MacArthur Fellows Program

John P. Gaventa

Sociologist | Class of December 1981

Title
Sociologist
Location
New Market, Tennessee
Age
32 at time of award
Area of Focus
Sociology

John Gaventa works on participatory methods of research, education, and empowerment of disadvantaged people in the United States and other nations throughout the world.

His work emphasizes participatory research to enable dispossessed people to act on their own behalf. A researcher, educator, and civil society practitioner, he has written and worked extensively on issues of citizenship and citizen engagement, power and participation, and governance and accountability around the world. Gaventa combines writing, adult education, and videotape documentation in his analyses, most of which have been conducted in conjunction with the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, Tennessee, the University of Tennessee’s Community Partnership Center, which he co-founded, and the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.  The author of Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley (1980), Gaventa has also conducted projects in Wales, India, and Nicaragua.  As co-coordinator of the Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force, he helped produce a seven-volume, citizens study entitled Who Owns Appalachia? (1983).  He is the co-editor of We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change (1991) and Global Citizen Action (2001).

Gaventa received a B.A. (1971) from Vanderbilt University and a D.Phil. (1975) from the University of Oxford.

Recent News

John Gaventa is director of research at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. He is also linked to the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada, where he served as director from 2011 to 2014. A researcher, educator, and civil society practitioner, he has written and worked extensively on issues of citizenship and citizen engagement, power and participation, and governance and accountability around the world. His most recent books include Globalising Citizens: New Dynamics of Inclusion and Exclusion (2010; co-edited with Rajesh Tandon) and Citizen Action and National Policy Reform (2010; co-edited with Rosemary McGee), both published by Zed Books. In 2011, he received the Tisch Civic Engagement Research Prize for his distinguished scholarship on civic learning, citizen participation, and engaged research. In 2012, he was awarded an OBE for his service to Oxfam Great Britain, where he was chair from 2006 to 2011.

Updated July 2015

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