Professor Mary Christianakis
Professor, Critical Theory and Social Justice
B.A., UCLA; M. Ed., UCLA; M.A., Loyola Marymount University; Ph.D., UC Berkeley
Department Co-Chair, Critical Theory & Social Justice
Appointed In
Weingart 100B
Tuesday & Thursday 11:30-1:00

Mary Christianakis is a professor of language, literacy, and culture. She studies literacy development, language, and discourse from a critical sociocritical perspective.

Expertise | Courses | Publications | Presentations

Dr. Christianakis’ work explores discourse practices related to the development of written language in schools, as it pertains to diverse, immigrant/migrant children and youth. She is also interested in literacy development in out-of-school settings, such as community and cultural centers, as well as youth incarceration facilities. Additionally, Dr. Christianakis studies public, private, and non-profit organizational discourse as it related to issues of inequality, social justice and the public good. 

In 2017, Professor Christianakis was named editor of Teacher Education Quarterly. She is the recipient of the 2012 Alan C. Purves Award for her article, "Children’s Text Development: Drawing, Pictures, and Writing." This annual prize, presented by the top-ranked journal Research in the Teaching of English, recognizes scholarly work that has the potential to make the most impact on practice. Additionally, she served as an elected member of the Teacher Education Quarterly Editorial Board for two terms.

Professor Christianakis is the Founder, Project Manager, and Director of the OxyGen initiative, a Student-Alumni Generations Project.  

Areas of Interest and Expertise

  • Critical Theory
  • Gender Studies
  • Immigration/Migration/Diaspora Studies
  • Qualitative Research Methods
  • Discourse Analysis
  • Ethnography
  • Literacy Development
  • Teachers’ Work
  • Children's Media


FYS 1  (Im)migrant Communities of California

Team-Taught–Mary Christianakis, Ph.D.; Viviana MacManus, Ph.D.; and Richard Mora, Ph.D.

This course offers students the opportunity to analyze the sociohistoric, legal, and cultural tensions surrounding various (im)migrant communities in California. Students will explore the various waves of (im)migration across time to understand the diverse communities of California. Students will also build critical and interpretive capacities through the examination of state policies, statistics, and various historical and empirical studies. Additionally, through the construction and revision of several expository, research-based writings on immigration, students will hone their writing, argumentation, and presentation skills.

CTSJ 100 Introduction to Critical Theory

This course introduces critical theory in the context of the problem of social justice. Introductions will be made to psychoanalytic, Marxist, feminist, structuralist, deconstructive, and postcolonial criticism. Reader-responses; New criticism; lesbian, gay, and queer criticism, will also be surveyed. There will be close readings of the work of Louis Althusser, Georges Bataille, Michel Foucault, and Jacques Derrida, as well as in depth readings of essays by Guy Hocquenghem, Julia Kristeva, and Trinh T. Minh-ha.

CTSJ 105 Immigration and Education

This course will locate the topic of immigration and education within historical, legislative, and cultural debates on what it means to be an American and who has the right to an Education. Students will explore and debate precedent-setting Supreme Court cases, such as Mendez v. Westminster, which challenged the segregation of Mexican children into separate schools, and Lau v. Nichols, which fought hard for non-English speaking students to have linguistic access to the public school curricula. In addition, students will research the historical antecedents to the recent anti-immigrant movements in California, Arizona, and Colorado, which target the use of languages other than English in school settings, and have all but abolished bilingual public schools. Against this historical and legislative backdrop, students will examine ethnographic research detailing the persistent challenges that immigrant children face in schooling, including migrant children, and the ways in which they, their parents, and communities experience those challenges. This course will count towards the Critical Theory and Social Justice (CTSJ) Major, as an Education Minor elective, and also fulfill the group 6 (Intercultural) geographical group for Core Program requirements.

