Alicia Swords

Professor and Chair, Sociology
Phone: 607-274-1209
Office: Muller Faculty Center 218, Ithaca, NY 14850
Specialty: Public Sociology, Social Movements and Social Change

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Ph.D., Cornell University, Development Sociology
M.S., Cornell University, Development Sociology
B.A., Oberlin College, Politics and Environmental Studies

Stories for a Change - How can our stories contribute to social change? 
Social Change - How does social change occur? 
Public Sociology - How do sociologists study the world in order to change it? 
Gender, the Environment and Global Change – How do gender and the environment relate and change through colonialism, industrialization, development and globalization?
Social Movements - How do people build movements to demand rights, stop wars, stop global warming, and end poverty?    
Community Organizing – How do people organize and what can we learn from the history of organizing?
Global Sociology - How do regular people relate to global processes of colonialism, development and globalization?
Research Design - How do sociologists study the social world around us, using quantitative and qualitative approaches? 
Inquiry & Action for Social Change - How can we use Action Research to contribute toward efforts for social change? 

The poor organizing the poor
Political education strategies of social movements in Latin America and the United States.
Social movements: the right not to be poor, worker rights, economic rights, indigenous rights, environmental justice and human rights.
Alternative forms of development
Action research
U.S.-Latin American relations
Community-based learning and service-learning
Food justice- The Food Dignity Project  
Food banks and organizational change

Selected Publications:

Swords, A. 2019. Action research on organizational change with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier: A regional food bank’s efforts to move beyond charity. Agriculture & Human Values, 1-17.

Swords, A., Frith, A., Lapp, J. 2018. Campus-community collaborations for food justice. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. 

Swords, A. 2014. “Network Politics in the Mesoamerican Campaign against the Plan Puebla-Panamá.” Chapter 6 in Rethinking Latin American Social Movements: Radical Action from Below, edited by Richard Stahler-Sholk, Harry E. Vanden, and Marc Becker. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Press.

Arabandi, B., S. Sweet and A. Swords. 2014. “Testing the Flat World Thesis: Using a Public Dataset to Engage Students in the Global Inequality Debate.” Teaching Sociology. Published online 11 July 2014.

Mize, Ronald L. and Alicia Swords. 2010. Consuming Mexican Labor: From the Bracero Program to NAFTA, 1942-2010. University of Toronto Press.

Swords A. and Richard Kiely. 2010. “Beyond Pedagogy: Service Learning as Movement Building in Higher Education.” The Journal of Community Practice. Vol. 18, No. 2-3.

Swords, Alicia. 2010. “Teaching against neoliberalism in Chiapas, Mexico: Gendered resistance via Neo-Zapatista network politics.” Chapter 8 in Philip McMichael, ed. Contesting Development: Critical Struggles for Social Change. Routledge Press.

Swords, A. and Ronald L. Mize. 2008. “Beyond Tourist Gazes and Performances: U.S. Consumption of Land and Labor in Puerto Rican and Mexican Destinations.” Latin American Perspectives. Vol. 35, No. 3.

Swords, A. 2008. “Neo-Zapatista Network Politics: Transforming Democracy and Development” Chapter in Latin American Social Movements in the 21st Century: Resistance, Power and Democracy. Richard Stahler-Sholk, Harry E. Vanden and Glen Kuecker, editors. New York: Rowman & Littlefield.

Swords, A. 2007. “Neo-Zapatista Network Politics: Transforming Democracy and Development” in Latin American Perspectives, Issue XXX, Vol. 34, No. 2, p. 1-16.

More about me and my work: 
I grew up in Syracuse, NY after living in several small towns as a small child.  My undergraduate degree is in Environmental Studies and Politics from Oberlin College.  My Ph.D. is in Development Sociology at Cornell University.  I became a sociologist because I found sociology offers important tools both for analyzing the world and for changing society. 

I'm grateful for opportunities to learn and work with a wide range of people. These relationships help my teaching and research be socially relevant and accountable and allow me to facilitate student engagement with organizations involved in social change locally, nationally and internationally. 

I worked for two years in the Dominican Republic with a grassroots organization called Oné Respè. The organization focused on human rights, community-building and organization with children, youth and women from Dominican and Haitian communities.  

While doing my Ph.D. at Cornell in Development Sociology, I learned about social movements with colleagues involved in other movements around the world.  My dissertation project focused on the political education strategies of pro-Zapatista organizations in Chiapas, Mexico. With a Fulbright Fellowship, I had the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from scholars and organic intellectuals in Chiapas.  

I am on the board of the Committee on US-Latin American Relations (CUSLAR).  Students can learn about the history and politics of the U.S. in Latin America by getting involved with CUSLAR through internships, travel and writing for their newsletter.  

In collaboration with the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, I involve students in service-learning and research opportunities with their hunger education and advocacy programs. 

My work with the Poor People's Campaign, the Kairos Center, and a network of organizations dedicated to building a movement to end poverty led by the poor across racial lines informs my teaching and research.  Through these connections, students learn about the leadership of the poor, challenge myths about poverty, engage in community-based research, and apply sociology to real-world problems.