ethnography of (Un)Accountability: Race, High-Stakes Testing, and the Anthropology of Public Policy. American Anthropological Association 110th Annual Meeting, Montreal, November 2011.

Restoring Justice amid Politics of Denial: Contradictions of a Restorative Ethnographic Encounter. Panel. Local Crime Prevention: Strategies for Safe Spaces. Reclaiming the City: Building a Just and Sustainable Future. Urban Affairs Association Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 2011.

Restorative Justice in the Age of Color Blindness: Structural Violence and the Politics of Denial. Panel Presentation. Black Youth, Restorative Justice and the Psychology of Development. The State of African American and African Diaspora Studies: Methodology, Pedagogy, and Research. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean, New York, January 2011.