CTSJ 210 Mother Goose to Mother F*!@#$: Children’s Literature and Popular Texts

Why did the London Bridge fall down? Is Rub-a-dub-dub really about bath time? Why didn’t an old man live in a shoe? Who is more imperialist, Babar or Peter Pan? Is Tinky Winky gay? Is South Park a children’s show? Is Harry Potter a Hero? How tired was Rosa Parks? Using different critical approaches, this course will examine children’s poetry, picture books, novels, cartoons, feature films, and music videos. Analysis will include topics related to gender, race, culture, and nation, as they play out in the aesthetics, images, and poetics of children’s texts.

CTSJ 211 Critical Pedagogy

Critical pedagogy aims to develop collective critical consciousness for the purpose of transforming oppressive socio-political conditions. In this course students will study critical pedagogy from historical political and sociological perspectives. Students in the course will consider traditional student/teacher relationships pedagogical approaches as well as hierarchies of knowledge promulgated by schools and textbook publishers. Students will analyze and critique theories of the Frankfurt School and the emancipatory works of Paolo Freire the most renowned critical pedagogist. Additionally contemporary readings from Henry Giroux bell hooks and Peter McLaren will focus on critical pedagogy in relation to social structures globalization media and race. Emphasis topic: Postcolonial Theory

CTSJ 215 Women's Work

The course interrogates the assumptions underlying paid and unpaid labor with respect to "women's work" as it intersects with race, class, sex, gender, and sexuality. Drawing on a socio-critical perspective, we examine the inequalities associated with reproductive labor, child care, housework, sex work, and the 'feminization' of certain professions.

CTSJ 215 Language & Power

This seminar introduces students to discourse analysis as the ontological and epistemological deconstruction of every day language and symbols and their relationship to power. Throughout the course students develop techniques for gathering and analyzing multimodal transcripts of naturally occurring conversations interviews discourses in institutional settings media discourses and texts of historical materials. The course draws from systemic functional linguistics genre/text studies multi-modal semiotics interactional sociolinguistics and critical social theory to understand how linguistic features of texts constitute and are constituted by the social cultural and local relations processes and contexts in which they are embedded. Using a seminar format students will engage the readings and apply discourse analysis strategies in order to develop their own independent qualitative research projects.

CTSJ 270 Children & Childhoods

This course looks cross-culturally at children and childhood and uses ethnographic case studies as a basis for examining the ways in which the very young participate in the social lives of their communities. The focus is on those between the ages of 5-12 and the primary topics include: children's play, socialization, learning, political action, and productive work. We will explore the lives of children in horticultural, pastoral, rural, and urban societies in Africa, Asia, Polynesia, and the contemporary United States.

CTSJ 271 Property

This interdisciplinary course explores the historical emergence of philosophical, sociological, and political theories of property in order to interrogate contemporary global nation-state problems related to human rights, imperial and colonial capitalism and decolonial possibilities.  Topics of study will include the ways in which these emergent Western concepts of property and the exercise of power to secure property have shaped and continue to shape the ideas and practices of slavery, human trafficking, children’s rights, women’s rights, land and property rights, and the claims to possession and dispossession across time and continents. Students will learn about the history of property activism and contemporary efforts to advocate for new/old visions of property.

CTSJ 310 Qualitative Interview Methods

This course is designed to introduce students to the methods and approaches used in qualitative interviewing. In addition to structured interviews students learn about semi-structured biographical and narrative interviewing methods. The course also explores the ethical dilemmas and research challenges inherent during interviewing as well as the details of conducting qualitative interviews. By the end of the semester each student will have constructed modified conducted analyzed and written up an interview study. Satisfies the experiential learning requirement.

CTSJ 311 Children, Poverty, and Public Policies

In this course, students examine contemporary child poverty both in the United States and abroad. Topics include how poverty is defined both locally and globally, the numbers and distribution of poor children, as well as the causes of child poverty. Readings explore poverty in relation to education, economics, homelessness, child labor, family, gender, and race. Students analyze historical anti-poverty policies such as the New Deal, the War on Poverty, and the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child, as well as contemporary proposals to reduce child poverty such as childcare, welfare, job training, job creation, and tax policy.

