Episode 191: Necropolitics in Social Studies with Bretton Varga, Cathryn van Kessel, & Rebecca Christ

In episode 191, Dan and Michael chat with Bretton Varga, Cathryn van Kessel, & Rebecca Christ about their article published in Theory & Research in Social Education, “Theorizing necropolitics in social studies education.”


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Books, Articles and Other Amazing Resources

  1. Varga, B. A., Helmsing, M. E., van Kessel, C., & Christ, R. C. (2022). Theorizing necropolitics in social studies education. Theory & Research in Social Education, 1-25.
  2. And here is a video about the publication
  3. Other publications from our writing collective:
    1. Varga, B. A., & van Kessel, C. (2021). Ma(r)king the unthinkable: Cultural and existential engagements of extreme historical violence. Journal of Curriculum Theorizing, 36(2), 16-31. https://journal.jctonline.org/index.php/jct/article/view/985
    2. Varga, B. A., van Kessel, C., & Helming, M. E. (2021). May her memory be a revolution: Engaging with the death & memorialization of socially significant public figures in social studies education. Oregon Journal of Social Studies, 9(1), 73-83. https://ojss.2021/vol9/issue1
    3. ​​Varga, B. A., van Kessel, C., Helmsing, M. E., & Christ, R. C. (2021). Hello from the other side: Breathing life into death and grief with/in the context of social studies education. Iowa Journal for the Social Studies, 29(2), 8-29. https://iowasocialstudies.org/resources/Documents/IJSS%20Summer%202021%2029(2).pdf 
    4. Christ, R. C., Varga, B. A, Helmsing, M. E., & van Kessel, C. (2022). Situating Covid-19 Within the Context of Death and Grief. In W. Journell (Ed.), Post-pandemic Social Studies: How COVID-19 has changed the world and how we teach (pp. 28-40). Teachers College Press. 
    5. Varga, B. A., & Helmsing, M. E. (2022). Death, loss, and remembrance across cultures: A role for folklore in education. Journal of Folklore and Education, 9, 1-191. https://jfepublications.org/journal/vol-9/
    6. Varga, B., Helmsing, M. E., van Kessel, C., & Christ, R. C. (2022). Snatching bodies, snatching history/ies: Exhuming the insidious plundering of Black cemeteries as a curriculum of postmortem racism. Equity & Excellence in Education, 55(3), 283-295. https://doi.org/10.1080/10665684.2022.2132190
  1. Mbembe, A. (2003). Necropolitics. Public Culture, 15(1), 11-40. 
  2. Mbembe, A. (2019). Necropolitics. Duke University Press. 
  3. Berlant, L. (2007). Slow death (sovereignty, obesity, lateral agency). Critical Inquiry, 33(4), 754-780. https://www.doi.org/10.1086/521568
  4. Wozolek, B. (2021). Assemblages of violence in education: Everyday trajectories of oppression. Routledge.
  5. Wozolek, B. (2023). Educational necropolitics: A sonic ethnography of everyday racisms in U.S. Schools. Routledge.
  6. Kids’ picturebook, Duck, Death, and the Tulip.


Bretton Varga is Assistant Professor of History-Social Science at California State University, Chico. His research works with(in) critical posthuman theories of race, materiality, and temporality to explore how visual methods and aesthetics can be used to unveil historically marginalized perspectives and layers (upon layers) of history that haunt the world around us. Dr. Varga is the co-facilitator of an international research community dedicated to critical posthumanist inquiry called the posthuman Research nexus (pRn). 

Mark Helming is Assistant Professor in the School of Education and Affiliate Faculty in the Folklore Studies Program and Department of History and Art History at George Mason University. His research considers how teachers and learners narrate and emplot different aspects of the past in our present. He also works within public pedagogy, historical culture, and vernacular histories to examine how people feel about the past and how the past makes them feel.

Cathryn van Kessel is Associate Professor of Curriculum Studies in the Department of Counseling, Societal Change, and Inquiry and Core Faculty in the Center for Public Education and Community Engagement in the College of Education at Texas Christian University, which is located on the ancestral homelands of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes in Fort Worth. Dr. van Kessel is the author of An Education in Evil: Implications for Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Beyond (2019) and an open educational resource called The Grim Educator.

Rebecca Christ is Assistant Professor of Social Studies Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Her research interests include social studies education and teacher education—specifically focusing on genocide education. She is also interested in pedagogies of qualitative inquiry and in utilizing critical, postcolonial, poststructural, and posthuman theoretical concepts for inspiration and innovation within qualitative inquiry and pedagogical practice.

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