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In this talk about his new book, The Culture Trap (Oxford University Press, 2023), Dr Derron Wallace argues that the overreliance on culture to explain Black students’ achievement and behaviour in schools is a trap that undermines the complex factors that shape how Black students experience schooling.

This trap is consequential for Black Caribbeans in London and New York. Black Caribbeans in London are consistently regarded as an underachieving minority, while Black Caribbeans in New York have long been considered a high-achieving model minority. In both contexts, however, it is often suggested that Caribbean culture shapes their status. Using rich observations, interviews, and archives, Wallace reveals how culture is used as an alibi for racism in schools, and points out what educators, parents and students can do to change the beliefs and practices that reinforce racism.


Speaker: Derron Wallace

Derron Wallace is the Jacob S. Potofsky Chair of Sociology and Associate Professor of Sociology and Education at Brandeis University in Boston, USA. He is  also a Research Fellow at the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity at the University of Manchester. Last year, he was a Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Sociology at Durham University.

A sociologist of race, ethnicity and education, Wallace’s research focuses on structural and cultural inequalities in urban schools and neighbourhoods as experienced by Black youth. Wallace’s research has received awards and commendations from the American Educational Research Association, the Comparative and International Education Society and the British Sociological Association.  

With wide-ranging experiences in educational activism, analysis, policy and research, Wallace has worked with nomads in Ethiopia, young people with disabilities in Rwanda, immigrant youth in London, economically disadvantaged rural youth in Jamaica, English language learners in Thailand and gifted students in New York City. He served as Special Assistant to the Minister of Education in Rwanda. He also worked as a consultant with schools and district authorities in London.

This event was part of the CPPR Lunchtime Seminar series.