CTSJ 312 Language, Literacy, and Culture

This course combines theory and practice in the study of language and literacy across cultures and institutions. It will introduce students to competing theories of language and literacy development and the politics that undergird those theories. The course will also explore topics such as gender race culture and ethnicity as they intersect and shape language learning. Students will learn about language acquisition heritage languages language variation dialects and bilingualism. The course will also explore controversies surrounding multimodal literacies involving speech writing drawing pictures video and music.

CTSJ 340 Critical Ethnography

In this course students learn how to do ethnographic research and writing by conducting exercises in participant-observation on or near campus. We review the history of the ethnographic method and its relation to anthropology and the colonial encounter. We also discuss what makes an ethnography critical and the tensions between ethnography sympathy and critical theory. Authors we read include Malinowski Geertz Delmos Jones Dorinne Kondo Renato Rosaldo Ruth Behar Jim Thomas and Kamala Visweswaran. Satisfies the experiential learning requirement. Emphasis topic: Postcolonial Theory.


CTSJ 398 Social Justice Practicum

Working with a CTSJ faculty member, students will select an internship site whose mission is to address matters of inequality and social justice.  The Department has a list of organizations where students can inquire about internships. Students who would like to intern at an organization will have to petition the department with a letter of support from the organization. The practicum experience will be evaluated by their field supervisor, the faculty liaison, and by the completion of the Social Justice Practicum Handbook. In addition to the internship responsibilities, students will participate in regular meetings with the instructor and attend class meetings.  Additionally, they will complete a social justice practicum handbook, which requires deep reflection that brings the internship experiences in dialogue with critical theories related to matters of social justice.  Students may participate in internships as individuals, pairs, or small groups, depending on the needs of the organizations. Open only to Critical Theory & Social Justice majors with sophomore standing or above.


Articles (Double-Blind Peer Reviewed)

Christianakis, M. & Mora R. (2016). “(Re)writing identities: Past, Present, and Future Narratives of Young People in Juvenile Detention Facilities. Life Writing.

Christianakis, M. (2015). “Victimization and Vilification of Romani Children in Media and Human Rights Organizations Discourses Social Inclusion, 3(5):48-63.

Mora, R. and Christianakis, M. (2015). “Elite Discourse on Unaccompanied Minors and the U.S.-Mexico Border.” iMex, 8: 87-9.

Christianakis, M., Fernandez, S. and Mora, R. (2014). “Curricular and Pedagogical Intersectionalities.”  Academic Exchange Quarterly 19(2): 95-100.

Mora, R. & Christianakis, M. (2012/2013). Feeding the school-to-prison pipeline: The convergence of neoliberalism, conservatism, and penal populism.  Journal of Educational Controversy, 7(1).

Christianakis, M. (2011). Children’s text development: Drawing, pictures and writing. Research in the Teaching of English, 46(1), 22-54.

Christianakis, M. (2011). Hybrid texts: Older children, rap music, and writing. Urban Education, 46(5), 1131-1168.

Christianakis, M. (2011). Parents as “help labor”: Inner-city teachers’ narratives of parent involvement. Teacher Education Quarterly 38(4), 157-178.

Mora, R. & Christianakis, M. (2011). Charter schools, market capitalism, and Obama’s neoliberal agenda. Journal of Inquiry and Action in Education4(1), 93-111.  

--[Christianakis, M. & Mora, R. (2015). Charter Schools & the Privatization of Public Schools. In P.R. Carr & B.J. Porfilio (eds.), The Phenomenon of Obama and the Agenda for Education: Can Hope Audaciously Trump Neoliberalism?, 2nd Ed. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Revised & Reprinted]

--[Mora, R. & Christianakis, M. (2013). Missing the Mark: Neoliberalism and the Unwarranted Rise of Charter Schools. In J. Gorlewski & B.J. Porfilio (eds.), Left Behind in the Race to the Top: Realities of School Reform. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Revised, Updated, & Printed].

