Undergraduate Commencement Address by Janaki Natarajan
Natarajan directs the M.A. in Teaching for Social Justice program at Marlboro College. Born in Bangalore, South India, she worked with the Sarvodaya movement in India and the liberation movements in Angola, South Africa and Mozambique. She is director of Bapagrama Educational Center, a Bangalore school serving the Dalit poor in nearby villages and with a tradition of social service and community organizing since 1949.
“I think the finding of new ways of doing things, after all, has got to be creative and energizing and full of delight, because who wants to repeat that old stuff,” said Natarajan, in a public talk on the history of social struggle at the graduate school last October. “The caste system—do I want to repeat it? No. The plantation? No. The conquistadores? No. How do we do this work? It’s not about utopian models…it’s the messy task of every word and every action that we take.”
Natarajan has an Ed.D. in the Sociology of Education from Harvard University. Her work embraces more than four decades of teaching and research, including extensive work in China, India and Tanzania, where she taught at the University of Dar Es Salaam. She has also held faculty positions across the U.S. In Washington, D.C. she taught at the University of the District of Columbia, in the public schools, and in Lorton Prison. In addition to teaching at Marlboro, Natarajan teaches cultural history, social change, public health and gender issues at the SIT Graduate Institute and Keene State College. She is the founder of Educational Praxis, a non-profit organization connecting people from distinct backgrounds to exchange local and global knowledge and skills.