--[Christianakis, M. & Mora R. 2011. Charting a New Course for Public Education through Charter Schools: Where is Obama Taking Us? In P.R. Carr & B.J. Porfilio (eds.), The Phenomenon of Obama and the Agenda for Education: Can Hope Audaciously Trump Neoliberalism? (pp. 97-119). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. Revised & Reprinted]

Christianakis, M. (2010). “I don’t need your help!”: Peer status, race, and gender during peer writing interactions. Journal of Literacy Research42(4), 1-41. 

Christianakis, M. (2010). Collaborative research and teacher education. Issues in Teacher Education, 19(2), 109-125.

Christianakis, M. (2010). Lessons for life: Roma children, communal practices, and the global marketplace. Perspectives on Urban Education, 7(2, 11-18.

Christianakis, M. (2008). Teacher research as a feminist act. Teacher Education Quarterly, 35(4), 99-113.

Book Chapters (Open Peer Reviewed)

Fernandez, S., Mora, R. & Christianakis, M. (abstract under review). Narco Narratives:  Cultural Representations of Policing the U.S.-Mexico Border. In H.M. Karibo & G. T. Díaz (Eds.), Policing the North American Borderlands

Mora, R. & Christianakis, M. (Forthcoming). College Men, Hypermasculinity, and Sexual Violence.  In E. Morris & F. Oeur (Eds.), Unmasking Masculninities in the 21st Century. Sage Press.

Mora, R. & Christianakis, M. (2015) Fit to be T(r)ied: Lost Childhood and the Criminal Court. In N.E. Dowd (ed.), A New Juvenile Justice: Total Reform for a Broken System (pp. 227-238). New York University Press.

Christianakis, M. & Mora, R. (2014) Educating, Not Criminalizing, Youth of Color: Challenging Neoliberal Agendas and Penal Populism. In P.L. Thomas, B. Porfilio, J. Gorlewski, & P.R. Carr (eds.), Social Context Reform: A Pedagogy of Equity and Opportunity (pp. 128-147). Routledge. 

Mora, R. & Christianakis, M. (2013). Local Education Foundations and the Private Subsidizing of Public Education. In C. Gorski & J. Landsman (Eds.), The Poverty and Education Reader: A Call for Equity in Many Voices (pp. 339-348). Stylus Press.

Mora, R., Christianakis, M., & Fernandez, S. (2013). College Curriculum as Counter Discourse: The California Immigration Semester at Occidental College. In E. Daniels and B. Porfilio (Eds.), Dangerous Counterstories in the Corporate Academy: Narrating for Understanding, Solidarity, Resistance, and Community in the Age of Neoliberalism (Chapter 4). Information Age Publishing.

Christianakis, M. & Mora R. (2012). Urban latino parents’ narratives of parent involvement. In B. Gastic and R.R. Verdugo (Eds.), The Education of the Hispanic Population: Selected Essays.Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Christianakis, M. & Mora, R. (2012). E pluribus unum: Elementary school narratives and the making of national identity.  In H. Hickman and B.J. Porfilio (eds.), The New Politics of the Textbook: Challenging the Curricular Dominance of Textbooks (pp. 107-126).  Sense Publishers.

Christianakis, M. & Mora, R. (2012). Class and the Representation of Workers in Children’s Television. In M.K. Booker (Ed.), Blue Collar Pop Culture in Television (pp. 210-223). Santa Barbara, California: Praeger Press.

Mora, R. & Christianakis, M. (2012). “No free rides, no excuses”: Urban Working Class Students and the Myth of Meritocracy on Film. In M.K. Booker (eds.). Blue Collar Pop Culture in Film (pp. 167-180). Santa Barbara, California: Praeger Press.

Encyclopedia Entries

Christianakis, M. (2011). Teen Courts. In L. Finley (Ed.), Encyclopedia of School Crime and Violence.(2nd Ed., Vols. 1-2, pp. 488-490). Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press.

Christianakis, M. (2011). New Jersey v.T.L.O (No.83-712) 469 US. 325. In L. Finley (Ed.), Encyclopedia of School Crime and Violence. (2nd Ed, Vols. 1-2, pp. 316-317). Santa Barbara, CA:Greenwood Press.

Christianakis, M. (2011). Veronia School District 47 J v. Acton et ux., Guardians ad Litem for Acton (No.94-590)515 U.S. 646. In L. Finley (Ed.), Encyclopedia of School Crime and Violence (2nd Ed., Vols. 1-2, pp. 499-501). Santa Barbara, CA:Greenwood Press.

Christianakis, M. (forthcoming). Vilma Socorro Martínez. In R.K. Rasmussen (Ed.), Great Lives from History: Latinos. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press.

Christianakis, M. (forthcoming). Antonia Hernández. In R.K. Rasmussen (Ed.), Great Lives from History: Latinos. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press.

Books Reviewed

Schneider, D.& Christianakis, M. (2006). [Review of the book Misreading Masculinity: Boys, Literacy and Popular Culture]. Men and Masculinities, 9(1), 120-123.

Christianakis, M. (2004). [Review of book Meeting of Minds]. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 4(3), 331-332.

Christianakis, M. (2002). [Review of book Children, Technology and Culture:The Impacts of Technologies in Children's Everyday Lives]. Contemporary Sociology, 31(3), 346-347.

Other Publications

Christianakis, M. (2010). Interview with James Gee. Newsletter of the California Council on Teacher Education. Gaddo Gap Press,21(1), 9-11.

Selected Presentations

Christianakis, M. and Mora, R. (May, 2011). (Re)Writing Identities: Past, Present, and Future Narratives of Youth in Juvenile Detention Facilities. Multiple Childhoods / Multidisciplinary Perspectives: Interrogating Normativity in Childhood Studies. Rutgers University, Camden, NJ.

Mora, R. and M., Christianakis, M. (March, 2011). Teen Motherhood: Controlling Images, Abjection, & Performativity. Pacific Sociological Association Annual Meeting. Seattle, WA.

Christianakis, M. (November, 2010). Rewriting Identities: Past, Present, and Future Narratives of Youth in Juvenile Detention Facilities. American Anthropological Association. New Orleans, LA.

Christianakis, M. (April, 2010). “I ain’t losing to no squeek”: Children teaching and learning videogames. Pacific Sociological Association Conference, San Francisco, CA.

Chin E. & Christianakis (February, 2010). Undergraduates as Human Subjects. Childhood Anthropology Conference, Albuquerque, NM.

Christianakis, M. (September, 2008). Romani (Gypsy) Child rearing: Work, marriage, school, and property–Occidental College. Los Angeles, California

Christianakis, M. (August, 2007). “I don’t need your help!”: Fifth graders, Vygotsky, and peer editing. EECERA-Vygotsky Conference-Prague, CZ

Christianakis, M. (May 2007). “Pocahontas was in love with a guy from England”: Children, history, and language arts texts. Paper presentation at the International Reading Association-Toronto Canada

Christianakis, M. (2006). “Who Asked You?”: Fifth graders negotiating authorship during peer editing. Paper presentation at 23rd National Conference on Peer Tutoring in Writing. Conference Theme: “Authority”. Ann Arbor, Michigan

Christianakis, M. (2005). Feminist framings of teacher research: Emancipation, transformation, collaboration. Conference sponsored by California Council on Teacher Education. San Diego, California

Christianakis, M. (2002). Inside the digital divide: Fifth graders peer editing with computers. Conference sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English. Atlanta, Georgia

Christianakis, M. (2001). Digital divisions and the differentially negotiable curriculum. Conference sponsored by The Spencer Foundation and The Center for the Integrated Studies of Teaching and Learning. Berkeley, California

Christianakis, M. (2001). Inside the digital divide: An ethnographic account of diverse and urban fifth graders writing with computers. Conference sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English. Berkeley, California